The OTA’s are strictly a volunteer activity. Through the collective bargaining agreement, players (including rookies) are not required to attend any of those workouts. As the name implies – organized team activities – it’s just a time for the team to get together informally, workout, and begin some drills. Shake the rust off the vets and kick the tires for the new guys.
Despite the voluntary nature of OTA’s it is on good faith that all players on each team’s roster attends these workouts. Fans and coaches alike hope and want all of their team to be there on the field if physically able to. However, that’s not always the case, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have seen a few key (and some yet to be key) players missing from the OTA’s over the course of the week.
The most notable miss this week has been rookie RB/WR/Tyrion Lannister impostor, Dri Archer. Behind the Steel Curtain broke news on Thursday that on Tuesday afternoon Archer was excused from practice due to illness. He was spotted the next day all the way out in Los Angeles for an NFLPA gathering for rookies that tended to the business side of football. ESPN’s Scott Brown reported on Thursday night that Archer was still absent from the OTA’s as of Thursday afternoon. Seems odd that someone who is too ill to practice is well enough to hop on a plane the very same day (or early the next morning) and head all the way over to the west coast. I’m not trying to insinuate that Archer is blatantly missing the OTA’s. But, I will say that if an employee calls it in sick for a few days, and then is found somewhere else other than recovering at home from said illness, he’s kind of seen as a jerk in the eyes of his co-workers…. I’m just glad he didn’t get caught getting kicked out of any bars like a few Ravens players thought were necessary this week.
One bigger surprise absence this week is Troy Polamalu. Last season, Troy was at just about every team function imaginable. He conditioned hard and attended the team’s activities. There may not have been any physical necessity to attend offseaonal workouts, but it appeared that he was there more for the other players on defense – to act as a leader. Troy was coming off of injury from the 2012 season and might have felt it necessary to work with the team as much as possible. Whether that offseason plan was directly related to his play on the field or not, there was much of the old Polamalu back in 2013 that many in Steeler Nation missed in the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. I would have expected the same plan for this year, but Polamalu feels differently is has stayed out in So Cal to continue his own personal conditioning.
Ike Taylor has been gone this whole week as well. Maurkice Pouncey bowed out of Thursday’s sessions. No surprises here. Taylor is probably staying home for the same reasons Polamalu is – keep the aging body fresh. I’m sure the team requested Pouncey to sit out since he is still coming off of his season ending torn ACL.
Jason Worilds was also sitting out some of the OTA’s. This one is a concern because it could be injury related. Worilds left the field on Wednesday afternoon and later said it was due to cramping. Mark Kaboly from the Trib argued that and said that based on how Worilds went down and the fact that he had a wrap around his entire leg says differently – a hamstring pull. Excuse me while I go find my “Bang Head Here” poster on the wall. Dear God, please don’t let Worilds be the next LaMarr Woodley. There’s been no reports of Worilds looking out of shape or ballooned weight from his time off, but a hammy this early could mean that Worilds sluffed off a bit the last few months. I hope that’s not the case and that he is on the field for the next round of OTA’s. And more so, hopefully this isn’t some sort of subtextual power play move to get a long term contract done since that seems no where near completion.
UPDATE: To clarify, Archer did not voluntarily go to the NFLPA meeting in LA. The league chooses a draft pick from each team to attend this meeting, and Archer was the representative chosen for the Steelers. Seems pretty poor timing if you ask me. But, there you have it. I retract my co-worker jerk statement in the article and return it to the jerk store, Jerry. Jerk store.