PITTSBURGH — The official portion of the Steelers offseason workouts for the entire 90-man roster began on Tuesday, with veteran regulars such as Ramon Foster, Cameron Heyward, Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger taking part in OTA No. 1 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.
It was the first time the full Steelers roster took the practice field since the end of the 2018 season, and suffice to say, a lot has changed in that span.
All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown quit on the team, got himself traded, and seemingly tried to burn every bridge in the city on his way out of town, creating a media firestorm with Roethlisberger in its epicenter. This led to former players and national media talking heads taking aim at the veteran leader of Pittsburgh’s offense.
That didn’t sit well with the rest of the team, and it got to the point that Pouncey felt the need to make a statement on social media to try to get former players to settle their issues in house.
PSA. Contact me or @MaurkicePouncey or anyone else that you feel comfortable with about anything else next time. I passed this through a few guys still in the locker room and they are ok with this. pic.twitter.com/4xBpm9JWZH
— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) April 11, 2019
It got to the point that the situation regarding the team could rightly be described as circus-like.
This season, things seem destined to be at least a little bit calmer than the offseason. Brown, is of course, gone — no-showing Oakland’s first OTA on Tuesday. But Heyward, speaking with the media after practice on Tuesday, wanted to make sure to point out that despite the intensity of the criticisms levied toward the team, it was starting from a small number of people.
“We’re talking about the few, not the many,” Heyward said. “We have a great group of guys that are hard-nosed and just trying to get better.”
Heyward also stuck up for his quarterback and feels that Ben’s side of the conflict didn’t get nearly as much traction as Brown’s did.
“Things were misconstrued and you only hear one side of the story,” Heyward said. “Not having the full sides of everyone’s story was kind of baffling to me. The media went to one side, and I’m not saying you guys (the local media), but it was just a big, big thing that was only projecting one side.”
But that doesn’t mean that the team’s leaders are ignoring the issues that have been brought to light. Heyward said he’s taken a larger-than-usual role in speaking with teammates about issues this offseason.
“As a leader, you want to get to the bottom of it and talk,” he said. “I’ve talked to many. I’ll keep that in house. … Communication is always beneficial. When guys are honest and constructive of each other, take criticism and move forward, that’s only a positive thing. I like that we’re not shying away from it, because when you do that, you can move gracefully. You can move in stride together.”
Both Heyward and Roethlisberger also touched on a common theme. Both seemed to link the Steelers’ drama-filled offseason with the team missing a playoff berth for the first time since 2013.
“We didn’t make the playoffs. You can talk all you want about off-the-field stuff, but if you win the Super Bowl, what are we talking about?” Heyward posited. “The end goal is to win. I don’t care how it gets done. I think we’re ready to get that 9-6-1 out of our mouths. The way to do that is to keep competing right now.”