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Team leaders downplay ‘circus’ atmosphere plaguing Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers endured a difficult 2018 campaign, with both on- and off-the-field factors seemingly unraveling a team that had Super Bowl aspirations.

With the dust having now settled from an extremely tumultuous season — albeit with drama on at least two fronts still confronting the organization — two of the Steelers’ primary team leaders are downplaying the notion that a circus-like atmosphere was the primary impetus to the disappointment.

Team captain Cameron Heyward disputed that dysfunction prompted the team’s downfall in 2018. While admitting the season-long holdout of Le’Veon Ball was a distraction, the standout defensive end instead blames things on the team’s inability to close out games.

“I think we took a lot of good steps. It’s about younger guys becoming better professionals and being comfortable in what they are asked to do,” Heyward said, via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “The light didn’t click for me right away. … Just gotta grow, put the petty stuff behind us. It’s not always going to be dandelions and daisies.

“But getting over our problems, being communicative and understanding we have to work through our problems — that’s what growth takes. You can’t continue to do the same thing and expect the same results. That goes for the whole organization. I’m not saying one person.”

Regarding the ongoing Antonio Brown drama front, fellow captain Maurkice Pouncey believes the issues between the disgruntled wide receiver and the team can be resolved. The veteran center went on to say that the rumors of infighting and the like have been blown out of proportion.

“I don’t care what anybody else on the outside has to say. We’re all really good friends,” Pouncey said. “It’s not like no one talks to each other. You know what kind of organization, what kind of team we have.”

A report in January indicated the Steelers’ locker room has been left “very upset” over issues involving Ben Roethlisberger and the seemingly endless drama and discord related to Bell and Brown. The Steelers without question have a tricky offseason coming, and the onus will be on everyone involved — up to and including ownership — to right the ship.