Still Getting Straight A's in Chemistry

Mike Prisuta thought for a minute he was in fun land, but it was only the Steelers' locker room, where the team chemistry might be better than ever.

Maybe it's like this everywhere else in the NFL, too, but I doubt it.

Welcome to the Steelers' locker room.

In one corner the franchise's iconic defensive end is playfully threatening the just-promoted media relations coordinator by loudly summoning him while demonstratively putting on a pair of plastic surgical gloves. Not wanting any part of where that might go, the just-promoted media relations coordinator in turn summons the public relations intern and points him in the direction of Aaron Smith.

In another corner the just-got-paid cornerback, the one who has been practicing with a cast protecting his broken thumb, is playing ping pong with the director-of-football-operations-turned-general-manager. Ike Taylor is winning despite playing with that cast, but that said Kevin Colbert isn't bad.

In still another corner a dispute arises over that table game where you slide a metal puck down what looks like a bowling alley minus the pins. The Big Snack and The Leader of the Wideouts are up in arms, but the head coach is getting to the bottom of what's taking place. Casey Hampton and Hines Ward are having their say, but you just know Mike Tomlin is going to have the last word.

Welcome to the NFL.

Or is it Dave & Buster's?

The Steelers' South Side facility is a little of both.

That in itself doesn't account for all the winning this team has done in recent seasons, but it helps.

There are, after all, other talented teams with top-shelf coaching staffs and keen-eyed personnel departments. But the Steelers are the one that has been to, as Trai Essex so succinctly put it, "half of the last six Super Bowls.

"There's a reason for that," Essex added.

Smith knows the reason.

"It's the chemistry," he said, still wearing the surgical gloves. "It's the way the guys are a team."

The Steelers at their core are all of the above. And because of that they play the games for one another, rather than for selfish purposes.

Sure, they all want the ball, or to rush the passer, or to get that long-term extension rather than the franchise tag. But none of that stuff ever seems to get in the way on game day.

"They put the team before themselves around here," Smith said. "It's just the environment that's created here. You can come from somewhere else, ask guys that have come from other teams and they'll tell you it's different.

"If you're a ‘me' guy you'll be ostracized. You won't last long. You almost have no choice but to jump in line."

The Steelers still have that going for them on the eve of the preseason finale, which ought to come in handy in Baltimore and beyond.

It's almost time to start playing for keeps and here they are still wondering about Bryant McFadden and perhaps about James Harrison, and still not comfortable enough about right guard to offer a public proclamation as to who will be playing there.

But they also have a room full of talent, perhaps more than they've had in a long time.

And they have that chemistry, maybe more of that than usual, too.

"It almost feels stronger this year than normal," Smith said. "We should be decent. If we go out there and do what we're supposed to do we can have a lot of success."


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