Saturday's battle against the Kansas City Chiefs marks the first game for the Pittsburgh Steelers since wide receivers coach Darryl Drake passed away. This is an extremely emotional day for the entire team, as well as the city of Pittsburgh. However, head coach Mike Tomlin and his team aren't shying away from the emotions; they are focusing on Drake's impact and how they can honor his memory.
Saturday morning, the Steelers announced that they would be wearing special "DD" decals on their helmets all season, but that was only part of their process for keeping Drake in their hearts and minds. The receiving corps. also arrived for Saturday's warmups in custom sweatshirts that said "Shut out the noise," which was Drake's motto for the 2019 season.
Heading into training camp and preseason, there were questions about how the Steelers would recover from a 2018 campaign in which two of their best players (Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell) were the source of multiple headlines that brought negative attention to the team.
Brown's departure to Oakland was well-publicized, as was his ongoing feud with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Bell, on the other hand, sat out the entire year in pursuit of a better contract before heading to the New York Jets. Like Brown, Bell also took shots at his former team after changing zip codes.
The result of these two departures was considerable noise and drama. The Steelers were viewed as a team in need of a culture change, but top figures in the building were focused on changing this discussion.
Drake's mantra of "shut out the noise" is the perfect example of this. Instead of focusing on the drama taking place in other buildings, he wanted JuJu Smith-Schuster and the other receivers to buckle down and concentrate on what they could control. Namely, getting the Steelers back to the playoffs after missing out in 2018. Now, however, shutting out the noise has taken on new meaning.
“It’s hard to get back to the game you love because he’s not out there telling you what to do, he’s not out there yelling,” Ryan Switzer said to AP News. “So it’s hard — but it’s part of our profession, and it’s something we have to do. And something that coach Drake would want us to do. Quite frankly, he’d be [ticked] at me right now for taking it as a hard as we are.”
If the sweatshirts are any indication, the Steelers receiving corps. will be shutting out the noise while trying to pile up victories in 2019, but that doesn't mean that they will be shutting out everything. Each big play and every meaningful choice will be made in honor of Coach Drake and the leadership that he provided to this group.