The offseason has spent much of the last year reeling from dysfunction, starting with Bell’s holdout and continuing with Brown tweeting his way out of town. The end result, however, seems to be that the remaining players have pulled closer together, united in their desire to prove wrong anyone and everyone who has doubted the organization.
The doubts have at times been justified. Undeniably talented, the Steelers haven’t been able to get the most out of the ability of the players. Whether that speaks to a lack of leadership or flaws in coaching, the Steelers have become regarded as a band of underachievers.
Even without Brown and Bell, the Steelers still have plenty of talent, starting with a quarterback who is chronically underrated simply because he’s not beloved (or, frankly, liked) by fans and the media. It doesn’t help that multiple former teammates remain willing to call him out, something that only happens to Aaron Rodgers and not to any other franchise quarterback.
But Ben Roethlisberger, like the rest of the team, can use this year to internalize that criticism and to use it as motivation, for every practice, every game, every single thing that needs to be done between now and late December in an effort to get to the playoffs — and then to win when they get there.
Throw in the premature praise for a Browns team that still hasn’t gotten to the right side of .500 since 2007, and the Steelers may have captured that elusive quality that can be a difference maker for any NFL team, and especially for the good ones: Real, authentic, organic desire to come together and achieve something special. Something memorable. Something that results in beating the Patriots to Lombardi Trophy No. 7.