With the exception of the Rams and 49ers, who played on Thursday night, every team in the league had a spotlight on what they would do during the playing of the national anthem and many of them held meetings in the hours leading up to kickoff to come to a decision about how they’d handle the situation.
The Steelers have drawn more attention than many of those teams for both their players’ decision to remain in the tunnel and the repeated attempts by coach Mike Tomlin, president Art Rooney II and players to explain how they reached it. There may be even more after a couple of those players said that they thought the time spent discussing the anthem affected their focus on Sunday.
“We truly lacked the focus that we needed to,” linebacker Arthur Moats said on 93.7, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Man, we spent a lot of time going from Saturday, Sunday morning to even today discussing the anthem issue and how we were going to handle it and things like that, and I thought that guys just lacked a little bit of focus when it came to playing in the game.”
Moats said the team “lacked a lot of detail,” something quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed with when making his own appearance on the radio station later in the day. Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the players’ comments at his press conference.
“Was it a distraction? I’m sure it was in a lot of ways but we still have a job to do and hopefully we learn from it because if we’re as good as we desire to be there are going to be distractions moving forward,” Tomlin said. “That’s just the nature of this thing. It’s professional football.”
As mentioned at the start, the Steelers weren’t the only team to wrestle with the anthem question last weekend. Fourteen of them, including the Bears, found a way to do enough to win on Sunday.