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.)
Photo via Steelers.com
By Ivan Cole
Spent some time in the last segment reminiscing about the good old days when Steelers fans thought of the offensive line as the problem children. That mantle has been passed on to the defensive secondary. So, there has been some disorientation with how things have been playing out throughout this season. How is it possible that the problem child could be among the league leaders through much of the season in the virtual blink of an eye? Conversely, why are they giving up so many big plays?
Taking that second question first: I thought there was so much distain for the bend-but- don’t-break zone driven philosophy. We wanted more man principles. Well, as they say, be careful what you ask for. They’re getting off the field quickly now. Just kidding, sort of.
Many of you know Jerry Olsavsky played for the Steelers. His career spanned the end of Chuck Noll’s career and the first trimester, if you will, of Bill Cowher’s stint as head coach—1989-1997.
Looking at the Steelers’ record during this time period is interesting. There are a lot of entries during these years in the slot for playoff results (in Pro Football Reference’s Franchise Encyclopedia page). There is a Wild Card loss, two Conference losses, three Divisional losses, and a partridge in a pear tree. Or, more precisely, a Super Bowl loss. I can see why Bill Cowher earned the reputation as a great regular season coach—between 1992 and 1997, Cowher’s first six years, the worst record was 9/7, and the rest were double-digit wins. But he never quite closed the deal.
What you may not know about Olsavsky’s NFL career is that he signed with one current rival and played for another—he signed with the Bengals during the post-97 offseason, and played for the Baltimore Ravens. This would be his last year in the NFL.
Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports Sean Spence takes the field during his rookie training camp.
The 2012 third round pick was someone we were all pretty excited about by partway through his first training camp. Sean Spence was fast, and he was a football player. Before that, though, some of us had concerns about him. The first knock on him was his size, the second his intelligence, the third his character. All of these except possibly the first are ironic in retrospect. Here’s what I wrote immediately after he was drafted:
Mike Tomlin said in the post-draft presser, “he encompasses a lot of football character things that we value.” But there were some concerns. Reportedly, he got a 12 on the Wonderlic, and he was suspended for one game in college for “receiving improper benefits.” The NCAA violation was already an issue with the second round pick. In Spence’s case it was not a big deal. It does, however, call into question his intelligence, which was already reeling from the blow of getting a 12 on the Wonderlic.
But how much does the Wonderlic really matter? It is a multiple choice intelligence test given at the combine, and is used by employers. It is designed to test the capacity of prospective employees for problem solving and learning. A score of 20 (out of 50 questions) indicates average intelligence, correlating to an IQ of around 100. Read more
I suppose it is rather presumptuous of me to tell Mike Tomlin what he should be thankful for. My excuse is, in looking at what Mike Tomlin has to be thankful for, Steeler Nation will also have an opportunity to examine their blessings in this oh-so-challenging season. Some of them will be hard blessings, some of them may seem like small things, and some of them are foundational.
And isn’t this like the blessings we enjoy in our lives? Many, even sometimes the greatest ones, are only truly discovered in retrospect, and may not seem like blessings at all in the moment. Some are small and barely noticed until we reflect back and realize that if it weren’t for that “small” thing some much bigger things would never have happened. And some of them prove themselves to be the aspects of our lives which made all the other blessings possible.
Here’s my list. Please feel free to add to it in the comments, if you aren’t too busy sleeping on the couch. Read more