The Pittsburgh Steelers organization, and their fan base, love tradition. Whether it’s the simplicity of their uniforms, the continuity at head coach or the fact they’ve won six Super Bowls in their team history.
Tradition is one of the driving forces for the fan base. But what if some of those traditions are fading? What is some of the things former players speak of are just that, things of the past?
Sadly, it seems some of the mystique and unique aspects of the Steelers might just be going the way of the Dodo. Wednesday, when speaking with media, Ben Roethlisberger was asked about a rule which has been in place long before he was drafted by the team in the 2004 NFL Draft.
The rule was simple: No music in the locker room.
Why would there be no music? Because Mr. Dan Rooney might walk into the locker room, and if he did, you wanted to hear what he had to say. But this long-standing tradition might be ending with No. 7 on his way out of the organization.
“It was always Mr. Rooney. Mr. Dan. It was always that way. I don’t know why. It just always was. And I think as guys started to leave the locker room that had that tradition, that history, I tried to keep it going. Brett Keisel kept it going for a while. We had [Maurkice] Pouncey and guys like that that kept it going.” Roethlisberger recalled.
“People would play music—new guys would come in and play music—and I would shut it down. I was the grumpy old man that didn’t want music. And I had a conversation with guys like Cam Heyward and Vince Williams and told them the reason that we don’t do it is because if Mr. Rooney came in the locker room, you wanted to listen to him. You wanted to hear the things he had to say, whether it was about Steelers, about life, just about whatever. He was like a grandfather to all of us, and so much love for him. And obviously, as new guys came in and Mr. Rooney wasn’t around, they don’t understand that quite as much. So we tried to pass it on. Even after he passed, I tried to tell guys, like, I still wait for him to walk through that door to come talk to you. You just wanted to listen to him because he was so soft spoken but so wise. And so that was always my thing of why I didn’t want the music because you never had it when he was around, so I just wanted to carry that on.
“The last couple of years I just kind of relented.” Roethlisberger said. “I’ll stop being the grumpy guy. If they want to listen to music, they can listen to music.”
But what about the tradition? What about the Steeler Way? Will all this be lost on this new generation of players?
“You can only do so much.” Roethlisberger added. “Yeah, of course you do. You worry about it because there can’t be many—one handful of guys in that locker room that even remember who Dan Rooney was. You can pass it on, and like I said, I told those guys the story of why I didn’t want the music because you’d love to hear the stories. I just told y’all that. But you can only tell guys those stories so much before they’re kind of like, “Okay, this is someone just talking,” kind of thing.
“You can pass on tradition all you want, but the further you get away from something, the harder it is to do. There are probably some veteran guys that I played with that watch us or hear the people talking in the media or some of the things that happen, and probably shake their heads and say, “Man, that’s not the Steeler Way. That’s not the way that we used to do it.” That’s just the way things go, and I’m sure the 70s team probably looked at us even 10, 20 years ago… It just happens, but who knows?”
Those players Roethlisberger is mentioning who have made comments about the current team would be the likes of Ryan Clark and Rocky Bleier, both of whom did not mince their words after the team’s 41-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12.
For the fan base, these comments aren’t disheartening, they are downright sad. The thought of Roethlisberger being the last of a breed of player which doesn’t exist anymore is a thought which doesn’t invoke hope for the future. Every team has to worry about turnover and new players entering the league. And, of course, players change, but there are some aspects of the Steelers which fans thought would never change.
I guess that’s wrong, and some things are changing, whether we like it or not.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens to invade Heinz Field in Week 13.