For a while, one could hear the laughter of Pittsburgh there, when Antonio Brown grew his old antics in Oakland.
First, Brown suffered from frozen feet in a cryogenic therapy mishap, then lost his head and threatened to retire because of the NFL's new helmet specifications.
But all the Steelers' giggling that came from Pittsburgh ended abruptly on Sunday morning.
That was when the beloved Steelers front coach Darryl Drake died unexpectedly due to a reason the Steelers still have not revealed.
Since then, Drake's death has plunged Pittsburgh's patchwork reception corps into an emotional crisis that could affect the coming season.
Even now the pressure was intense on these 201
The rebuilt Steelers Reception Corps is led by budding superstar JuJu Smith-Schuster and second grader James Washington, who had a good camp in every respect.
Following Brown's departure, the Steelers' leaking group had to be bolstered by off-season measures, including signing by the free agents of Donte Moncrief and the creation of Deontae Johnson.
Anyway, the Reception Corps of the Provisional Steelers hooted under the paternal direction of Drake, who began each player meeting and movie study with a prayer. After the death, there were Steelers – recipients who raised prayers and poured their grief on social media On Tuesday a collective fray, as the entire team in Drake's memory went to his knees – and many players, including some recipients, shed tears.
The emotions are still so raw, coach Mike Tomlin does not even talk about how the team will replace Drake.
The Steelers have also brought in professional mourners. And based on the obvious emotions shown in this first session, it might take a while for the Steelers to return to their normal football routine.
Some Pittsburgh sports analysts predict the tragedy of the team and its continuing consequences as the linchpin for the 2019 season. If so, Mike Tomlin may be the man to pull his players and staff through this emotional minefield ,
Here are some highlights of what top Steelers analysts say about this devastating development for already hard-to-read 2019 Steelers.
In the meantime, in a much easier way, I'm addressing Antonio Brown's silly saga in Oakland, which so excited Steeler's fans until the tragedy with Coach Drake made everything so bleak.
The Brown material, including some of The Best Barbs and Brown's latest commentary on HBO's Hard Knocks, can be found at the top of my latest Steelers podcast, which now contains exclusive content not included in my weekly column.
Here are some much-needed comics relief here:
But back to the sky-high stakes as Tomlin and the Steelers tackle the death of coach Drake so delicate.
Columnist and Radio Persona lity Ron Cook, who wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, described the emotionally vulnerable situation for the Steelers for the entire 2019 season as a critical period.
The impact on Steelers recipients can not be overstated. They are the ones who are most affected by Drake's death, and the unit that is under pressure of pressure from Antonio Brown's withdrawal.
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Cook writes about the not yet named replacement for Drake:
This is a critical attitude for Tomlin. The Steelers have young, broad recipients who need to find a way to fill a significant portion of the production that was left for Oakland with Brown. It is important to find the right man to lead JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington and the others. It is not difficult to say that this would make a big contribution to the success of the team.
Cook seems torn and writes:
] The first guy I thought of was Hines Ward, who works as a trainer on the New York Jets. Ward worked with the Steelers receivers in 2017 and thought he would get the job that went to Drake after the 2017 season. Since then, Ward has criticized the leadership qualities of Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger over the fiasco of Antonio Brown after last season. He and Roethlisberger had a bad relationship dating back to 2009 … Ward just does not seem to fit well.
But Cook concluded that another ex-Steelers receiver could possibly accomplish the task:
A better choice would be the former Steelers receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who his third season as Assistant Receivers Coach at the Carolina Panthers begins. I'm not sure if the Panthers – owned by Pittsburgh-born and former Steelers minority owner David Tepper – would release Cotchery from his contract at this late date, but the Steelers' job would be a promotion.
All this remains to be seen.
But what about the sad Steelers receivers themselves? When can we expect them to bring their heads and hearts back into play?
If someone can thread this emotional needle and lead their team back to the normalcy of football, then it's Tomlin, many say.
Mark Kaboly with The Athletic Tweets: "Mike Tomlin is the right man to lead the Steelers through this difficult time."
It becomes an extremely delicate task.
When Tomlin summarized the condition of his Steelers after Drake's death, he summed up I have not shredded words.
"Obviously we are all devastated," said the coach.
The raw emotions shown at this first Steelers training were plenty of evidence.
Somehow the Steelers have to find their way back to football. But it will not be easy because coach Drake was far more than just an X and an Os for his players.
JuJu Smith-Schuster called him "honestly my favorite coach I had in this game." And Ryan Switzer, "What he meant to me was immeasurable," TribLive reports.
Tomlin praised Drake's far-reaching paternal influence because he personally experienced him as a young NFL assistant and told the press on Tuesday:
"Coaching was Coach Drake's platform for service." He wore many hats and coaching was his vocation but he was a father, a mentor, a brother, a counselor – as we all do in many ways – for the men he worked with not only now but throughout his career decades. "
My attitude is :
This is indeed a difficult and fragile time for the Steelers, something so emotional and very personal will resonate throughout the season, and the experiences and emotional journey will be different for each player.
Amongst all of them genuine injury and still raw emotion, the Steelers recipients have also expressed a genuine determination.
They want to honor their fallen coach as s he knows it best how.
They want to play great for coach Drake.
As tears subside in the coming days of training and preseason, I expect that feeling to harden and become deeply rooted in the Steelers' locker room.
There's already a social media hashtag attached to some of the newer posts from Steelers receivers.
In fact, the slogan of the 2019 team could easily become #DoItForDrake.
It would indeed be a fitting tribute.
NOTE: John Luciew is an award-winning reporter for PennLive and a 25-year-old Steelers subscriber. His column and podcast are presented from the obsessively over-informed perspective of an enthusiastic Steelers fan.