After everything they’ve gone through over the past few years, the Pittsburgh Steelers know as well as anyone why good character is so important in the NFL.
Recent allegations involving three-time All-Pro Safety, Earl Thomas, remind us just how important character is in the NFL. Despite all of Thomas’s accomplishments throughout his future Hall-of-Fame career, fans won’t soon forget him flipping off his coaches in Seattle after he was carted off the field and his cheating scandal recently reported by TMZ. The Steelers know as well as anyone just how important quality character is.
There was a time just a few years ago when Pittsburgh dealt with their share of distractions on and off the field. Le’Veon Bell failed to tell his teammates or coaches he planned to sit out the entire season in 2018 for more money, and James Harrison would sleep during team meetings after he felt he wasn’t getting enough playing time at the age of 39.
Antonio Brown was clearly the worst of all. Though he was terrific on the football field, his antics soon outweighed his value to the team, as his list of problems stretched a mile long. Eventually, Pittsburgh was forced to ship the diva four-time All-Pro wide receiver for just a third-round pick.
Well, I’m pleased to say that those days should be behind us. Before all of these incidents even took place, the Steelers have made it a point to draft high-character players. Pittsburgh fell in love with players like Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Terrell Edmunds, and Devin Bush.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, second-round draft choice, Chase Claypool, and a third-round pick Alex Highsmith both embody what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler on and off the field. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert took notice of their relentless work ethic and upstanding character.
While drafting high-character players eliminates much of the drama in the locker room, it’s not a perfect science for finding talented NFL players, and it has even hurt the Steelers at times.
Pittsburgh loved Artie Burn’s and his inspiring backstory. Burns took care of his younger brothers after his father was arrested for trafficking cocaine and his mother died of a heart attack just months before the 2016 NFL Draft.
In general, however, drafting high-character players has really paid dividends for the Steelers. They have found Pro Bowl and even All-Pro players love the past several seasons by making personality a priority.
There’s no guarantee that a player or two currently on the roster won’t cause drama in 2020, but the Steelers know as well as anyone just how important good character his for your football team. They’ve seen how hard it can be to mesh together and win football games with poor character players – even when they are immensely talented. Let’s hope those days are behind us.