You cannot talk about the Steelers in the city of Pittsburgh without hearing the words accountability, locker room, and drama. This has been a theme for the Steelers over the past three seasons as a small window-The Killer B run-seems to be officially closing.
“The Steelers need leadership” “They need less selfish players.” You have heard it all. While everything blew up in the teams face this season it could also be true that they saw some of it coming and were preparing for it. While many are questioning who can step up, the Steelers may have a group of leaders ready for the future.
One shining example that seems to have spurred any negative buzz around Antonio Brown in the city of Pittsburgh was the Facebook Live Video. For a quick recap, Antonio Brown broadcast the Steelers locker room after a playoff win, and that included a speech from head coach Mike Tomlin that sent a negative shot at their upcoming opponent.
Stories about Brown not respecting Tomlin and that being the difference between New England and Pittsburgh showed for the following and on after as the Patriots took care of the Steelers soundly to win their most recent Super Bowl.
It is worth noting who the Steelers drafted following the incident. T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Cameron Sutton, and Josh Dobbs. All five were team captains at their respective college when they were drafted.
We all know of the lineage from Watt. Smith-Schuster started at USC at age 17, was a vocal presence at age 18 and finished as a captain when he was 19 years old. James Conner is an inspiration to all, Josh Dobbs is a neuroscientist, and Cameron Sutton was a four-year starter and a captain who came back from a late season injury his senior year to finish out with his team.
Three of those players took to Orlando to represent the Steelers in the Pro Bowl.
The following draft saw the team add Terrell Edmunds. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert consistently brought up how impressive Edmunds was as a communicator on and off of the field. Colbert talked about a family dinner with Edmunds father, who had an NFL career as well as his two brothers who are also in the NFL. Colbert talked about how impressed he was that it was Terrell who led the conversation of the group.
When James Washington was drafted Randy Fichtner bragged about him being a “no maintenance” receiver. Mason Rudolph was a team captain at Oklahoma State, and Chuks Okorafor, Marcus Allen and Jaylen Samuels all have clean backgrounds.
Smith-Schuster, Watt and Conner joined Alejandro Villanueva, Cam Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey at the Pro Bowl this week. We all know of the track record of Villanueva, and Heyward. While Pouncey will get a bad reputation off of the field, he does work hand in hand every week with the cities Police Officers, something that is not talked about enough. Even David DeCastro can be thrown in the mix as the team’s new core of players representing the future.
Yes, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell and even Antonio Brown had their drama come and go. However, the Steelers may not be quite as far away as some may think. Their youngest stars have backgrounds of being leaders and are shining in a light that has the potential to launch their young careers.
With a core of Heyward, Pouncey, Villanueva, DeCastro, Smith-Schuster, Conner, and Watt the locker room issues may not be as far from resolved as some may think. These young players may be ready to step up at the perfect time.