Today’s huddle contains some stories that seem to be trickling out of the OTAs and the access the press has to the players now that they are officially in the off-season training.
Mike Tomlin’s mantra this year appears to be fitness and discipline. Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review quotes a few players about what Tomlin was repeatedly stressing and draws some conclusions that Tomlin felt if his team had been better conditioned last year they wouldn’t have lost the close games. He quotes running back Isaac Redman that the players are stretching prior to going into practice to limit injuries and he doesn’t remember doing that before. WHAT? Professional athletes weren’t stretching before these grueling practices? I don’t know whether to believe that. Surely not, right? Maybe the type of stretching has changed. Robinson also quotes Ryan Clark as saying “The plan starting now is to have discipline in the fourth quarter of the game.” It begs the question, what did they have before? Chaos? The only reason I find these comments surprising is it is like they are admitting there was a problem last year without admitting there was a problem last year. The official party line has been that they were “disappointed” with last year but nothing was really wrong with anything they did. Things just didn’t go the Steelers way. I’m paraphrasing here, of course, but I had felt that nothing was going to change with how the Steelers did business. Now, based on the comments that are trickling out of the OTAs, I wonder what they really thought. I had felt frustrated that the Steelers leadership, Tomlin included, had blinders on. Now, I have a little hope. The fundamentals are being stressed. Perhaps it is learning to adjust to the changes brought on by the CBA. Perhaps it is being realistic that you can’t really trust that the majority of the players will show up in football shape even though they voted to do so. I think it is hard to simulate team training conditions in a personal training environment. So, I’m surprised to hear these comments, but I’m hopeful that the Steelers are figuring out a good way to get to another championship.
If you are interested in the concussion research, the Tribune Review has an article about a conference at UPMC in relation to some of the most recent concussion cases with the Steelers. I do read the articles, but I have no commentary to debate it.
Ed Bouchette, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, did a piece on Plaxico Burress, who seems to be very open to the media in Pittsburgh. I like underdog stories. I like stories of how people persevere to become productive members in our society even if they have screwed up. So, I like what Burress says and I think he has learned from his experience. He also says that he understands part of his role is to help the younger players. Burress didn’t do much last year after signing with the Steelers in late Nov, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. He hadn’t played all year, the offense with the Steelers had changed since he played, and the offense wasn’t doing very well themselves. Did anyone really expect that Burress was going to recreate his early years with the Steelers as soon as he stepped on the field? Burress was going to ride in and save the day? Seriously? I think that was unrealistic and unfair to Burress. I’m OK with the Steelers giving him a chance during these training sessions and camps. If a guy’s hungry, don’t underestimate him. His age is a big consideration, of course, but he’s not beyond playing age. He’s just not going to be a workhorse. I don’t think giving him a chance to see if he can help the team is a bad thing.
Ed Bouchette also did a piece on Baron Batch who has garnered a lot of attention off the field with his paintings. I’ve been to Batch’s website and looked at the artwork there and he has a unique perspective that comes through in his art. Bouchette notes that Batch has done paintings for many of his Steeler teammates. Batch is careful to keep football and art separate and is sensitive about using the Steelers affiliation to draw people in. Batch’s injury in his first year and then the lack of running game in his second year have certainly worked against him. I’m not going to say that he won’t make the team, but I would have to say that he doesn’t seem to be favored right now. I guess we’ll see what happens in August, but I like that Batch has drive and passion. If you follow him on Twitter, he doesn’t cater to fans and sometimes says things that probably turn people off. However, I like his honesty and that he doesn’t apologize for who he is.
That’s it for this Sunday edition of the morning huddle. Let me know what I got wrong and what I missed!