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Analysis

Steelers Locker Room Solidifying No-Nonsense Culture Change

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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been the target of heavy criticism for his laid back, “player-friendly” style of coaching since his arrival in 2007. Tomlin way of work is simple: I’ll treat you as a man/player and give you freedom, until you take advantage of it.

While popular among his players, Tomlin’s coaching philosophy is perhaps the most unpopular attribute to the man himself among fans. Following the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, many were quick to point the finger at Tomlin’s laissez-faire attitude as main contributors to the problems created by both Bell and Brown.

Drama. Drama. Drama. That’s seemingly all that has surrounded Pittsburgh since their former superstars each wanted lucrative paydays. After what felt like an eternity of an off-season that consisted of mostly negative media coverage, OTA’s (organized team activities) give the opportunity to begin the new season on a fresh page, and the Steelers are already establishing a new identity as a locker room.

Welcome to the no-nonsense Steelers locker room, founded by the players themselves. Pittsburgh’s leaders are stepping up to the plate and shutting down any negativity before it can prosper. This goes for players within the locker room, media, or even former players as Steelers guard Ramon Foster kindly pointed out by sending out a memo via Twitter on the team’s new policy.

Foster is one of many leaders around the locker room who have been outspoken on the need for clarity within the team. Among the heavy hitters are defensive end and team captain Cam Heyward, who spoke about handling issues as a team after the team’s first practice of the off-season:

“Communication is always beneficial. When guys are honest and constructive of each other, take criticism and move forward, that’s only a positive thing” said Heyward. “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”

Fellow team captain Ben Roethlisberger takes no exceptions either, as the quarterback whose name was frequently tossed in the fires of sports talk for his now-defunct relationship with Antonio Brown is now looking in the mirror in an attempt to get his team back on track. “We didn’t win our division. I lacked in leadership, because that’s my job as the leader of this team: to get us to the playoffs” Roethlisberger said in his post-practice interview on Monday. “So, I’m going to need to focus and re-focus my energy and time on ‘How can I be a better leader to get us back to the playoffs?”

It’s a refreshing look for Steelers fans who just months ago were trying to decipher tweets from AB. Despite the current absence of Brown and Bell on social timelines, social media will still remain a strong tool for Steelers players to engage with fans and media alike. How tight of a group are the Steelers becoming? Not even media members are safe behind the keyboard.

The Steelers are now in the business of becoming a PR fortress. Foolishness will no longer be tolerated by the likes of Heyward, Foster and others that police the locker room. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013 last season. There’s work to be done, and the players understand that. The road to getting back to the postseason first begins with eliminating outside noise, and the Steelers are ensuring that’s accomplished in the early stages of 2019.

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