From JuJu Smith-Schuster’s bike to Alejandro Villanueva’s anthem, drama sticks to Steelers
There was the sobering situation involving the serious injury to a respected teammate.
There has been the silliness of the public quest to find a stolen bike, the modern-day pitfalls of millennial usage of social media and even an “elephant in the room.”
The Steelers endured to emerge with a 13-3 record from a regular season in which there was some level of drama enveloping the team on an almost-weekly basis. Only Week 2 was spared from the soap opera that was the 2017 Steelers season.
Then again, the playoffs haven’t begun yet. Stay tuned.
A look back at the drama the Steelers have created and/or dealt with:
Offensive starters Alejandro Villanueva and Le’Veon Bell are not spotted at St. Vincent by the required reporting time July 27 because neither has a contract. Villanueva, though, signed that afternoon.
Bell never shows up in Latrobe nor signs his franchise-tag tender until September.
In the 12 days leading into the opener, the Steelers make four trades and sign a free agent (Joe Haden) to a $27 million contract.
Twenty-four hours after the Steelers and Stephon Tuitt waited until the final day of the team’s self-imposed deadline to agree to a $61 million contract extension, Tuitt suffers a biceps injury on the second defensive snap of the season. He played three full games over the first half of the season.
Former Army Ranger Villanueva is photographed alone with his hand on his heart during the playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” while his teammates remain in the tunnel at Chicago’s Soldier Field. It becomes a national meme in the lightning-rod discussion about protests of the anthem.
During a blowout victory at rival Baltimore in which he had just 34 receiving yards, Antonio Brown tosses a Gatorade cooler on the sidelines after he is not targeted on a passing play. Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger criticize Brown, who apologizes later in the week.
The Steelers are humiliated at home in a 30-9 loss to Jacksonville in which Roethlisberger throws a career-high five interceptions. After the game, he says, “Maybe I don’t have it anymore.”
After arguably their biggest win of the season (at previously unbeaten Kansas City), reports hit of Martavis Bryant requesting a trade. Also, the Chiefs — and others around the league — are upset with what they believe was a dirty hit by Mike Mitchell on Alex Smith.
Not long after another win, Bryant rips teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster in an Instagram post, and amid more reports of Bryant wanting out, Tomlin benches him for the next week’s game. In a lighter “controversy” later that week, Smith-Schuster’s bike is stolen — and later returned.
Kickoff for the Steelers game just hours away, Bell goes on Twitter to call out the Bengals’ Joe Mixon for mimicking his running style and first-down celebration. After that day’s win in Detroit, Steelers offensive linemen and Lions defensive linemen share accusations of dirty play.
Haden suffers a broken leg early during a game in Indianapolis. The Steelers pass defense seems to almost immediately fall apart: Two of the Colts’ next 12 passing plays go for touchdowns of at least 60 yards.
The NFL announces the Steelers’ Marcus Gilbert is suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Tomlin admits to NBC he’s looking forward to “the elephant in the room” — his team’s matchup with New England three weeks later. He faces criticism after the Steelers need a last-second field goal to beat the struggling Packers.
Ryan Shazier is carted off the field at Paul Brown Stadium after suffering a severe spinal injury. Also, Smith-Schuster would be given a suspension for a brutal block of Vontaze Burfict; George Iloka’s suspension for a hit on Antonio Brown would end up overturned. Chris Boswell, two days later, accuses the Bengals of intentionally trying to injure him.
After five consecutive games in which he did not play, James Harrison goes public that he wouldn’t have signed with the Steelers this year had he known he would not have a significant role.
Late in a gut-punch of a loss to the Patriots in which team MVP Brown is injured, officials deliver the now-infamous line “he didn’t survive the ground” in overturning an apparent winning touchdown catch by Jesse James.
Harrison signs with the Patriots, igniting an uproar from fans and a torrent of bitterness from his former Steelers teammates.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley suffers an injury as the result of a fall after his wife is reportedly involved in a minor scuffle at a North Shore bar after midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.