UNITY TWP., Pa. — Jalen Ramsey arrived at Jacksonville Jaguars training camp in a Brinks trucks. Antonio Brown made his grand entrance to Oakland via hot air balloon.
On the campus of St. Vincent College, things have been mostly quiet.
Star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster snuck in the side door instead of a flashier arrival on report day, taking the lead from the long-time routine of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
It reflected a quiet summer for the Steelers after a tumultuous first part of the offseason. Since the team reported to OTAs, there’s been almost no sniping on social media, no inflammatory comments from former players, no baby mamma drama, no one was arrested and no one was even accused of throwing furniture from a balcony window.
“It’s quiet in Pittsburgh right now,” defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said on Thursday. “Surprise, surprise.”
In some ways, it is a surprise, given how the 2018 season and its immediate aftermath went for the Steelers. It was a year that the team made more news for drama than it did for football, and that’s almost never a good sign.
But in other ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise. As the Steelers piled into Rooney Hall for camp and begun to work out on Chuck Noll Field, it’s easy to think about the history of the teams that have taken to the rolling hills outside of Latrobe for camp. Over the course of the history of the Steelers, quiet has been the norm.
“We needed that,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster said. “We had nothing from nobody. We usually never do.”
Smith-Schuster, who speculated on Instagram that he might skydive into camp, said he decided to play it cool with his camp entrance and let his work do the talking.
“I’m just here to work, win games and win the Super Bowl,” he said. “That’s my main focus, just focus on the team and work together.”
That’s a change from a year ago.
“Most definitely, man,” Smith-Schuster said. “You see everyone on the same page. We started practice [Friday] 10 minutes early. It’s unusual for us to do that. No one is late. Everyone is 10-15 minutes early on the field. We’re in it for the right reasons. You see that mindset with the team. It’s very positive.”
Even the Steelers’ lone outlandish entrance, when Eli Rogers showed in a Peterbilt truck with a hard hat on, was focused on the idea of getting ready to work. Rogers reprised his costume on Friday for the team’s entrance to the field.
Ten minutes later, the hard-had was discarded in the grass and forgotten about. It was time for the actual work to begin.
That work will have a renewed importance in 2019. The Steelers became a less-talented team on offense with the losses of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown over the last two seasons. Players like James Conner, Rogers, Smith-Schuster and Ryan Switzer have the ability to take their places, but if the Steelers want to return to the postseason, it will require that work that everyone is talking about to pay off.
“There’s not too much to talk about when you don’t make the playoffs,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “Actions speak louder than words.”