Leading By Example

Keith Srakocic

Jordan DeFigio, @fidgenewton


Lack of discipline. Lack of focus. A locker room lost. A leaderless team.

All accusations of a once-drama-ridden Pittsburgh Steelers team that held weight and landed low in 2018. A group fraught with superstar talents begging to escape, year after year an early playoff exit, guys (including head coach Mike Tomlin) seemingly getting ahead of themselves, looking to AFC Championship rematches instead of taking seriously the challenge of the divisional game matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But now, in 2020, they have a different look.

A new look.

A determined look.

“It’s not about stats, it’s not about numbers, it’s about winning football games,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “My biggest concern was not letting the team down and losing the game for them.”

Returning from an injury that could have ended his career, Roethlisberger is concerned most with the success of the team. Not padding his stats. He’s a leader. A seasoned one, at that. And he knows that the only way he can succeed is if the team succeeds.

When asked about the Steelers’ rivalry with their upcoming opponent, the Cleveland Browns, he responded with, “They’re a good football team,” and added “you can say what you want about past records and times played, those are previous years. This is a new football team, new coaching staff…we’re a new team, they’re a new team. They’re a good football team. Really good.”

Nothing of his 23-2-1 career record against the Browns, nor his undefeated record against them at Heinz Field. Not even a hint of the fact that until this past Sunday, he was the winningest quarterback at First Energy Stadium.

Those things, to him, are irrelevant.

“You throw records out the window,” he added.

He continued to sing the praises of their AFC North rival, even calling Myles Garrett “a generational-type football player.” Never mind the drama that ensued between the teams in their meeting in Cleveland last year. That, like their success against the Browns, is in the past. There is a game to be played this Sunday. And it proves to be a challenge.

Among the things said in Roethlisberger’s review of the first quarter of the season was an analysis of his deep passes. He tends to be critical most of his own play and acknowledged his long ball is not where he wants it to be. Not that that’s something anyone in Pittsburgh would complain about, as he has thrown 1o touchdowns and only 1 interceptions through the first four games of the season. He said about the same;

“As long as I’m over-throwing not under-throwing, that’s the ok miss.”

This is a man who cares about his performance, not as it pertains to his own stat sheet but as it directly affects the outcome of games. He knows the pressure he carries with him throughout every single snap of every game, and he wants to help his team win. And he knows that winning in the NFL is no easy task.

That includes the game this Sunday against their division rival. The Browns, who are 4-1 for the first time since 1994, will be a tough team to beat. Especially after the heated matchups between the teams just a year ago.

But even Coach Tomlin isn’t worried about that.

“We’re trying to remain undefeated. We’re not looking for that low-hanging fruit or that reality TV storyline and so forth. This is a big game here in 2020.”

It certainly is a big game. And with that mindset, there’s no reason the Steelers can’t emerge on the other side with a victory.


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