Photo via Steelers.com
I suppose my title is not quite accurate. The players were playing real football, but a good many of them were very likely (hopefully?) not the guys that will be suiting up for the regular season. This is, presumably, part of why so many people hate the preseason. Me? I love it. The games are almost worry-free (other than the injury issues) as the end result doesn’t actually matter very much. And it is exciting to see how the youngsters perform in game action.
As for the players, as David DeCastro said, they enjoy the chance to hit other people. I laughed when Tunch Ilkin said the same thing the other day in a post-practice report, but I can see that especially for the veterans it would be a relief. When you’re hitting your own guys you don’t want to be the one that injures someone. While presumably you don’t want to injure other people’s players either—after all, the guy you obliterate could end up being a teammate later on—it surely doesn’t have the same impact as possibly taking out someone you know and whom your team might need down the road.
Last week Hombre told me that he had interviewed Ed Bouchette as part of a book review article on Steel Curtain Rising. (Click the linked text to read the review.) Hombre begins the article thusly:
What is it like to witness the end of one era and the beginning of another? Every journalist dreams of the opportunity. Fate afforded the Pissburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette the chance to do just that in 1992 when Pittsburgh STeelers transitioned from Chuck Noll to Bill Cowher.
It’s a great article, and I highly recommend reading it. It made me want to dig up the book, of which I was only vaguely aware.
While Hombre used some of the material in his article, he thought our readers might be interested in reading the whole interview. I thought so too, and Ed Bouchette kindly agreed to have us publish it. Here it is, and many thanks to Hombre!
Photo via Steelers.com
Saturday’s practice was a big upgrade in terms of what we could actually see. [“We” being Ivan, Homer J., Greg, and me.] We snagged seats in the shade, fortunately, as it was plenty hot that day. (However, by the MT Hotness Index, it wasn’t really hot, as MT was only wearing a grey long-sleeved shirt over his long black sweat pants. If it had been really hot the shirt would have been black.)
It was with great anticipation that my lovely niece Laura and I headed for Latrobe Memorial Stadium and Friday Night Lights. I have never been to this event, and Laura has never been to any sort of football practice. (She will perhaps, like me, learn the error of her ways in later life.)
But it was not only the practice and the atmosphere I was anticipating, because we were meeting up with Greg (of the late lamented Weiner’s Circle,) Homer J., and Ivan. They arrived considerably earlier than we did and grabbed seats on the 40 yard line. It was then only a matter of catching up as we waited for the yellow school busses to arrive from St. Vincent’s. (Yes, the players are brought in yellow school busses. I don’t believe they are specially kitted out yellow school busses either. Mike Tomlin likes to keep the guys uncomfortable and humble during camp.)
I don’t have a single note on my yellow pad from Friday night, because as great as the 40 yard line seats on the 2nd row appeared to be, in fact the majority of the reps took place in the red zone, one way and another, and it was difficult to see too much. (This explains in part why I so seldom go to games. You can actually see much better on the TV, and are more comfortable besides. If this makes me a bad fan, well, I think there are an awful lot of bad fans.)
Karl Rosen/Steelers.com. “Coach, I need me some first-team reps…”
Mike Tomlin is fond of saying that “football is a game of attrition.” Well, there’s a great deal of attrition taking place. I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but I’d rather be that than Pheidippedes, the guy who ran from Marathon to Athens to report the Greek victory over the Persians and then fell down dead. Not that I would ever risk my life by running a marathon…
But our beloved Steelers are out on the field almost every day, risking their limbs, at any rate. The injuries have been piling up (although for those who might criticize Mike Tomlin for starting padded practices so early, it’s worth noting that there were at least two injuries to significant players, Morgan Burnett and Jerald Hawkins, during the “football in shorts” phase.)
photo via Steelers.com
2018 third-round draft pick OT Chuks Okafor seemed like a luxury pick when he was selected. Or perhaps not so much a luxury as a “Haven’t dem Stillers noticed that the problem last season was the durn defense?!!!” pick. But with the (temporary) demise of third-year tackle Jerald Hawkins during OTA (torn quad) it started to look a good deal smarter.
And now G Ramon Foster, who is entering his 10th season in the NFL, is out, at least for the nonce. In Foster’s case the news is considerably better than first feared when he was taken off the field with a knee injury during the Steelers’ first padded practice on Saturday, It turns out he has a hyper-extended knee with no ligament damage, which is projected to keep him out for 4-5 weeks. Fortunately the heir apparent, YouTube star* B.J. Finney, has had a considerable number of game reps by now coming in for injured players—mainly Foster, but he also played some center last season, with mixed results.
Training camp has begun. Wow. I don’t know about you all, but somehow the time between The Loss Which Shall Not Be Named (except by basically everyone writing about the Steelers) and training camp has seemed to go by in a flash. I suppose it is the Toilet Roll Effect.* So it’s time to start the intense Steelers talk, and for once let’s begin at the top, because with all due respect to Landry Jones and Mason Rudolph, it’s probable that as Ben goes, so go the Steelers.
In this morning’s Trib was an article about Ben, and the following caught my eye:
“I am 36, but I think I’m playing better than I ever have played,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t feel like I’ve plateaued yet. I still feel like my arrow is pointing up.”
Roethlisberger hasn’t set a definitive end date for his career and said his future will depend on his health. To that end, he worked with a personal trainer in the offseason while cutting carbs and sugars from his diet.
“I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. “I’m definitely lighter than I’ve been in the past 7-8 years. I feel great, my joints feel great.”
Roethlisberger smiled and politely deferred when asked about his weight.
“I don’t know how many years I have left, but I’m going to dedicate those last couple years to doing anything I can do, anything possible to give this team the best ‘me’ I can give them. I think it’s just smart.”