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.”
Photo: Western Michigan Athletics
It’s getting on for the end of the third round in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Steelers have chosen a wide receiver in the second round, which wasn’t very surprising given they had just traded Martavis Bryant away, and then moved up in the third round to nab Mason Rudolph, a choice which will make this draft either live in infamy among Steelers Nation or go down as one of the smartest moves of a generally canny front office.
And while it took one of the Steelers’ few remaining picks (No. 220) to get Rudolph, at least they still had their usual third-rounder. So who would they use it on? One of the remaining ILBs? A pass rusher?
Nope. It was back to the offense—the very unit that was putatively the strength of the team already. They took an offensive tackle.
After Round 2 saw the selection of a wide receiver, how many of you saw Round 3 featuring not one but two picks of offensive players? Me either.
But offensive players they were, and you would have thought it was actually offensive, given the cries resounding from Steeler Nation’s collective throat.
I won’t deny this was surprising. But let’s begin with the “two picks” part, because this is the result of something even more surprising—a plethora of trades by the Steelers.
Although Ivan has pretty much sewn up the “think globally” part of the site writing, I’m going to dip my toes back into those waters before continuing with my profiles of the new players, because several interesting bits of news have hit the stands.
But before I speak of things particular to the Steelers, I’m going to tackle a league-wide issue which, strangely, does not effect the Steelers, thank heavens—the increasing fuss over the “working” conditions of the NFL cheerleaders.
I’ve always been a fan of the Steelers eschewing cheerleaders, and given what I’m reading, I’m even gladder, although I can’t see the Rooneys treating “employees” with the same disdain as some of the teams.
In case you’re wondering why I have italicized “working” and “employees,” it is because many cheerleaders are not, apparently, paid in any significant way.
By Ivan Cole
If you are interested enough, the entire football year can be endlessly intriguing. As we move into the second week of OTAs it is still far too early to make much sense of where the Steelers stand in relation to securing that seventh championship this season, but enough of the puzzle pieces are in place to allow for some educated speculation.
Injuries and other handicaps
In past seasons the team often struggled with a high volume of injuries. As Head Coach Mike Tomlin has said, the injury rate in the National Football League is 100 percent, therefore it has been tempting to throw one’s hands in the air and declare that it is all just a matter of luck as to how things work out.
A few years ago, Art Rooney II threw the gauntlet down and declared the organization’s intention to get a better handle on the situation. It sounded at the time like Owner Speak, putting an optimistic face on a problem that was really beyond the capacity to influence.
photo via Steelers.com/ Karl Roser
I won’t repeat my rather ambling preamble to the first post—feel free to read it if you’ve got a cup of coffee and some extra time. Let’s get right to it:
There was fairly general agreement among those writing about the Steelers’ likely draft, at least among those who are actually knowledgeable about the Steelers, that the Steelers would take a wide receiver at some point, maybe even as high as the 2nd or 3rd round. While it wasn’t exactly a major point of need, there were a couple of factors driving it—first, Martavis Bryant wouldn’t be with the team in 2019, and second, the Steelers like to do that.