photo: Rebecca Mehling/Steelers.com
by Ivan Cole
As Rebecca has already mentioned, life has slowed both of us down a bit but that should not be construed to mean that interest has been lost in the fortunes of the Steelers. For me it represents an opportunity to approach the upcoming season in a manner opposite from that which has been the case since I have been privileged to communicate with you concerning the fortunes of what I believe to be a model of what a first class organization, in sports or any endeavor is, as it strives to reach its goals.
Karl Rosen photo, Steelers.com
By Ivan Cole
Fully digested, this is all you will need to prepare yourself for the upcoming season. At this exciting time of the year care must be taken to inoculate ourselves against several reoccurring narratives that seduce us as the NFL regular season prepares to commence. The surprise conclusion (to this point) of the Steelers’ quarterback competition has exposed the foundation of sand upon which we base our so called ‘common wisdom’ concerning how things unfold with this game.
It is the right and privilege of fans to speculate about what is, can and should be about the game, but with the understanding that we are amateurs speculating from afar. What has been poisoning the well for years now is a media establishment whose purpose is to push that same level of questionable expertise from powerful platforms as ‘expert analysis’ or ‘Truth’.
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.”