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Steelers aren't losing because Chase Claypool wants music played during practice

93.7 The Fan
93.7 The Fan
 2021-12-02

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It’s a tantalizing narrative that’s too easy to resist: Chase Claypool’s request for the Steelers to play music during practice is indicative of the storied organization’s downfall. The wideout’s remark prompted widespread outrage among former Steelers players and even caused Stephen A. Smith to call the Steelers a “ national embarrassment .”

Too bad life isn’t always that simple.

Make no mistake: Claypool suggesting playing music to make practice “a little bit more fun” on the heels of a three-game winless streak is indicative of a locker room that’s lost its way. Mike Tomlin shot down Claypool’s request Tuesday, saying the second-year player “plays wideout and I’ll let him do that.” Veteran Cam Heyward doesn’t want to entertain Claypool’s childish request, either.

“I hope he was kidding because as soon as he said it, I was literally about to rip the speaker out,” Heyward said.

All of this music talk prompted Ben Roethlisberger to explain why the team prohibits tunes in the locker room. The policy was put in place while Dan Rooney was still alive, so players would be able to pay attention if the late owner came down to chat with them.

“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 I always wanted if Mr. Rooney came in the locker room, you want to listen to him,” Roethlisberger said. “You want to hear the things he had to say, whether it was about Steelers, about life, just about whatever.”

Mr. Rooney wouldn’t recognize his Steelers anymore, but it’s not because some younger players want to jam out while running practice routes. The Steelers are 5-5-1 and heading towards their first losing season under Tomlin because the defense is soft and Roethlisberger is washed up. On Sunday, Big Ben threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, and posted a QB rating of 65.4. The team’s no-music policy doesn’t seem to be helping his play at all.

It also doesn’t appear to be helping the defense buckle down. Despite employing T.J. Watt and Heyward — two of the best linemen in football — Joe Mixon ran for 165 yards and two scores in Cincinnati’s 41-10 win. Devin Bush can’t make a tackle, with or without music being played.

Ultimately, the music issues distracts from the Steelers’ structural problems. Despite a few individual standouts, this isn’t a talented roster on either side of the ball, and especially on offense. Entering the season, Pro Football Focus ranked the Steelers’ offensive line 31st in the league. They’ve played down to their billing, too. The Steelers possess the fifth-worst running attack in the league, even with first round pick Najee Harris.

Roethlisberger, meanwhile, gets rid of the ball faster than any other QB and throws it shorter distances than almost any other passer. He’s ranked 34th in the league’s PFF rating system.

When defending the music ban, Roethlisberger called himself the old and “grumpy guy.” Unfortunately, those descriptions also apply to his play. Everybody, including Claypool, would be having more fun if Roethlisberger was still good enough to win.

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