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Steelers Embracing Quiet, Hard Work in 2019

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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.”

Steelers

Packers Could Pass Steelers in All-Time Playoff Wins in NFC Championship Game

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The Green Bay Packers can pass the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL record books with a win in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

The Packers and Steelers are currently tied with 36 all-time NFL playoff wins, the second-most behind the New England Patriots, who have 37.

The Packers will be playing the man responsible for most of those wins in New England, now-Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.

Both the Packers and Patriots have a higher postseason winning percentage than the Steelers, with New England holding a 37-21 record and Green Bay 36-23, while Pittsburgh is 26-26 after a Wild Card Round loss to Cleveland this month.

None of the other top five teams, including Dallas (35-28) and San Francisco (32-30) are still alive this year. Tampa Bay has just eight playoff wins in its history, the sixth-fewest in league history.

The Buffalo Bills (16-17) and Kansas City Chiefs (14-19) are 19th and 20th in playoff wins entering their AFC Championship Game showdown on Saturday.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame

Mike Tomlin: Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Incomplete without Steelers Scout Bill Nunn

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t get a vote when it comes to who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he made his opinions known on who he thinks should be a part of the Hall’s Class of 2021, making a public plea on Monday for former Steelers scout Bill Nunn to be included.

“There is no way the Class of 2021 can be complete without the legend, Bill Nunn, being a part of it,” Tomlin wrote.

Nunn, who died in 2014, was selected as the lone finalist recommended by the nine-member contributor committee in August. He, senior committee finalist Drew Pearson, coaches committee finalist Tom Flores and 15 modern-era finalists, including former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, will all be on the ballot when the voters meet before the Super Bowl.

Nunn, a Homewood native and Westinghouse alum, was a key figure in the Steelers’ success in the 1970s and helped revolutionize the scouting process for players at historically black colleges and universities, that had been previously underrepresented in the NFL after having worked as a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Courier.

“Bill’s contributions to the Steelers were extraordinary over the 46 years he was part of the organization,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press release in August. “He was a special person that was a close friend and mentor before his passing in 2014. His lessons and stories are still evident in our everyday work. 

“I look forward to hopefully celebrating his induction next year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His legacy and career deserve to be recognized with the greatest individual honor in football, and we are excited he was chosen by the contributor committee as a finalist.”

Tomlin also wished luck to three players that he coached: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs Ronde Barber and John Lynch and Faneca.

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Steelers

Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt Named to PFWA All-NFL Team

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For the second season in a row, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and outside linebacker T.J. Watt have been named to the Pro Football Writers of American All-AFC and All-NFL teams for the second consecutive season.

Fitzpatrick was also named an Associated Press All-Pro this season for the second straight year. In 2020, Fitzpatrick had 79 total tackles, eleven passes defended and a team-high four interceptions, one of which he returned for a 37-yard touchdown.

The other All-NFL and All-AFC safety was Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs.

during a regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, PA. (192119000006#1 / Pittsburgh Steelers)

Watt was also named a first-team AP All-Pro after leading the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits. His 15 sacks were one off a franchise record and he racked them up while playing in only 15 games.

Watt was named the FOX Sports NFL Defensive Player of the Year and remains the favorite to win the prestigious AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award at the postseason NFL Honors banquet.

Watt was also named the Steelers’ team MVP for the second straight season after finishing with 53 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 41 quarterbacks hits, two forced fumbles and an interception this season.

The other All-NFL outside linebacker was Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears, while Bradley Chubb of the Cleveland Browns was the other All-AFC outside linebacker.

Both players were also selected to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl team. The Pro Bowl will not be played. Instead, the Pro Bowl events will be led virtually and the game will be streamed via Madden NFL 21.

Only the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams had two All-NFL players on defense, tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Green Bay Packers had the most players selected with three, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tackle David Bakhitiari and wide receiver Davante Adams.

Full All-NFL team:

2020 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM
Offense
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings; Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans*
WR – Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers; Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
TE – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
C – Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
G – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns; Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts#
T – David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers; Jack Conklin, Cleveland Browns

Defense
DE – Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints
DT – DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts; Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams^
OLB – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers*
MLB – Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
CB – Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins; Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
S – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers*; Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

Special Teams
PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens#
P – Jake Bailey, New England Patriots
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears*
PR – Gunner Olszewski, New England Patriots
ST – George Odum, Indianapolis Colts

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