If you do not follow the NFL, you may not have heard that the league is currently under a lockout.
Players are prohibited from attending team facilities, team organized functions, or speaking football with members of the organization or coaching staff.
These rules do not prohibit the players themselves from getting together to do some workouts, run some routes, or develop the camaraderie that the teams hope to achieve during offseason workouts. Unfortunately, there has not been much news from Pittsburgh Steeler land regarding such activity, especially from the star players/leaders.
When last we saw our Steelers, they had suffered defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV held at Cowboys Stadium in frigid Dallas, TX. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of one player who had a good game, yet the Steelers had the ball in their hands down 31-25 with a shot to win.
For any Steeler fan, the results were discouraging. "We" were that close to Super Bowl win number seven. In a season where the expectations were low, it was a strange feeling left in the hearts of fans. Making it to the Super Bowl when nobody thought the team could do it was great, but losing sucks...badly.
With the current player lockout, reports of small pockets of teams organizing activities have started to surface. Atlanta's Matt Ryan, New York Giants' Eli Manning, and New Orleans' Drew Brees have been credited with getting their teammates together to help take the place of the missing Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
There are a few Steelers working out as they typically do. According to KDKA, free agent Ike Taylor, defensive leader James Farrior and cornerback William Gay have been working out together in Central Florida. This is not new practice though, as it has become a staple of the offseason workout for Taylor and Farrior.
So where are the other Steelers leaders during this lockout? While it is their off-season, you would like to see a little fire coming from their bellies after such a disappointing ending to the 2010 season. Bear in mind that I do not know everything these players do, so maybe they are holding secret team workouts...but I doubt it.
It starts at the top with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger's offseason includes a return to his "Ben Roethlisberger Football Camp" at Mars Area High School (Coach Mike Tomlin helmed the 2010 version due to the sexual assault accusations that did not result in criminal charges) and a believed-to-be wedding to his fiancee near the end of July at an undisclosed location.
Sadly, even without leading team workouts, this is still a step up from Ben's past two offseasons.
Okay, so Ben is not available. What about Hines Ward? Ah. He is dancing. Super. Ward has a right to set himself up for his future after football. It seems as if he wants to follow in former teammate Jerome Bettis' footsteps. Is it going to come at the expensive of the 2011 season if it still happens? I hope not.
Surely Troy Polamalu can be the leader the team needs though, right? By all accounts he is actually a nice guy, not an egomaniac, and a devoted husband/father. Unfortunately, Troy spends his offseasons working in his own "new age" type workout program, that is when he's not suffering season-threatening injuries (are the two related??).
But rest assured Steelers fans, on May 13, 2011 Troy Polamalu graduated from the University of Southern California. Now he can finally get an internship in case he ever misplaces his millions and millions of dollars. As Christian Bale once said in an on-set tirade, "Oh good for you!!".
As you can see, the "leaders" of the Steelers have thus far come up short in terms of getting the guys together to see if they can get over the hump in the next NFL season. Maybe we can look to the new guys on the team to fill in as leaders in their stead. Rashard Mendenhall likes to gab from what I hear. Maybe he can turn some of those Twitter skills in to something useful.