Last week a flurry of words was shared between Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and former Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark (now with the Washington Redskins). While many would think the prater hostile, it was simply a sharing of opinions that neither of the former teammates agreed on. What it illustrated to many is that following two seasons of hardships, the Steelers need to build cohesion and trust with each other on and off of the football field in 2014.
The NFL Draft is looming and the Steelers have begun workouts ahead of training camp. New faces, like that of wide receiver Lance Moore, are evident while many teammates are no longer a part of the organization. A changing of the guard, so to speak, is underway. While everyone acclimates to their new situation, Brown told the Post-Gazette that he feels a locker room that is under transformation as well should be filled with a bit less negativity. He directly referenced comments made by Clark about the use of marijuana by some Steelers players. Clark remarked that he felt the use was due to attempts to relieve pain and stress. Use of a banned substance by any Steelers player was never confirmed.
“When you see things like that, it shows you how guys feel when they’re not part of the team anymore,” said Brown on Sunday. “It’s a form of bitterness or taking a shot at the team because you’re not there anymore.”
Clark retorted using Twitter by saying he isn’t “bitter” that he wasn’t re-signed by the Steelers, but added a jab at Brown directly about being able to tell a good teammate from a poor one.
Without a lengthy dialogue about the nature of social media to cause bitterness or to be used as a forum of free-thinking, free-speech that has often been something of a faux pas, it illustrates a point that both men, regardless of attitude, seem to acknowledge. There were times in the Steelers locker room when things weren’t copacetic over the past two seasons. Every NFL team deals with internal strife amongst grown men who differ in temperament. In 2014, the Steelers will be rebuildng a team that has been linked to dynastic triumphs – and it is crucial to success to come together as a team in order to return to winning ways. Brown agrees.
“Everybody’s new. That’s why I’ve got to be a leader and the guys who have been here have got to be leaders,” Brown said. “We’ve got to welcome the guys, and get to know guys and get that team camaraderie together, because I think that’s a big asset for us winning.”
In “Cohesion: Conceptual and measurement issues” by A.V. Carron and L.R. Brawley, Small Group Research (2000), they purported that cohesion is more specifically defined as the tendency for a group to be in unity while working towards a goal or to satisfy the emotional needs of its members. Dynamically, cohesiveness waxes and wanes in strength from the time a group is formed to when it may be disbanded as a whole or in part. It included social reasoning, especially in sports teams.
What is evident is that the group dynamic can improve and that it is often imperative for veterans to be leaders – something the Steelers organization has so often openly encouraged. How it all translates to effective play is really up to each individual, veteran or not. Brown has a point in saying that negativity in the locker room could impact the way the team performs.
Disappointment aside, the Steelers did well during the end of the 2013 season when everyone appeared to be clicking on the same cylinders. If they could keep that momentum during training sessions, mini-camps, training camp, and the pre-season, it may just propel them to a new level of play during the 2014 regular season. After all, winning isn’t just about physicality – it’s mental as well.
(Christina Rivers was an Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology major at Brigham Young University)
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