The Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be a team on the decline and there may be a reason for it — their culture.
According to the Tribune-Review’s Mark Madden, the Steelers’ recent struggles are due to a “culture problem.” Pittsburgh is currently in the midst of a three game winless streak.
In fact, Madden goes so far as to blame former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown for starting the culture problem in Pittsburgh. The current Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver hasn’t been a member of the Steelers since the 2018 season.
“The Steelers have had a culture problem since Antonio Brown ran roughshod over Tomlin and the team’s structure,” says Madden. “The issue did not leave with Brown. It was passed down to younger narcissists like Claypool and Juju Smith-Schuster who, unfortunately, aren’t nearly as good.
The Steelers are about branding, music, getting a check, living the life.
They’re not about winning. You can tell, because they’re not winning.
Sure, they started 11-0 last year. They’re 6-10-1 since,” Madden concludes.
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Claypool Ripped for ‘Music’ Suggestion
The Steelers have come under fire as of late not just because of their struggles on the field, but some of their comments off of it. The comments are centered around how Pittsburgh can dig out of this recent rut.
Wide receiver Chase Claypool — a 23-year-old, second-year player — suggested that the Steelers should have more “fun” at practice by playing music.
Via Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
“I think some music would help,” Claypool said. “We had music in the warm-ups and that stuff is fun. People are dancing, having fun, so I think maybe music would make practice a little more fun and a little more up-tempo. That’s my one suggestion, but Coach T has been doing this a lot longer than I have.”
Needless to say, head coach Mike Tomlin shot down that idea.
“Claypool plays wideout, and I’ll let him do that,” Tomlin said. “I’ll formulate the practice approach. And I think that division of labor is probably appropriate.”
To top it off, 32-year-old defensive end Cam Heyward took a harsher approach to his younger teammate’s suggestion.
“I hope he was kidding because as soon as he said it, I was literally about to rip the speaker out,” said Heyward. “That is not what we need right now. It’s Xs and Os, and it’s execution.”
Madden criticized Claypool’s “me-first” mentality when it comes to the Steelers’ culture problem.
“The me-first self-absorption exemplified by Claypool has mostly been supported by the hoi polloi in the name of having fun. ‘THEY’RE KIDS! LET ‘EM HAVE FUN! FUN, FUN, FUN!’”
Steelers Have More Than Just ‘Culture Problem’
The Steelers may very well have a culture problem. But to blame their struggles on a culture problem stemming from an individual player that hasn’t been on the team in three years is a little far-fetched. Especially when ones considers that Claypool never even played with Brown. Furthermore, Juju Smith-Schuster has been out for much of the season and hasn’t been active since Week 5.
Madden also mentions how Tomlin — not just Brown — is part of the culture problem.
“The culture isn’t correctable. Brown passed it down to the current group. The current group will pass it down to the next group.
Tomlin can’t fix it. The enabler can’t suddenly be the fixer.
Tomlin will coach ‘til he quits. So, the culture problem isn’t going away. Not unless the Steelers get some really good players.”
The Steelers are lacking in many departments. While the 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger can still will his team to victories due to his experience, his lack of mobility and arm strength is a hindrance to this team. The passing game has become a one-dimensional, quick-passing unit.
The defense — once a hallmark of the franchise — can’t stop anyone. The unit ranks 23rd in points allowed per game and ranks towards the bottom of many categories, including run defense and turnovers forced.
The Steelers may technically be in playoff contention, but the past three games have exposed Pittsburgh’s slow decline in recent years.
The “culture problem” is an easy way to assign blame to the Steelers’ shortcomings. But simply put, Pittsburgh just may be not very good anymore.