One of my favorite times of the year is finally upon us: NFL training camp.
Teams — and fans — during this time of the year come in with high hopes, whether it be a playoff berth, division title or a Super Bowl. It’s the ultimate “hope springs eternal” time for teams and all of us fans.
I’m going to focus on my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
We all know the dumpster fire that was this past season. LeVeon Bell sat out the entire season because he wanted a new contract (his teammates threw him under the bus in the process). The Steelers REALLY underachieved last season, going 9-6-1 and missing the playoffs. That included losses to the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders (Oakland?!!!) and blown leads to the San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns (which resulted in a tie).
The offseason didn’t get any better. Antonio Brown wanted, and eventually talked his way, out of Pittsburgh. He threw both Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin under the bus to ensure his eventual departure to Oakland.
Now that all of the drama is out of the way, there are reports of good vibes coming out of the Steelers training camp. Nothing but smiles and laughs from most of the players now that Brown and Bell are gone.
And it better be, for both Tomlin’s and Big Ben’s sake because the spotlight is squarely on both men.
Tomlin has to prove that he hasn’t lost the locker room. He has to prove that he can be a better in-game coach without the pressure of giving the ball to Brown and Bell. In short, he has to prove that he isn’t a glorified cheerleader (shout out to Terry Bradshaw).
Big Ben has to prove he is a better leader than we all believe. He has to do a better job of galvanizing his teammates, especially on offense. He just can’t keep calling out teammates in the media.
This is a put-up or shut-up year for both Tomlin and Big Ben. Will they step up to the pressure?
We’ll just have to see…