Got drama? Steelers try to focus on Chiefs, not ‘noise’
PITTSBURGH — Cam Heyward walked into the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room earlier this week less than 24 hours removed from a humbling home loss to Jacksonville , his portable speaker blasting a playlist that served as a not so subliminal message for a team in search of good vibes.
Al Green was up first, singing about “Love and Happiness.” Bill Withers followed, praising the optimism of a “Lovely Day.”
“Just sometimes it just needs to even out,” Heyward said Wednesday. “I don’t know if it’s a big thing or not, but positive energy is a good energy.”
Something in short supply at the moment for the Steelers (3-2), who have spent a large portion of an uneven season trying to put the right spin on one off-the-field headline after another.
There was the “botched’ decision to sit out the national anthem against Chicago last month, one that was meant to serve as a symbol of unity but ended with left tackle Alejandro Villanueva saluting the colors by himself while his teammates stood in the tunnel 50 feet away due to a miscommunication.
A week later wide receiver Antonio Brown held a one-sided bout with a water cooler in a moment of frustration after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger failed to find him running free early in a victory over Baltimore, a “temper tantrum” that led Roethlisberger to publicly chastise Brown multiple times and led to Brown issuing yet another in a growing list of apologies for diva-like behavior.
Moments after the Jaguars came into Heinz Field and dealt Pittsburgh its worst home loss in a decade, Roethlisberger sarcastically questioned whether he still has “it” after throwing a career-high five interceptions, a comment whose intent was lost in translation on social media and elsewhere.
Throw in Le’Veon Bell’s frustration over not getting enough carries against Jacksonville’s league-worst run defense and the Pro Bowl running back’s own Twitter battle with former Steelers safety turned commentator Ryan Clark and it’s easy to forget the Pittsburgh is in first place in the AFC North heading into Sunday’s visit to unbeaten Kansas City.
Center Maurkice Pouncey good-naturedly chalked up the melodrama to “fake news.” Still, there’s also a sense that enough is enough.
“As a team I think we’ve got to learn how to grow up,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “I feel like just the NFL in general just so much noise you hear every week and people just need to focus on football. We focus on football, then we’re going to be straight.”
While Roethlisberger stressed he hasn’t lost confidence in himself, he also bristled when asked if he’d like to get back to talking about his job instead of the latest dust-up for a team that can’t seem to go more than a few days without one.
“I think you guys are much more panicked than we are,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “As you can see I’m not really shaken by last week, or nervous and worried.”