Starkey: Where are the next great Steelers?
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Steelers Fridays used to feel big. The post-practice locker room was a blast furnace of positive energy. Another game — another opportunity for victory — beckoned.
It was louder than usual on Fridays. Friendly battles broke out everywhere: basketball with a rolled-up towel, shuffleboard, pingpong, pool. Insults flew. Laughter rained. James Harrison even spoke to reporters (sometimes).
The drudgery of the work week was behind them. Only the game lay ahead — and the team elders projected a vibe of certainty as to how that would turn out.
What was it Vince Lombardi said?
“Winning is a habit.”
Hines Ward usually sat on a stool at his locker, cutting the tape off his hands like a prize fighter. Casey Hampton moved around slowly, proudly, like he owned the place. Which he did. His belly would shake like a Sumo wrestler's. His considerable presence commanded the utmost respect. Just around the corner from his locker were those of the regal Aaron Smith and the widely acknowledged leader of the pack — James Farrior.
That was a special generation of Steelers. A unique group. Nobody should be surprised that the new generation has failed to measure up. You just don't find another Hines Ward, Aaron Smith or Casey Hampton.
Still, the new generation has been profoundly disappointing. Legends aside, where are The Next Great Steelers? It's as if the older players have forgotten how to win and the younger ones never knew. The past 15 times the Steelers have suited up to play a football game, including preseason, they are 2-13.
The second of part Lombardi's winning-is-a-habit quote seems relevant here: “Unfortunately, so is losing.”
Steelers Fridays are quieter now. Bizarrely so. That was underscored this past Friday as coach Mike Tomlin had put his players on punishment.
A few weeks earlier, the vets banned their younger teammates from participating in locker-room games during business hours, a move that reeked of exculpation (“Don't blame us; those silly kids are the problem.”). Now, Tomlin was banning everyone from such games. The ping-pong table was gone. The pool table was covered with an orange cloth. The shuffleboard table sat dormant.
It looked like a broken-down amusement park.
Tomlin's move fit the theme of an unbelievably embarrassing 10 days following the loss in London. Players once projected as major pieces — Ziggy Hood, Mike Adams — officially were benched. The Steelers made a rare in-season trade, acquiring left tackle Levi Brown — who proceeded to give a less-than-warm appraisal of his new/old coordinator, Todd Haley. An ESPN analyst named Ryan Clark criticized Ben Roethlisberger. Haley got sued. Twice.
It's difficult to find the right word to describe the vibe these days, with 0-4 about to become 0-5 if the Steelers' offensive line can't block a destructive Jets front.
Does “unreal” work?
“I mean, I wouldn't call it unreal,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. “This is real. We're 0-4 right now. But we have a lot of football left, a lot of time to turn this around.”
Woodley's right. This is painfully real. He's wrong, too. There is no time. The Steelers have to beat the Jets. And even then, you wonder if they'll revert to their nasty new habit.
You wonder if Fridays will ever be the same.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins trade for Toronto’s Kessel
- Pirates notebook: Cole cool about hostile comment
- Steelers submit application to host Super Bowl
- Saudi prince will donate all wealth, $32B worth
- Ligonier Township officer’s widow to file civil suit
- Second Blair County friar commits suicide in province under sex abuse investigation
- Remains of Korean War soldier from Apollon identified
- Three seek to serve four-year term in seat of deceased county council member
- Leading on race: Communities, not elites
- FBI searching for Homestead man indicted for sex trafficking in children
- Thousands of dollars missing from Ambridge Water Authority, police say