Jun 11, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones (3) participates in drills during minicamp at the UPMC Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers Morning Huddle 6/14/13

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Happy Friday Steeler Nation.  The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their off season training. Formal training activities are done until training camp begins in late Jul.  Let’s get into the news.

OTA/mini camp wrapup:

Mike Tomlin cancelled the last day of their scheduled off season training and after one last “talk” with the players sent them on their way to continue to prepare for the 2013 football season on their own.  According to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, Tomlin made a point of addressing the semantics between the words “ready” and “prepared.”   He likened “ready” to an emotional feeling and “prepared” to the physical aspect.  The Steelers staff continues to stress to the players that they must do much of their physical conditioning on their own and what the team’s expectations are.  The Steelers seem to be doing all they can to keep the injury rate down.

Low Rate of Injury During Training

Speaking of injury, Ed Bouchette, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, notes that injuries were scarce at the OTAs/mini camps this year.  In fact, none came from drills or practices during the sessions.  Mike Adams is recovering from stab wounds and Ben Roethlisberger had knee surgery stemming from years of playing.  That’s somewhat of a success story.  According to Bouchette, the new warm up procedures and the stress test administered to players may have helped the Steelers work with the returning players more efficiently.  Bouchette quotes Ryan Clark on how even though the Steeler organization is trying to take on the accountability for conditioning, it’s on each player to stay as close to football shape as possible.  That is the reality of the CBA between the players and the NFL.  The players wanted to cut down on the grueling practices – remember when training camps were 6 weeks long before games started?  The players felt the wear and tear from the practices was shortening their football careers.  Here’s how I see it:  It’s a violent sport.  Anything you do that is a repetitive motion causes wear and tear.  Repeated collisions cause injury.  While some conditioning might better prepare your body to withstand the wear and tear and the trauma, it is still happening.   Learning to play together as a team cannot be underestimated and I wonder if the current set up is enough or have the first one or two games of the regular season become more like preseason games?

Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review gives his assessment of where the Steelers are in the “make-over” phase.  He doesn’t say anything new, but does explores whether the Steelers are a “team in transition” or a “team in trouble.”  He quotes Maurkice Pouncey about a “different vibe” in the locker room and wonders if it is enough.  Robinson offers no conclusions but agree with Larry Foote that the upcoming training camp will be exciting.  I hope so.  The Steelers need to move forward and not just tread water like last year.

Landry Jones signs with the Steelers

The Steelers have wrapped up signing everyone in their 2013 draft class.  According to Bouchette, it seems that Jones has signed the standard four-year contract that Jarvis Jones, Shamarko Thomas, and Le’Veon Bell signed.  Good to have that out of the way.  I’m glad the new CBA took the drama out of signing rookies.

Rookies help out at Tomlin’s Youth Camp

After the Steelers released their players from the last day of mini-camp, Head Coach Mike Tomlin invited his rookie players to meet him at Brashear High School, according to Mike Vernon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  The rookies got to introduce themselves to kids who ranged from first to eighth grade.  The camp was free, paid for by various corporate sponsorships.  While some might say that Tomlin probably strong-armed his rookies into participating, because who’s going to refuse the head coach, I’d venture to say that the rookies got more out of it than the kids.  This was an introduction to how the community feels about the Steelers from a very honest audience.  Kids say the craziest things and I bet the rookies has a blast.  What a great day they probably had and they got the feeling of making a difference in those kids lives.  It’s never to early to encourage the rookies about giving back.  I know many of the universities have programs but the rookies are new to their team areas (usually) and often don’t know where to start.  The article quoted Gregg Darbyshire, chief executive officer of ProCamps Worldwide:

 There’s two guys we know of in the NFL that do something like this,” Darbyshire said. “Coach Tomlin and Coach [Marvin] Lewis in Cincinnati.”

I’ve always liked that Tomlin and his family like to be involved in what happens in Pittsburgh even though they aren’t from the area.  I’ve added another reason to respect him as a person, not just a coach.

Defense is Reshaping

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review looks at how the new faces are folding into the defense and seems to be hoping for a bit more aggression from the players.  He notes their lackluster play last year, even with their high ranking and says:

And if you ask me, nothing will mean more to the Steelers than resetting some snarl to that defense, than regaining their intimidating identity.”

Kovacevic makes some great points about the who’s on the defense now and what they can bring.  He also suggests a new nickname since Casey Hampton is no longer with the Steelers and Steve McLendon steps up to a starting role:

Now, Big Snack gives way to Big Mac.”

The turnover among defensive players reminds me of the previous year when Farrior and company left.  James Harrison had a big role in the defensive identity of the Steelers in recent years and that’s gone.  It doesn’t mean all the talent is gone.   This group just needs to reshape and figure out the strengths they bring toward reshaping this installation of the Steelers defense.  Let’s see if LeBeau still has his mojo.

What did I miss, What did I get wrong?

That’s it for today.  As always, let me know what I missed or what you think I should look at differently.

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