First and foremost, I have to send my thoughts and good wishes out to those affected by tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma. The terrible devastation is heartbreaking to see.
It’s time for Organized Training Activities (OTAs)! I know we really aren’t going to be able to draw any conclusions that we can say will transfer to the regular season, but the team is back on the field! Here’s the latest news from around the internet.
The Steelers signed Vince Williams, their sixth-round draft pick, who played linebacker at Florida State University, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. So much for not signing any other draft picks until early June. I guess it doesn’t matter, but why bother to put a date out and then have no intention of sticking to it? Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review also posted a short article about Williams.
Ed Bouchette also wrote about the Steelers starting their first OTA and sees the 8-8 record of the 2012 season as a rallying point for the Steelers. Well, I hope so. He quotes Larry Foote’s comments from his Q&A in Michigan as proof (both Kim Myers and I discussed Foote’s comments too). Bouchette also quotes Art Rooney II about how the Steelers will be evaluating the players’ level of conditioning when they show up to camps. Rooney is concerned about the high number of Steeler injuries during 2012:
In terms of things that are within our control, we have to look at those things and make sure we are doing the best we can,” Rooney said in January. “I think the other thing we have to do is to make sure our players are aware that under the rules we are all operating under now, it’s more on them to make sure they are performing and doing their offseason conditioning.
We only have access to them for nine weeks, which is not that many weeks in the overall scheme of things. I think it is incumbent on the individual players to be more aware of that. I think they are.”
This is the continuation of teams getting used to the requirements/rules of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. The players wanted more control over their personal conditioning and less grueling practices. It is a given that not everyone is going to put the same effort into the conditioning and the result is more strain-related injuries. Some injuries have little to do with conditioning, such as broken bones, but I would be curious to see if there are any stats about ACL/MCL or hamstring injuries in relation to the CBA signing.
Alan Robinson looks at the pressure on Mike Tomlin as the OTA’s start. He came up with a different list of concerns than Ed Bouchette listed in his article from two days ago.
Among them: LaMarr Woodley’s weight. Troy Polamalu’s overall health. Ben Roethlisberger’s receivers. Dick LeBeau’s always-aging defense. The relatively young offensive line. The who’s-on-first situation at running back. The who’s-going-to-replace James Harrison scenario at outside linebacker.”
Robinson also notes that Tomlin has three new assistant coaches. That’s a good point. Last year, there was a lot of concern about Todd Haley and how much he would change the offensive and would Ben Roethlisberger be able to deal with the changes. This year, no one seems as concerned, but this many new assistant coaches could have an initial impact on unit training because of the time it takes to get everyone onto the same page. I hope it happens quickly in the OTAs. This is squarely on Tomlin to get his coaches lined up and all facing the same direction.
Ralph Paulk, of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wrote a profile on Justin Brown, a wide receiver from Oklahoma University, who the Steelers drafted in the 6th round. It’s notable that Brown was one of the players who left Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. However, I don’t think Brown should have to repeatedly explain himself. He made the decision to transfer to another university based on his personal feelings. Others made the decision to stay. I don’t see how that affects how he plays football. That environment was not going to work for everyone and I don’t think any less of Brown for moving to another university. I certainly hope that questions will not continue to surface. I know that if he produces on the field the questions will die off, but I can hope people will just respect his decision and let it go. Brown will need to put some work in though:
Richard Mann, the Steelers’ first-year receivers coach, wants Brown to polish his fundamentals before training camp opens in late July. He has few concerns about his willingness to compete and excel.
He is very productive, and that tells you something about the guy,” Mann said. “I think he has good toughness, and that’s part of being a good receiver. He’ll lock up downfield, and I think that is a part of it also.”
I will finish up today’s post with an article from Alan Robinson focusing on Charlie Batch’s preparations toward a post-Steelers career. He notes that Batch attended a three-day, hands-on session to teach writing skills to current and former NFL players. Batch has not officially retired and remains un-signed for 2013. However he seems to be approaching things with his characteristic hard work and awesome attitude:
I’m not closing the door,” the former Steel Valley High star said. “I’m open to whatever is out there for me.” In a year or so, he wouldn’t mind working in some football broadcasting role or, perhaps someday, in an NFL front office. “I’d definitely be open to (Steelers GM) Kevin Colbert teaching me his job,” Batch said.
I’d like to see Batch be with the Steelers in some capacity in the future. I’m a softie for a family-oriented, loyal organization and the Steelers hit that mark fairly often.
Well, Steeler Nation – are you ready for OTA’s to start? I am. Let us know what you will be looking for from these sessions and if you think we missed anything!