Lionizing the Steelers: Training Camp 2016
You’ve probably read by now that the Steelers will engage in joint practices with the Detroit Lions prior to their pre-season game on August 12th.
I think this is a great idea. It is surely more fun for the players to have an actual opponent. Admittedly, some of the players are pretty good at making their teammates into opponents, as the frequent training camp fights between Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor attested. But it must be more satisfying to best someone you don’t have to see the in the locker room every day.
Not everyone is a fan. The Detroit Press reported after the announcement:
While Lions coach Jim Caldwell appeared lukewarm to holding joint practices in the past — he dismissed the possibility of doing so last summer when asked at rookie minicamp — new general manager Bob Quinn comes from an organization, the New England Patriots, that routinely practiced with opposing teams during camp.
The Patriots have held practices with another team every year since 2012 and are scheduled to practice with the Chicago Bears this summer.
The Lions last held joint practices in 2000.
Given the overall results since 2001 of the Lions (78-162, two playoff appearances, both of which resulted in a loss in the wild card round,) and the Patriots (182-54, made playoffs 13 of 15 years, six Super Bowl appearances, four wins,) I think the smart money says to listen to the new general manager. And happily, they did.
I had the pleasure of watching the joint Steelers/Bills practices in 2014 in the company of the peerless Ivan Cole. We would come back from camp exhausted and put together a sort of dual stream-of-consciousness narrative for Behind the Steel Curtain. Here’s a sample:
Long before practice officially began, the two teams began running warm-up drills on separate fields. We could smell blood in the air, though, as the players sniffed at the cage bars from time to time. However, the advent of the strength and conditioning drills calmed the flames, as the mind-numbing dullness of them got the players back to a point where they could consider putting them on the same field…
If you’ve ever been to training camp at St. Vincent College, forget everything you’ve ever learned. This was on a completely different order of magnitude. The difference is between eavesdropping on a practice and being in close quarters to a war zone. A hundred and eighty angry young men on one football field, with double the coaches, is an almost unimaginable sight to behold. The screaming, the cursing, the anguished cries of their women—and we haven’t even gotten to the actual hitting.
Every drill took on a seriousness that was beyond what you normally expect in Latrobe. In fact, even the preparations for the drills which took place wore a much more serious aspect. The drills themselves were pretty much the standard drills we see every practice. But the intensity with which they were run could not possibly be reproduced in an ordinary practice environment. This idea is pure genius.
If this doesn’t make you want to drop everything and book your trip to Latrobe, I can’t imagine why you’re still watching football. And the real genius of this idea is, neither the Bills nor the Lions are traditional foes of the Steelers. This being the case, I would think that despite the intense atmosphere in which the practices take place, it’s unlikely injuries will occur due to malice aforethought, or at least more so than the danger which always lurks beneath the surface.
On the other hand, can you imagine what it would be like were, say, the Bengals to be the opponent? I’m guessing few would be left unharmed, even as the coaches stood by impotently wringing their hands.
As you have probably worked out by now, this isn’t so much a commentary as an attempt to get you prepared for the first ever meet-up for this site. Ivan will be there. I will be there. How about you?
More details will follow closer to the actual event.