The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly can't feel good about their mistake-filled performance in Saturday's 18-13 preseason loss to the New York Giants. The Steelers, however, feel much better about this year's team.
“I believe the strength of this organization is in its camaraderie and its family atmosphere. We didn't have those last year,” safety Troy Polamalu told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “To me, that's kind of what separates us from most teams, that we've had that foundation here. When talent is pretty equal across the board -- and it is in the NFL -- you're looking in areas other than schematics to gain an edge. And that was an edge we didn't have.”
In case you need a refresher on what went down in the offseason, all of this disharmony on the Steelers began in February, when an anonymous player ripped LaMarr Woodley for being out of shape. Safety Ryan Clark compounded the problem publicly by saying this Woodley-bashing comment shows a "fracture" within in the Steelers locker room. Wide receiver Antonio Brown then said the locker room was divided last season, pointing out there were players who were more focused on individual goals than the team's record, which ended up a mediocre 8-8.
You could sense by the unfocused performances last season that the Steelers were "off" by those head-scratching losses to Oakland, Tennessee and Cleveland. But I didn't know the locker room was like a bad season of "Big Brother." The encouraging sign for the Steelers is the players aren't ignoring the problem. They're not saying everything is resolved now that wide receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall are in different zip codes. They're not blaming the media for blowing this out of proportion.
Solving this situation falls on the Steelers' leaders: Polamalu, Clark, linebacker Larry Foote, defensive end Brett Keisel and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers players have to police themselves, and that obviously didn't happen last season. That's the Steelers Way, from Jerome Bettis and Alan Faneca to James Farrior and Aaron Smith.
“This camp has been leaps and bounds better than last year as far as the chemistry," Clark told The Tribune-Review. "Guys aren't necessarily working harder. They're just working better together. There hasn't been that dissension ... even through the media, about this guy not getting along with that guy, different fights happening, you haven't seen that. I think that bodes well for us. That's the Steelers you're used to seeing. And I think it showed in our play and our execution.”
Of course, the Steelers' actions in the regular season will speak louder than words in training camp.