Steelers tight end Jesse James admitted what seemed obvious from the outside — the constant drip of off-field drama took its toll on the team this year.
Via Jacob Klinger of PennLive.com, James alluded to the Le'Veon Bell situation, in which their franchise-tagged running back didn’t report to the team all season, costing them one of their best players and $14.5 million which could have been spent on reinforcements as the beginnings of a bad culture.
“Ah man, we are — Kardashians. We have, I mean, we’re something,” James said. “It’s Le’Veon Bell issues, you have more stuff popping up weekly, [ESPN’s] Jeremy Fowler’s reporting stuff about Le’Veon every other week. There’s just people calling people out.
“We were in the front of the ticker on ESPN too much for just reasons that weren’t related to football and not for us playing great ball. It was more distractions.”
“Obviously there was many things,” James said when asked if he was referring to the quarterback. “I’m not gonna point out individually each one, but there was a lot of things that went on that didn’t need to.”
But for as much as they want to point to the Bell situation in hindsight (and it didn’t help), they started 7-2-1 when that story was fresh.
“Oh, we messed it up bad,” James said of their collapse. “We lost a lot of games we should’ve won. I think there’s changes that’ll be made at some point this offseason. There’s things we got to account for and look at in a hard way.
“And we make adjustments to what we’ve been doing, because had a lot of distractions outside of the locker room this year that we need to handle better going forward.”
Fixing those issues remains Mike Tomlin’s biggest challenge, and this week’s Antonio Brown drama only makes it more important.