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Tomlin takes away Steelers' locker room games

| Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 4:42 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin yells at head linesman Ed Camp in the fourth quarter of the Titans game Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.

The only game the Steelers are playing now is football.

Several weeks after the veteran players banned those with less than four years of experience from taking part in recreational locker room games, coach Mike Tomlin issued a team-wide ban on them.

Tomlin's directive means no table shuffleboard, pingpong or pool for veteran players such as Ben Roethlisberger and Ike Taylor, not just rookies such as Le'Veon Bell and Jarvis Jones, as the Steelers (0-4) trudge through their worst start since 1968.

“From his point, it was dividing the team in a way,” safety Ryan Clark said Thursday. “One sect of people couldn't do a certain thing, and he just wanted everybody to be together — because we're all in the losses together. We're all in the business of fixing this problem together. He didn't want anything to divide us.”

The games were added to the Steelers' South Side complex locker room in recent seasons as rewards for their Super Bowl appearances during the 2008 and 2010 seasons. Before then, the players often took part in basketball-like shooting games in which they shot balls made of rolled-up athletic tape into a wastebasket.

Clark said veterans with Super Bowl experience banned the younger players from the games because they wanted them to earn the right to play them, just as the more experienced players did.

Roethlisberger also said the younger players were “getting comfortable” with their NFL life before they had earned their way. But he defended the games for the more experienced players, saying they built team camaraderie.

The pool table, shuffleboard table and pingpong table remained in the locker room Thursday, but the sticks and paddles used to play them weren't visible.

“For me, it's no big deal,” Clark said. “Nobody really is tripping about it; we understand the spirit in which it's done in. We're just playing football; that (playing locker room games) isn't our job anyway.”

Tomlin apparently informed the team of the ban earlier this week.

Not all the players took part in the games even when they were available.

“It (doesn't bother) me at all,” left guard Ramon Foster said of Tomlin's ban. “I didn't hardly play anyways. I really don't have an issue with that at all.”

The games likely won't return unless the Steelers begin to turn their season around.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for TribTotal Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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