The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason was certainly one to forget. There was the turmoil over two tremendous players leaving the team for various reasons, the always present turnover on an NFL roster and, sadly, the passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake this summer.
Oh, and did I mention the Steelers on the field went from 7-2-1 and floundered down the stretch to a 9-6-1 record?
Yeah, it was bad all around. But the saying is when you are as low as you’ve ever been, there is only one way to go — up. This is how offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva is viewing the Steelers’ upcoming season, or as he described it, a bounce back.
“The most important attribute of an athlete is how do you bounce back? How do you react to adversity? Our reaction, in my opinion, has been good. We don’t know if it’s effective or not. We haven’t played a single game yet. But it does feel good to be a Steeler. It does feel like we’re in a very good environment. It does feel like we’re more insecure, and that is driving us to work harder.” Villanueva told Mike Prisuta of Steelers.com.
Of course the aforementioned situations can be telling, but Villanueva went into more detail on just how low the Steelers were at the end of 2018.
“The question that we have this offseason of, are you good enough to even play a football game right now? We felt like that, somewhat, at the end of the season,” he said. “That question is really good in terms of developing your inner competitive spirit and trying to prove everybody wrong.
“It motivates you to work a lot harder and it motivates the team to find ways to answer that question. It’s an easier mentality to have. What you’re looking for is hard work, innovation, connecting with your teammates, playing as a group, playing together.
“Hopefully, this sentiment can be aligned and can translate into victories. If so, then it would be a narrative that could be spread across the NFL that yes, this togetherness and teamwork and all that stuff overcomes talent and any other issues that you might have in the offseason that might prevent you from accomplishing those goals.”
When looking at the Steelers’ approach to 2019, and the overall psyche of the team heading into the regular season, Villanueva thinks the team is in a good place.
“I think as a team and as a Steeler, it’s been really good,” Villanueva said of the preseason. “There’s a sense of pride in being a Steeler and not being on another team, and that’s rare to find in the NFL.”
The Steelers will need every bit of cohesiveness on Sunday night when they head to New England to play the Patriots, but Villanueva’s comments should resonate more than just within the confines of the team’s locker room, and certainly more than just one game. If Villanueva is right, and the Steelers are more together now than ever, no loss, or big win, will get them off track. It will make them focus more on the details and help them prepare for victory more than they will face defeat.
As Villanueva said, hopefully this sentiment can equate in victories, and it could get off to a very good start Sunday with a huge AFC win over the Patriots.