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Steelers Underachieving Season may be Blessing in Disguise

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Often times in life, our darkest days lead to brighter tomorrows. Right now, Pittsburgh seems to be in its darkest of football days, as the Steelers failed to make the playoffs despite having one of the most talented rosters in the season.

Perhaps rightfully so, as everything that could go wrong for the Steelers came to fruition at some point in the season. Whether it be Chris Boswell’s season long miscues, officiating blunders, or Le’Veon Bell not showing up (along with their offense and defense throughout the season), 2018 appeared to be destined for a drawback of some fashion.

When the Steelers were sitting at 7-2-1, nobody in or outside the city of Pittsburgh would have imagined this team sitting outside of the playoff picture. Yet after losing their last 4/6 games by an average margin of four points, it was apparent we were far removed from the 13-3 Steelers team we witnessed a season ago.

There’s no side-stepping the under-achieving that took place not only for 2018, but for nearly the last decade as well. Since their 2010 Super Bowl appearance, Pittsburgh has won a mere three playoff games since that time. When talking big picture, that simply is unacceptable.

Mike Tomlin is well aware of that, and in his end of season press conference, he addressed those issues head on.

“Change is a part of this, particularly when you are having press conferences like today… Our staff doesn’t run away from that. I’m acknowledging that change is a part of where we’re headed. And I’m open to it because I’m not interested in doing this [again next year].”

For a coach that has been ridiculed to the highest extents for not setting the tone as a leader in the locker room, Tomlin appeared adamant that changes were to be made in order to right the ship. Those changes began Friday, when the team announced long time Steelers linebacker and positional coach Joey Porter was relieved of his duties. Porter received a lot of criticism for his failure to develop players at the linebacker position, while also carrying the stigma of a “players guy” rather than a coach.

The firing of Porter shows a few different things. First off, Tomlin is already making good on his word of change. For a coach that speaks with great passion, his actions have not always followed suit. Secondly, the door has now been open for more change within the coaching staff, as Danny Smith (special teams coordinator) and Keith Butler (defensive coordinator) are also favored to hit the road at some point in the off-season as well.

On the field, change will likely be seen as well, although the player portion is more unpredictable. Will Pittsburgh hang on to the likes of Artie Burns, Chris Boswell and Marcus Gilbert? What does Bud Dupree’s future hold? Le’Veon Bell has potentially played his last game in a Steelers uniform, and Antonio Brown just may have joined him as well, although that remains a stretch in itself.

These changes are some that fans have been pounding the table for, for quite a long time. Would the vibrant tone of change be alive had the Steelers snuck into the playoffs? It’s an argument that NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reports many inside the organization believe would not have happened, if not for missing the playoffs:

There’s a definite movement for change within the Steelers organization. While Pittsburgh fell short of their goals this season, the changes to be made could lift them to new levels in 2019. The 2018 season can be given any assortment of adjectives, whether it be tumultuous or even flat-out embarrassing. While those descriptions certainly fall in line with the narrative, the Steelers may look back on 2018 and see it differently than most: A blessing in disguise.

NFL

NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities

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NFL

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.

Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”

Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.

While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.

Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.

Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.

Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.

This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

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Steelers

Art Rooney II, Steelers Issue Statements on Killing of George Floyd, Protests

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Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II released a statement Wednesday on the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the ensuing protests seen across the nation.

“Over the last week, we have witnessed the anger and frustration in our city and around the country relating to the killing of George Floyd and the recent deaths of African-American men and women. We have also witnessed the good in so many people who have peacefully expressed their concerns.”

“I am proud to hear the voices of many of our players who have spoken out against racism and injustice and called for unity. As an organization, we will continue to listen to our players, coaches, alumni and leaders in our community and work together to bring awareness and change in the effort to create a more fair and equal community.”

A number of prominent Steelers players also shared statements and comments regarding Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests, including Cam Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, Vince Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt.

Defensive end Cam Heyward:

“A friend, a brother, a father, a son, just someone you meet, these are different ways people might know George Floyd. To know that the color of my skin could be at the discretion of someone who is supposed to protect is truly disheartening. I’m praying for the Floyd family.”

“To know a brother, a friend or someone I care about could be gone due to this just hurts. It’s not acceptable. Thank you for the people who do serve the right way and continue to protect our freedoms. I wish all held up his end and cared for all.”

“We all have people we care about and the fact that we can’t believe in everyone who is in the position of power to keep all safe angers me and tears me up. Change must happen. Our children are inheriting a world that is not improving. Life should be precious.”

“I still can’t find my words to make sense of it all. Too many have died, and not enough has changed.”

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:

“The cruelty and injustice must stop, racism must end, and love must find a way to prevail. We are all children of God, equal in his eyes, and must hold one another accountable to fair and just standards.”

Running back James Conner:

“If we keep showing hate and violence, we will continue to have hate and violence. If we keep showing peace and love, we will have peace and love. I’ve retweeted disturbing and negative videos to HOPE they understand, but I will only be posting love from here on out. We know what’s been done and know it’s wrong.

“Make the Twitter timeline full of positivity. Like I said, I’ve been guilty of retweeting negative content, but that’s not it. They want the sickening and shameless videos at 100,000+ retweets to keep us divided. Make unity and togetherness the only content we see.”

Inside linebacker Vince Williams:

“Send me the GoFundMe of businesses that have been destroyed by the riots. I’ve done independent searches, but hopefully this helps me to be more thorough.”

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster:

“Our country is in pain right now, and coming together is the only way to heal each other. No more injustice!”

Outside linebacker T.J. Watt:

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Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster Delivers Pizzas to Steelers Fans

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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is bringing some joy to fans during tough times.

Smith-Schuster spent his Tuesday afternoon delivering pizzas for PizzaHut, and even took the time to snap a pic with a young fan, courtesy of JimStamm22 on Twitter.

A fan favorite, Smith-Schuster is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh.

After an explosive sophomore season in 2018, Smith-Schuster battled injuries and inconsistent quarterback play that combined for a lackluster 2019.

With the return of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster appears primed to deliver more than pizzas this upcoming season.

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