We joke often about football teams that go to ridiculous lengths in order to put something negative behind them. Rex Ryan was a fan of burying footballs. Doug Marrone, while at Syracuse University, had his players burn old cleats to ward off bogeymen.
No matter how imperfect, it is the game’s unique psychiatry—a ritual acknowledging that something bad has happened, and that it can’t happen anymore.
As the Steelers pinball through a chaotic early season, no one is accusing head coach Mike Tomlin of forgetting to sage the locker room after the way 2017 ended. But one has to wonder: Have they made an effort at truly healing the wounds that have been displayed for all to see?
Let’s look back at just the past year or so: Antonio Brown was busted for doing a Facebook live in the team locker room ahead of a divisional championship game against the New England Patriots. When they lost that game, Brown was visibly upset with something, which the team didn’t seem to deny. During training camp that following summer, Ben Roethlisbergerthreatened to retire. He didn’t, but wasn’t himself during an odd 13–3 campaign, which started with an awkward national anthem gaffe.
At the end of 2017, the team seemed to turn on two players, Mike Mitchell and Le’Veon Bell, for overlooking the Jaguars following an embarrassing playoff loss. After that game, Roethlisberger, now intent on playing for longer, went on to complain about the team drafting his potential successor. Bell hunkered down for an epic holdout, which eventually earned the organized wrath of the locker room. Brown threatened a reporter on Twitter.
On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette added another log to the fire. Brown didn’t show up to the facility Monday. This came after suggesting that the team trade him to find out how good he is independent of Ben Roethlisberger. His agent has since released a statement, though we’ve reached the point where the team can no longer continue insisting that there’s nothing to see here.
Tomlin does his best to keep a tight lid on things, but maybe a public exorcism might do the Steelers some good. The team’s problems seem to be beyond the only other traditional healing strategy coaches go to in these moments: Using the tension to create the perception that everyone outside the locker room is against the team, and that the team must bond together.
That typically doesn’t work when your three best players are causing most of the problems.
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NOW ON THE MMQB:POWER RANKINGS are in, and the Jaguars took it to the limit ... The Bears defense is good! But what about their developing quarterback? ... The Josh Allen era is upon us in Buffalo, and, well, woof.
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2. A few lesser Hall-of-Fame players are making ridiculous demands for a lifetime salary after Kurt Warner and Jerry Rice said they didn't ask for it in the first place.
3. Jameis Winston is now being sued by the Uber driver who alleged that he groped her back in 2016.
4. Pete Carroll says Russell Wilson might be trying just a little too hard.
5. As an 0-2 Matt Patricia readies to face his mentor, Bill Belichick readies Josh Gordon.
6. Minkah Fitzpatrick apparently filed trademark papers for "Fitzmagic," which is totally uncool.
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