Leisure not option for winless Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- Imagine this scenario: The Pittsburgh Steelers roll to their first win of the season Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The offense builds on its performance in a Sept. 29 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The defense performs like its old self -- not talking about age either -- and limits the New York Jets' big plays while harassing rookie quarterback Geno Smith into a couple of turnovers.

Talk in the visitors' locker room afterward centers on how the Steelers can start stacking wins now that they have secured that elusive first victory.

Fast-forward to Wednesday: The Steelers' locker room opens for the first time of the week, and reporters stream into it searching for angles for the upcoming game against the rival Baltimore Ravens.

One of the first things they do is look to see if any of the players are shooting pool.

Strange but true. Recreational guidelines in the Steelers' locker room have become one of the bigger talking points outside the locker room following a winless September.

It started when the veteran players met after the Steelers' 0-2 start and decreed pool, pingpong and shuffleboard would be off limits during working hours to those who didn't have vested status.

Coach Mike Tomlin initially supported the restrictions, saying he liked the spirit of them. The seventh-year coach changed his mind this week, and cue sticks and pool balls disappeared from the table altogether.

The collective response by the players wasn't much more than a yawn.

“He just wanted everyone to be together because we're all in the losses together,” free safety Ryan Clark said. “Nobody's really tripping about it. Y'all see what I do. I sit in front of this locker during breaks and eat, so for me it's really no big deal.”

Indeed only a handful of players shoot pool when they have a break during the day, and the pingpong and shuffleboard tables often go unused.

That's what made the restrictions handed down by the veterans after a 20-10 loss to the Bengals seem so silly in the first place.

The decision gave those who were looking for signs that the Steelers, long synonymous with stability, were coming apart at the seams a reason to pounce -- and point.

What appeared to be a nonstory at first now has a new head of steam.

There are many storylines associated with the Steelers and their first 0-4 start since 1968. When the players are allowed to start shooting pool again is now among them.

Strange but true.