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'We wanted to do this as a team'

Posted Sep 25, 2017

Steelers remain united before, after loss to Bears.

CHICAGO  - In the end the Steelers knew they wanted to respond and believed they needed to respond; the question was how?

“There are a lot of people that look up to us and we appreciate every single person,” defensive end and Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward explained after Sunday’s 23-17 overtime loss to the Bears, a game that began with the Steelers absent from the sideline during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “We appreciate the troops. We appreciate policemen that go out and risk their lives for us. We also appreciate our fans. We appreciate the people that lose their lives.

“One person, to call shame on multiple people and say we should lose our jobs because we care, that’s just not right.”

The reference was to remarks made by President Donald Trump on Friday night in Alabama.

The Steelers held what Heyward described as a “full team meeting” on Saturday night, a players-only meeting after the usual Saturday night meeting, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, and ultimately decided not to participate in the National Anthem as a team.

“We didn’t want to disrespect a single soul on our team,” Heyward said. “We wanted everybody to be heard, but we wanted to show unity, solidarity. We’re just trying to make a better society.”

Left tackle and former combat veteran Alejandro Villanueva stood at the entrance to the tunnel to the visitor’s locker room at Soldier Field with his hand on his heart as the anthem played.

“We support Al in his decision,” guard Ramon Foster said. “We support us as a whole.”

Added Heyward, “Al’s a hell of a man.”

Linebacker Ryan Shazier said it wasn’t an easy decision and it wasn’t one the Steelers made  lightly.

“It was a very tough decision,” he insisted. “We all talked, we all had a discussion and at the end of the day we just felt like that was the best thing to do as a team. We wanted to do this as a team.

“We felt like that was the best thing to do to unite this team.”

FIRST LOSS OF THE SEASON: The Steelers suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of the Bears, who had come in at 0-2.

The Steelers never led and admittedly performed below their anticipated standard, which suggested distraction may have been a factor.

“Probably be lying if I said ‘no’ a little bit,” said Roethlisberger, the offensive captain. “There is a whole lot going on in the state of the world, if you will, and in sports and in the NFL, but we cannot make excuses.

“I need to play better football. I will take this game on me. I did not play well enough.”

FAMILIAR FEELING: Guard David DeCastro said the performance reminded him of “the Jets,” an apparent reference to a 20-13 road loss in 2014, a game the Steelers entered at 6-3 and the Jets at 1-8.

“You’re trying to get motivated, people aren’t making plays, everyone’s taking turns making mistakes, it’s just a tough feeling,” DeCastro said.

He couldn’t say why such performances  _ “kinda flat, sloppy” is how DeCastro described them _  periodically occur.

“I don’t know what it is,” DeCastro said. “I wish I could tell you. I wish I could figure it out. I wish I could pinpoint it. I don’t know if it’s something in the food, the water, I don’t know. It just sucks because you prepare all week, you’re feeling good, and then you come out here, you just lay a big, fat egg.”

HE SAID IT: “It isn’t just one day. We’re out in the community, were trying to make changes, not only by one person but as a team. It doesn’t matter what goes on. We’re trying to build a better society, a better city, a better America for everybody.” _ Heyward.