Admit it. You have often viewed your Pittsburgh Steelers as perfect, maybe even immaculate, haven’t you? Sure there have been ups and downs but since Chuck Noll arrived in the late 1960’s the Black and Gold have largely been viewed through rose-colored glasses. Earlier today, those glasses received a smudge or maybe even a crack after a survey of players was released. There were some less than glowing grades for the Steelers.
The survey is commonly referred to as a “free agency report card.” NFLPA president JC Tretter said that roughly 1,300 players responded to the survey. Players were asked their opinions on their own teams only and received a 60-question survey covering eight topics: treatment of player families, food service/nutrition, weight room, strength coaches, training room, training staff, locker room and team travel. (quote courtesy abcnews.com)
The Steelers ranked 22nd overall out of 32 teams and scored quite poorly in some surprising areas. For example, the players gave Pittsburgh a score of D- for their treatment of players’ families. This ranked 27th overall. The Training Room facility also graded out to a D- tying at 22nd overall and perhaps most importantly, the Locker Room earned a grade of D+. The locker room is a place where these guys spend a bunch of their time. It just makes sense that they would want the finest things in a locker room and it’s clear the Steelers are lacking in this area. On the positive side, the Steelers did earn high marks for Strength/Training Staff (A-) and for Food/Nutrition (B+).
So Why Does This Matter?
If you’re a free agent, then these things matter big time. The common fan doesn’t consider that many of these players have young families. They want to know those families are accepted and treated well. They also want to know they’ll have access to the best nutrition, weight training and locker rooms. Of course money and contract length are key factors but we can’t dismiss these other key areas.
There was a time when just being considered by the Steelers was truly a feather in a player’s cap but those times have passed. Playing for Mike Tomlin and wearing the Black and Gold doesn’t warrant the consideration that we fans once believed it did. Players have changed and so too must the teams. Art Rooney II needs to take these grades to heart. No one is suggesting the Steelers should have the best amenities across the board but some of these grades are alarmingly poor.
Keep in mind that many of these young men come from college programs where their individual lockers had gaming stations, iPads, personal refrigerators and so on. Should they expect less when they make an NFL team? I sure wouldn’t but it goes beyond that. What about things like postgame rooms for families or childcare so spouses can watch the game?
This survey isn’t ultimately going to decide the fate of the Pittsburgh Steelers in terms of their on-field success in the short term but it should open some eyes. If not Art Rooney II’s then definitely ours as fans who once thought of this organization as infallible.