Steelers say they are Super Bowl material Page 1 of 3

Steelers say they are Super Bowl material
Page 1 of 3
Steelers say they are Super Bowl material
To a man, the Steelers say 2006 was just a fluke and that the glory of a Super Bowl
championship is within their reach again this season.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
Willie Parker runs for a third-quarter touchdown against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
The Steelers opened defense of their Super Bowl championship last September. Nearly a year
later few give them a chance to even make the playoffs.
The Steelers must suffer through a fifth preseason game tonight in Charlotte, N.C., before the
final cuts are made tomorrow and Saturday by new coach Mike Tomlin. Then they open
preparation for what they hope will be a season of redemption after they flubbed defense of
their Super Bowl XL championship with an 8-8 record.
A sampling of online betting sites pegs the Steelers closer to their record of 2006 than the
team that won it all in '05. They are no better than 13th among the 32 NFL teams to win the
Super Bowl. One had them at 26-1 odds to win it, another 34-1.
Typical of them is Bodog, an online sports book. As of yesterday, the Steelers were 25-1 to
win the Super Bowl, 14-1 to win the AFC championship and picked third (at 5-2) to win the
AFC North behind Cincinnati (3-2) and Baltimore (9-5). Sports Illustrated this week picks
Steelers say they are Super Bowl material
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the Steelers to finish third in the AFC North.
The sites had teams such as the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks,
Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles at better odds. Generally, the over-under on the
number of Steelers victories this season is 9, one more than their disappointing reign as
Super Bowl champions.
There are people who strongly disagree with that and while they might be a distinct minority,
they're true believers. You can find them inside the Steelers' locker room.
The players say last year was a fluke and that they are every bit as good as their teams of
2004 (15-1, loss in AFC championship game) and their Super Bowl season of '05. Most of
their starters are intact from that team and some of the new ones might be better than the
starters they replaced.
The Steelers, the Steelers say, are as strong as ever and can compete for another Super Bowl
"There's no doubt there's the talent in this room," defensive end Aaron Smith said as he
peered around the locker room. "I don't see much difference [from '05]. I see the same team."
"We definitely have the talent," cornerback Deshea Townsend said. "It's the same team that's
been here for a lot of years. The good thing is we have a lot of guys in key roles back then
who are more mature now."
To be sure, it's not the same team. Gone from this year's club is two-time Pro Bowl center
Jeff Hartings and three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter. Among starters gone from the
Super Bowl are receiver Antwaan Randle-El, defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen and free
safety Chris Hope.
Yet, as many Steelers noted, the younger players on that team -- such as quarterback Ben
Roethlisberger, halfback Willie Parker, strong safety Troy Polamalu, linebacker Larry Foote
and cornerback Ike Taylor -- have matured and should be better than they were in 2005. The
Steelers still have veterans such as guard Alan Faneca, tackle Marvel Smith, defensive
linemen Smith and Casey Hampton and receiver Hines Ward. And newer starters such as
defensive end Brett Keisel and wide receiver Santonio Holmes look to be an upgrade from
"I think we're just as good," Ward said. "The younger guys are starting to develop and we
have a lot of veteran guys off that Super Bowl team."
Those who doubt the Steelers point to the changes in their offensive line and the loss of
Porter, a dominant force in the '05 playoffs.
Sean Mahan, signed from Tampa Bay as a free agent, will replace Hartings at center, and
Willie Colon apparently has beaten out two-year starter Max Starks at right tackle.
"Our offensive line can be the best in the league, I think, and we have so much depth," Smith
countered. "We have seven starters who could start somewhere else. There's no doubt they
have the talent, it's just a matter if they can work together. That's what makes offensive lines
great is when they can work well together."
What happened to the Steelers last season can happen to any NFL team, Ward said. The New
England Patriots followed their first Super Bowl victory with a 9-7 record and no playoff
Steelers say they are Super Bowl material
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visit in 2002.
"We didn't become sorry overnight," Ward said. "You don't win a Super Bowl and the next
year become sorry. There were a lot of circumstances -- Ben had the accident and we just
played too inconsistent."
So why should this season be any better than the last one?
"It takes a year like 8-8 in order for you to come back and respond and have a better year,"
Ward said. "You want to make sure what happened last year doesn't happen this year."
Soon, they will get that chance.
First published on August 30, 2007 at 12:00 am
Ed Bouchette can be reached at [email protected]
Steelers' Harrison tries on big shoes
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Steelers' Harrison tries on big shoes
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
James Harrison -- "My personal goal, I want to to try to get at least 12 sacks."
The coach who replaces Joe Paterno, the second man to walk on the moon, Alexander
Graham Bell's assistant.
It is not easy to follow a legend in any profession. Joey Porter might not qualify as a legend,
but he made the Pro Bowl three times and rose to fourth on the Steelers' career list with 60
sacks. He was the acknowledged leader of the Steelers' defense.
When the Steelers released Porter and his $5 million salary in March, it caused an upheaval
among his teammates.
Into the breach steps James Harrison, a former undrafted rookie who was cut by the Steelers,
twice, then cut by Baltimore, then re-signed by the Steelers as an afterthought one week
before training camp because Clark Haggans had a broken hand.
Not only will he start at right outside linebacker, where Joey Porter and Greg Lloyd played
before him, Harrison expects to surpass the productivity of either of them in one season.
"My personal goal, I want to try to get at least 12 sacks," Harrison said yesterday.
Steelers' Harrison tries on big shoes
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That would put him in a small group of Steelers who have reached
that many -- Mike Merriweather, Kevin Greene, Keith Willis,
Jason Gildon and Chad Brown. The team record is 15. Porter's
best was 10 1/2, twice.
Harrison does not care if people scoff at his goal, or if he's
scrutinized more because of the player he replaced.
"That's just it, I don't care what other people say. I'm not worried
about what other people say. I'm worried about what I do and
helping my teammates out and make sure I'm not letting my
teammates or coaches down. As far as what everybody else says, it
doesn't matter."
Harrison is not your typical-looking pass-rushing linebacker. He
stands 6 feet and weighs 242.
"He's short, he's not small," coach Mike Tomlin emphasized. "He
has natural leverage and he's a powerful guy -- very difficult for a
lot of left tackles to block from that standpoint because he can get
underneath them.
Game: Steelers
(3-1) at Carolina
Panthers (1-2) in
Game 5 of the
preseason, closing
out exhibition
When: 8 p.m. .
Where: Bank of
America Stadium,
Charlotte, N.C.
"He has the power to rip up and under and come through. I don't
think his height works at a disadvantage for him in that regard, because of how he's built and
how strong he is. He's a difficult guy to block, ask Marvel [Smith]. He and Marvel had some
battles here this offseason."
Tomlin, coordinator Dick LeBeau and the rest of the staff have no qualms putting Harrison
where Porter once roamed. They made their first pick in the draft an outside linebacker and
put him behind Harrison, but a groin injury has prevented Lawrence Timmons from getting
on the field much since draft day.
Harrison will start at right outside linebacker, the only change on a defense that has been
among the NFL's best in recent seasons. It is the third lineup change on defense since the
Steelers won Super Bowl XL. Last year, Ryan Clark replaced Chris Hope at free safety, and
Brett Keisel replaced Kimo von Oelhoffen at right end.
Keisel never started a game until he was elevated last season, four years after he was drafted
in the seventh round. He did so well that they are expanding his role this season so he can
line up at different spots.
Harrison, 29, has been their top backup on the outside the past three seasons, started eight
games because of injuries in that span and been productive doing so.
"I think he can replace Joey," said cornerback Deshea Townsend, who played behind Porter
and now Harrison. "It's going to be hard to replace him. When he did have a chance, you
never saw a letdown in our defense. You always saw him go out there and play just as well
as everybody in front of him. He's just another guy waiting his turn to play."
"He brings the same athletic ability Joey had and he has the attitude," said end Aaron Smith.
"James will come in and play down in and down out."
Harrison uses his speed and quickness to get around tackles and his compact frame as
leverage if he needs to explode in on them. He learned some pass rushes from Porter and
Steelers' Harrison tries on big shoes
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some from Kevin Greene when he spent a summer at training camp a few years ago helping
"Speed bull, that's what he taught us," Harrison said.
It's all in the technique, but it's a speed rush combined with a bull rush. Porter, Harrison said,
had "that nice hip flip. He flips his hips real fast, like dancing."
However he does it, the Steelers will turn to Harrison to get it done. Twelve sacks would
more than make them forget Joey Porter.
First published at PG NOW on August 28, 2007 at 11:46 pm
Ed Bouchette can be reached at [email protected]
Steelers WRs pleased with role in offense - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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Steelers WRs pleased with role in offense
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
During training camp, Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was asked if
he had been able to keep a certain group on the team happy.
His answer lent more credence to the notion that wide receivers can be harder
to please than a mother-in-law.
"Every Monday, one of them comes in and is upset because other guys caught
too many balls," Arians said with a chuckle.
Such visits may become a little less frequent as early indications point to Arians
featuring the receivers in the Steelers' offense -- meaning there should be
enough passes to go around.
The wideouts were a part of the big-play offense that powered the Steelers past
the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-13, Sunday night. And their play during the
preseason confirmed what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been saying
since offseason workouts: that the wideouts are going to do more pass catching
than blocking in Arians' new offense.
Hines Ward said the reason for the more prominent role this season is because
Arians is well aware of what he has in them.
Before becoming the team's offensive coordinator, Arians coached the Steelers'
wide receivers for three seasons.
"He knows what potential he has in his receivers," Ward said. "I think he's
starting to put guys in position to go out there and make positive plays. That's
why you're seeing Nate (Washington) get the ball, Santonio (Holmes), Heath
(Miller), the running backs on screens. We can be an explosive team."
The Steelers have been one during the preseason.
Six of Roethlisberger's completions Sunday night went for at least 20 yards,
and in four preseason games, Holmes, Washington, Miller, Cedrick Wilson and
Walter Young have all made at least one catch that has exceeded 30 yards.
"I think some of the things that we're doing, explosion plays," Steelers coach
Mike Tomlin said, "getting yards in big chunks."
Steelers WRs pleased with role in offense - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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The one guy who hasn't been getting yards in big chunks is Ward.
The four-time Pro Bowler is tied for the team lead in receptions (eight) but is
averaging just 8.3 yards per catch (by comparison, the Steelers are averaging
15 yards per reception).
The fact that his longest reception has netted 18 yards hasn't dampened
Ward's enthusiasm.
He said one big difference in the passing game this season than in years past
is the roles aren't nearly as defined for the receivers. That means any of the
Steelers receivers could go deep from anywhere they line up on the field, and
that includes Miller.
"Once Ben gets on his 'A' game," Ward said, "it's going to be hard for a lot of
defenses to really try and stop this offense."
Roethlisberger threw for 247 yards against the Eagles, but his timing with Ward,
as he noted after the game, seemed to be a little off, and it cost the Steelers a
touchdown on an incomplete pass near Philadelphia's goal line.
"We're right there," Roethlisberger said when asked about the state of the
offense, "and there's nothing major we need to fix."
Ward agreed.
"We're not where we want to be, but we shouldn't be," Ward said. "You don't
want to start peaking until playoff time. There's always going to be room for
growing. You saw the potential (Sunday) of what this offense can be about."
Scott Brown can be reached at [email protected] or 412-481-5432.
Images and text copyright © 2007 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent from
Harris: Smith's emergence bolsters Steelers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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Smith's emergence bolsters Steelers' defensive backfield
By John Harris
Friday, August 24, 2007
Locked in a battle with veteran Ryan Clark to become the Steelers' starting free
safety, Anthony Smith no longer lets his game speak solely for him.
His personality is emerging, along with his confidence.
"This year I know the guys a lot better. I'm just more comfortable with
everybody -- on and off the field,'' Smith said Thursday. 'Nobody's bigger than
anybody. You're allowed to hang around the vets, not just be around the young
Smith came on like gangbusters toward the end of 2006 when he started the
final four games and recorded interceptions in his first two career starts. He had
a game-high seven solo tackles in his third start, and he emerged as a hardhitting playmaker.
This season, as expected, Smith, the newcomer, is challenging Clark, the
incumbent, for the starting job.
Coach Mike Tomlin hasn't named a starter, and he may not do so until the
season opener at Cleveland.
In practice, Clark and Smith continue to rotate with the first-team defense.
"We just go out there and play our roles and let them determine who's going to
be the starter," Smith said. "I think I'm doing good. I know all my assignments. I
had good games in the preseason games I did play in. I just want to continually
make plays. That's all I want to keep putting in their eyes and make them see
Smith missed last week's game at Washington because of an abdominal injury.
He's expected to play Sunday night against Philadelphia.
During training camp, Smith's new off-field personality merged with his
aggressive playing style, and he became more vocal with teammates and
unloaded on Steelers receivers.
Smith is a ferocious hitter who's coming into his own.
Smith is the antithesis of Clark, who plays a more cerebral game.
Harris: Smith's emergence bolsters Steelers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Page 2 of 2
"I think they'd make a mistake not to play both of us," Smith said.
"Everyone wants to start," he said. "You're going to get more reps, and it gives
you more opportunities to make plays."
John Harris can be reached at [email protected] or 412-481-5432.
Images and text copyright © 2007 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent from
Steelers' Sepulveda pricey, but paying dividends - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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Steelers pay big price for punter, but like what they've seen
By The Associated Press
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Pittsburgh Steelers never paid more heavily for a punter than they did
Daniel Sepulveda, giving up a fourth and sixth-round pick to get him. So far,
they're not disappointed with their investment.
"We put our money where our mouth is with him," Mike Tomlin said, a reference
to the new coach's emphasis on special teams.
That leg Sepulveda is giving the Steelers is making them look wise with that
money, too.
It was only a preseason game but, given that the kicking game is the one
aspect of the preseason that most mimics that of the regular season, the
Steelers were delighted with Sepulveda's 50-yard average on four punts
Saturday against Washington.
The Baylor rookie punter was their standout during a dreary first half of a game
the Steelers would win 12-10 on three field goals in the fourth quarter. The
Steelers have devoted more time to the kicking game under Tomlin than with
any previous coach.
"I think it's great they're putting so much emphasis on special teams,"
Sepulveda said, referring to the numerous morning practices devoted to them
during camp.
The Steelers ended last season convinced that they needed an upgrade at
punter, even though the long-reliable Chris Gardocki -- their regular for three
seasons -- has never had any of his 1,177 punts blocked.
However, Pittsburgh was only 28th in the league in punting average (41.3) last
season, and 19th in net average (36.7 yards).
Sepulveda gives the Steelers some added dimensions that most punters don't
have -- namely, a linebacker-like body. At 6-foot-2 1/2 and 229 pounds, he
resembles first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons in size, and Sepulveda
outran him during some predraft workouts.
Sepulveda didn't punt in high school, either, becoming a punter at Baylor only
after walking on at linebacker, the same position older brother Stephen played
there. The younger Sepulveda went on to become the first two-time winner of
the Ray Guy award presented to the college football's top punter, averaging
Steelers' Sepulveda pricey, but paying dividends - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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46.5 yards last season.
After the draft, Sepulveda discovered pretty quickly that Pittsburgh is a footballintensive place to be. There, he was reminded constantly of how he hit a 51yard punt against North Texas several years ago, then went downfield and
leveled the punt returner with a big hit.
Sepulveda thought the play was long since forgotten, only to learn numerous
Steelers fans had watched it online.
"That's pretty cool, that they're talking about a punter even before they've seen
him play," he said.
Sepulveda also has been asked repeatedly about his ability to kick the "Aussie
roll" -- a type of punt that, when landing inside a 20, doesn't bound toward the
end zone but backspins and remains in play. The idea is to get the ball to rotate
backward like a kickoff, rather than spiraling like most punts do, by kicking it on
its end.
After watching Cowboys punter Mat McBriar employ the roll, Sepulveda was
determined to learn it himself. The kick gets its name from Australian football,
where the tactic is heavily used.
"It can be a great kick," Sepulveda said.
Notes: Tomlin declined again Wednesday to reveal his starting offensive line,
though one seems to have emerged in camp: LT Marvel Smith, LG Alan
Faneca, C Sean Mahan, RG Kendall Simmons and RT Willie Colon. ... QB Ben
Roethlisberger said he has confidence in the line, no matter who lines up in
front of him. He has not publicly said whether he favors Mahan or Chukky
Okobi at C. ... The Steelers haven't drafted a punter as early as they did
Sepulveda since taking Craig Colquitt in the third round in 1978.
The Associated Press can be reached at or .
Images and text copyright © 2007 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent from
For Pittsburgh's Tomlin, it's all about the details -
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For Pittsburgh's Tomlin, it's all about the details
By Chris Colston, USA TODAY
LATROBE, Pa. — The bass thumped from a portable stereo, a cool rap groove, when Mike Tomlin entered the room the morning of Oct. 30,
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the middle of their Super Bowl season. Coach Jon Gruden likes to split the 16-game schedule into
quarters, and for each quarter he assigns an assistant as "head coach" for the big Wednesday team meeting that sets the tone for the week.
BLOG: Read Chris Colston's entries from Steelers training camp
GALLERY: Scenes from Pittsburgh's training camp
Tomlin and linebackers coach Joe Barry drew the third quarter. So with the music blasting, they and their "posse" — assistant coaches
Raheem Morris and Joe Woods — burst in wearing matching black T-shirts riffing off the "third quarter" theme. "Something the players could
relate to," Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber says.
The entrance grabbed players' attention. Tomlin, then 30, spoke and his confidence proved rapturous.
"Some guys can have that kind of presence in a meeting room, with his positional players," says Denver Broncos safety John Lynch, a
member of that Bucs team. "But when Mike stepped in front of everybody his thoughts were precise, succinct, and he never faltered in his
delivery. It's a talent and he pulled it off. That was the first time I thought, 'Wow, this guy is going to be a special head coach one day.' "
But the ranks are filled with qualified assistants. For Tomlin, 35, to leapfrog them and become coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers fascinates
many who follow the NFL. One reason he commands the respect: Every detail matters.
It also helps explain why, for the love of Art Rooney Sr., Tomlin wears a long-sleeved shirt and black pants in the stifling August heat of training
camp. "The man in black," cornerback Deshea Townsend says. "He's a cool cat."
So much interest in his wardrobe perplexes Tomlin, who says he always has dressed this way.
"All of a sudden, it's newsworthy," he says. "That's been the most surprising thing about the job for me at this point — that it's a big deal what
clothes I choose to work in."
But Tomlin's style has a purpose: to create consistency. "It's a little mental warfare on my part," he says, then cracks a smile. "All I have to do
is get through training camp. After that, this is appropriate wear."
Such thinking might explain how Tomlin landed one of the NFL's most prestigious jobs. Low-profile stops at Virginia Military Institute, Memphis,
Arkansas State and the University of Cincinnati and one year as an NFL coordinator exposed him to many situations; he held six jobs in his
first seven years of coaching.
But during that NFL championship season, working with players such as Barber, Lynch, Brian Kelly and Super Bowl XXXVII MVP Dexter
Jackson, Tomlin began to get a better sense of his destiny.
"I had a great room, but it was a hard room to coach," Tomlin says. "If you stand in front of Lynch and Barber and Kelly every day, it doesn't
matter if there are 50 other guys in the room. That's a tough crowd.
"They had a desire to be great, and they demanded that you deliver for them. That's when I realized I might be capable of doing something like
Tomlin's authenticity won over Barber.
"He wasn't phony, and some coaches don't have that quality," Barber says. "Mike always seemed like he loved what he was doing and loved
the guys he worked with. Some part of him rubbed off on us.
"To me, that's a great head coach's quality, and you could see that in him from the very beginning."
Having said that, even Barber raised his eyebrows when Tomlin landed the Steelers job.
"Surprise is the wrong word because I knew he'd be there at a young age," Barber says. "But this year? No. Next year, I thought maybe."
Rising to the top 8/21/2007
For Pittsburgh's Tomlin, it's all about the details -
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When Steelers coach Bill Cowher left after 15 years, the franchise had two good candidates on staff to replace him: offensive coordinator Ken
Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
But if one team does due diligence in the hiring process, it is the Steelers. The Rooney Rule, which forces teams to interview minorities for
head coaching vacancies, is named after Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.
"Let's bring Tomlin in and see how he looks," Rooney said.
Steelers players were watching the hiring process.
"It wasn't like we were going to go on strike if he didn't get the job," safety Ryan Clark says. "But the majority of players are of AfricanAmerican descent, so it's something we looked at."
Tomlin, who keeps boxes loaded with old coaching planners and notebooks and has a log of every practice, impressed the Rooneys enough to
reach the second round as one of five finalists.
"The second interview did it," Rooney says. "He was prepared and understood what we were saying. He just really sold us."
Although he had been the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator for only one season, Tomlin felt confident.
"But I didn't know about the landscape of getting a head job," Tomlin says. "I didn't know if it was politics. And if that was the case, I didn't
know how to play those politics."
With the Rooneys, it was all about competence; that Tomlin was then 34 didn't bother them.
"We don't have a prohibition against hiring young coaches," Rooney says. "Chuck Noll was 35, Bill was 34. Mike fell into the same age bracket
they did. But that's not why you hire somebody, because they can relate to younger players. You hire them because they can do the job
regardless of age."
Then Rooney adds, "If we didn't hire him this year, somebody else would soon."
On Jan. 22, Tomlin joined Romeo Crennel, Tony Dungy, Herman Edwards, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith as the NFL's African-American head
coaches. Whisenhunt landed in Arizona, bringing Grimm with him.
Transition has bumpy moments
Tomlin's two-a-day schedule with first-week contact was different from how Cowher ran the show. The transition took some adjustment for
many Steelers veterans.
"We're still feeling each other out, still learning the process, the schedule," says Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, who favored Whisenhunt or
Grimm for the job. "For a while there, it was like, 'What are we going to do today?' So many guys had been doing the same thing day in and
day out."
Tomlin acknowledged some bumpy moments: "It's human nature to resist change. We're all creatures of habit."
But the Rooney stamp of approval lent credence to the movement.
"The Rooneys are smart. In the last (40) years, they've had three coaches," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel says. "You have to trust them.
The decision shocked a lot of guys. … But this was the direction they wanted to go in, and I don't think there is a soul on this team who will
question the Rooneys' opinion on this."
Clark says the Steelers have someone "who understands where we are in life. Sometimes, with older coaches, they're far removed from being
26, 27 and having to deal with the things we deal with. But he also has the expertise of a guy who's been in the league for 20, 30 years. I think
it was a hire based on merit, not on color."
Starring role
The Steelers are beginning to see what the Rooneys saw in the coach and what his William & Mary teammates saw when Tomlin played wide
receiver from 1990-94: a facile mind, attention to detail, his ability to relate to people of different ages and backgrounds. He is a fit 6-2, with a
beard trimmed along his jaw, a stylish mustache, twinkling eyes behind Versace sunglasses.
"I worked side-by-side with him for five straight years in Tampa," says Barry, now the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator and a rising star 8/21/2007
For Pittsburgh's Tomlin, it's all about the details -
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himself. "In that situation, you see people's moods, their good days and bad. And every single day, I knew what I was getting with Mike Tomlin:
someone who is smart, tough and consistent."
In an alternate life, Clark sees Tomlin running a Fortune 500 company.
"Some people are better at giving orders than taking them," Clark says. "And it seems like he's pretty good at giving them. If he wasn't a
football coach, he'd have to be somewhere, bossing somebody around."
But the most striking thing about Tomlin is… what, exactly?
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger nodded when posed this question.
"He has a presence, without being boisterous," Roethlisberger says. "There is something about him that makes you want to know what he's
William & Mary teammate and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother Terry Hammons sensed something, too.
"You can feel his presence when he walks into a room," Hammons says. "You might not know who he is or what he does, but you get the
sense he's special. … I don't want to sound too cheesy, but he has an aura about him.
"How do I explain this? Some coaches feel they need to control situations by screaming. Mike doesn't need to do that. There might be a
gymnastics meet going on inside his body, but you wouldn't be able to tell by the look on his face."
Townsend senses it, too. He says Tomlin has the charisma of an actor — "A Denzel Washington type."
"An actor? Yeah — I think so," tight end Heath Miller says. "That's actually pretty good. … I think he'd do well."
Tomlin laughs when he hears this. He considers himself "nerdy" because he loves crossword puzzles.
But in Pittsburgh, he has achieved celebrity status. When movie star Will Smith accompanied Tomlin to dinner at a local restaurant, fans
mobbed their table — to meet Tomlin. According to Hammons, Smith told Tomlin it was the first time in 20 years he had eaten in a restaurant
and hadn't been asked for his autograph.
"The irony is, Mike had been to the restaurant once before but couldn't enjoy it because fans kept interrupting him," Hammons says. "He
figured if he took Will Smith, he'd have a peaceful meal."
How will Mike Tomlin do in his first year as Steelers coach? Share your thoughts by commenting below. 8/21/2007
Harris: The Steelers' best playmaker - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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Holmes is Steelers' best playmaker
By John Harris
Monday, August 20, 2007
Just give Santonio Holmes the darned ball.
With each catch and every big play, Holmes becomes more entrenched as the
Steelers' playmaker at wide receiver.
Picking up where he left off from his rookie season, Holmes has the magic
Dating back to the Cleveland Browns game last December, when he made his
first NFL start, Holmes has become the Steelers' hottest offensive player.
In that game against the Browns, Holmes led the Steelers with four receptions
for 81 yards, with a long gain of 25 yards.
The following week against Carolina, he returned a punt 65 yards for a
touchdown. Against Baltimore, he had five receptions for 90 yards, with a long
gain of 31 yards. And in the season finale against Cincinnati, he had four
catches for 124 yards, including the game-winning 67-yard touchdown in
Against New Orleans, in this year's exhibition opener, Holmes caught a 41-yard
pass and then made a 3-yard touchdown grab on a beautiful fade route. Last
week, against Green Bay, he made a gorgeous 49-yard catch.
Holmes' hot streak continued Saturday night in the Steelers' 12-10 exhibition
win against the Washington Redskins. He caught two passes for 51 yards.
His 29-yard catch-and-run on third-and-17 in the second quarter helped set up
the Steelers' first score. His 22-yard catch on the first play of the same drive
was the Steelers' second-longest offensive play in the first half, when both
teams' starters were on the field.
"I really just don't believe that anybody on any other team that we play can stop
me," Holmes said after the game. "The more plays I make on the field makes
me believe that even more."
Returning to the starting lineup against Washington after missing the early part
of training camp because of a non-football related surgical procedure has
spiked his confidence -- to the point where he doesn't mind talking frankly about
his development.
Harris: The Steelers' best playmaker - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Page 2 of 2
"The more opportunities you get, the more you play, the more confidence you
gain in yourself and the more confidence you gain from your teammates,"
Holmes said.
Hines Ward may be the people's choice, but Holmes is the Steelers' salvation
at receiver.
Moving Ward around, including to the slot, makes the Steelers' all-time
receptions leader more difficult to defend. But it's also a concession to Father
Time for Ward, 31.
This is Holmes' time.
"He's capable of that. That has to be our personality," coach Mike Tomlin said
of Holmes' playmaking ability. "We don't make any bones about that. We've got
to win by attrition, but we've also got to be a quick-strike offense."
Just give Holmes the darned ball.
John Harris can be reached at [email protected] or 412-481-5432.
Images and text copyright © 2007 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent from
Steelers Training Camp: Tomlin's first camp was tough on the players
Page 1 of 3
Steelers Training Camp: Tomlin's first camp was tough
on the players
Tomlin has a good feeling and plenty of questions to answer as he closes out
his first camp at Saint Vincent
Friday, August 17, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mike Tomlin wrapped up the final practice of his first training camp yesterday afternoon
with many questions remaining about his football team, but with more insight about what he
"It's been as good as could be expected," the Steelers new
coach said. "You always come in prepared for the worst
and hopeful for the best. I think it's been more toward my
hopes; it's been awesome."
Tomlin leaves Saint Vincent College believing he has a
team that can compete for a Super Bowl. Like many NFL
teams, injuries or the lack of them will decide how serious a
bid the Steelers make.
That was the good news coming from his first training
camp: No serious injuries. Halfback Willie Parker, perhaps
the player the Steelers least can afford to lose, missed a
few weeks and two games with what was called slight
inflammation of his left knee, but he returned to practice
and will start tomorrow night against the Washington
Redskins in the third preseason game.
Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
First-year Steelers coach Mike
Tomlin says training camp at Saint
Vincent College in Latrobe was
everything he hoped it would be.
Click photo for larger version
"We have to get Willie P going," Tomlin said.
Tomlin still has not determined the backs he will keep
behind Parker and whether he will go young with Carey
Davis and Gary Russell, keep veterans Verron Haynes and
Dan Kreider or go with a mix.
Related coverage
Steelers Notebook: More playing
time for first team
Steelers Training Camp Video: On
to the South Side
Decisions must be made everywhere, particularly along the
starting offensive line. Tomlin has to decide how many wide
receivers/tight ends to keep, which backup defensive
linemen after Chris Hoke to maintain, who will fill two starting spots in the defensive backfield and
what backup outside linebackers will stay.
Yet, three preseason games remain and the first cutdown does not happen until Aug. 28, when
teams reduce their rosters to 75. The tougher cut happens Sept. 1, when teams get down to 53.
Teams can add eight practice squad players Sept. 2, after they clear waivers.
Steelers Training Camp: Tomlin's first camp was tough on the players
Page 2 of 3
Tomlin often used a phrase for the work that took place at camp the past 3 1/2 weeks, and the work
that's left before the regular-season opener Sept. 9 in Cleveland. He calls it "team building."
"It's an ongoing process," he said. "I like where we are. I like our skill development. I don't think
we're a finished product in that area, but that's why we're here."
Players groaned a little when they first saw Tomlin's training camp schedule, which included no days
off the first two weeks and 15 scheduled two-a-day practices. He canceled several of those,
however, and some others were rained out.
Still, players considered it a tougher training camp than they have had before.
"He put us through a hard camp," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "I think coming in as a first-year
coach you kind of need to do that and see which guys you have on board and which guys are going
to fall by the wayside. It was a tough camp, but we made it."
Keisel also saw Tomlin evolve the past month.
"I think he's getting more comfortable. This was his first time up here and when you come up here
it's different. He did a good job. We made it through camp without any severe injuries, which is
Tomlin's camp may have been different from those run the previous 15 summers by Bill Cowher, yet
most NFL training camps look alike. Tomlin held practices at the same time in the afternoon as in
previous camps, and for all the talk about there being more hitting, there really was not. He often cut
afternoon practices shorter than the scheduled two hours, sometimes by as much as 30 minutes.
Cowher often went the entire two hours in the afternoon.
Tomlin held more one-hour special teams practices in the morning, along with the occasional twohour morning practice. But the morning special-teams drills were more laid back and most of the
starters were dismissed from them early.
Curfew was still set at 11 p.m., there was family night and a night off, and movie day, just as there
were under Cowher. Camp also lasted about the same length, although they reported earlier
because of the extra preseason game.
Still, "they resisted the change," Tomlin said. "But I think they did a nice job of dealing with it and not
letting it affect their quality of play.
"It's funny, we're all creatures of habit, particularly the guys that have been here a long time. Guys
who were drafted here, they know one way. When you know what's going on, you never have to look
at the schedule. You can kind of get on autopilot. That's what we crave. We like to be on autopilot
and know what lies ahead.
"But sometimes it's good to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and have to read an itinerary,
have to keep up with the schedule and don't really know what's going on next. That's how this
process has been for some people."
"It's been as good as could be expected. You always come in prepared for the worst and hopeful for
the best. I think it's been more toward my hopes; IT'S BEEN AWESOME."
-- Mike Tomlin
(Ed Bouchette can be reached at [email protected] )
LeBeau makes it look easy
Page 1 of 2
LeBeau makes it look easy
PITTSBURGH - One thing you can say about Mike Tomlin that you couldn't about Bill Cowher is that
he delegates duties well and sticks with it.
Tomlin is allowing his coordinators a little more free reign to work this season.
In the case of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, that's an especially good idea.
When it comes to designing defenses, LeBeau is the Albus Dumbledore of the NFL. He's seen it all,
done it all, and been through it all when it comes to the NFL.
He's done it so well and for so long, it almost seems that LeBeau invented the game. And in many ways,
he has.
It was from LeBeau's imagination that the zone blitz defensive scheme sprang. Like Bill Walsh's West
Coast offense, nearly every NFL team has incorporated all or parts of the zone blitz into their defensive
This season, we may see even more from LeBeau than ever before because Tomlin isn't about to secondguess or reign in the old master.
People around the league have asked the question: How have the Steelers bettered themselves heading
into this season, particularly on defense?
On paper, it would seem the Steelers haven't done much to replace linebacker Joey Porter. But in a
preseason in which he didn't game plan to specifically stop an opposing offense, LeBeau's prowess for
calling the right defense at the right time is apparent.
In two games, the Steelers' first-team defense - and that's the only one you should care about if you're
watching a preseason game - allowed just one first down and 29 total yards.
New Orleans' quarterback Drew Brees was 1-for-6 for six yards working against the Pittsburgh starters
last week, and Green Bay's Brett Favre was 2 of 7 for seven yards.
Two pretty good quarterbacks have been made to look pretty pedestrian by the Steelers. That is what
LeBeau is capable of doing if allowed free reign.
And that will be the difference with this Steelers' defense.
Cowher wasn't always willing to give his assistants those kind of opportunities, especially on defense.
And that's fine.
As a former coordinator, Cowher knew a little bit about defense. But he doesn't know as much about it
as LeBeau.
That's not a knock against Cowher. LeBeau is just that good.
Tomlin seems more willing to take a step back and allow LeBeau to call his game in an unfettered way.
LeBeau makes it look easy
Page 2 of 2
And if the first two preseason games are any indication of what Steelers fans can expect from this
defense, they should feel pretty good about the way this season is going to turn out.
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at [email protected]
Copyright Observer Publishing Co.
FOX Sports on MSN - NFL - Tomlin establishing identity in Pittsburgh
Page 1 of 2
Tomlin establishing identity in Pittsburgh
Alex Marvez /
Posted: 8 hours ago
When asked seven months ago, a top AFC North executive was unable to identify the Pittsburgh Steelers'
newly-hired head coach among a small group scouting draft prospects at the Senior Bowl.
Mike Tomlin doesn't enjoy that same anonymity any more.
As one of the teams officially kicking off the 2007 NFL preseason, the Tomlin-led Steelers were in the
national spotlight for Sunday night's 20-7 victory over New Orleans in the Hall of Fame game in Canton.
For the first time since 1992, Bill Cowher wasn't roaming the Steelers sideline with his face ready to contort
into rage after a player error or unfavorable officiating. Cowher and his trademark chin have entered into
what will likely be a one-season hiatus following his resignation after the 2006 season, ending a 15-year run
in which Pittsburgh won one Super Bowl, played in another and reached four other AFC Championship
Taking his spot is a 35-year-old defensive specialist given the daunting task of filling the shoes of a coaching
legend like Cowher did when replacing Pittsburgh's four-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Chuck Noll.
"I'm just like anybody else around the city. I'm used to watching Bill
Cowher," said Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch, a
Pittsburgh native who has played for his hometown team since 2002.
"I think everybody was kind of anticipating (Tomlin's) facial
expressions to see if he had any. I would imagine the camera was on
him quite a few times to see his reactions."
Tomlin said he tried to make a low-key debut.
"I really kind of took myself out of it," Tomlin said. "I was focused on
creating an environment where everybody, including the coaches, did
what they needed to do. When you do that, you get your job done in
the process."
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Before Sunday's game, Steelers owner Dan Rooney said he believes Tomlin shares some of the same
coaching traits as Cowher and Noll, including an infectious enthusiasm that carries over to his players. But
Rooney also knows similarities don't guarantee Tomlin will have the same kind of success.
"(Tomlin) does strike me as being young, but I know he can do the job," said Rooney, who chose Tomlin from
a field of candidates that included two top (and now former) Steelers assistants in Ken Whisenhunt and Russ
"Chuck Noll (37) and Bill Cowher (35) were young when we hired them. I think Mike is the same. We'll see
how he can coach. That's the big thing."
One area of concern is a lack of NFL coaching experience. Tomlin has served as an NFL assistant for six
seasons, including just one as a defensive coordinator last year in Minnesota. In comparison, Cowher had
spent three of his previous seven NFL seasons as a defensive coordinator before joining the Steelers. Noll
was even more seasoned with nine NFL campaigns already under his belt.
Just as when first-time head coaches like Cowher and Noll were hired by the Rooney family, it's unknown
how well Tomlin will handle the crisis situations that will inevitably sprout as the season unfolds. Tomlin
already has effectively defused one potentially ugly situation by keeping the disgruntled Alan Faneca in the
fold despite the Pro Bowl left guard's unhappiness with his contract situation. But can Tomlin keep the
respect of other veteran Steelers players — some of whom look older than him — if the franchise struggles
while making the transition from the Cowher era?
Tomlin also appears willing to gamble and tinker with two Steelers staples that brought the franchise so much
success under Cowher: A run-heavy offense and 3-4 defensive system.
While all clubs are intentionally vanilla with their game planning during the preseason, Pittsburgh flashed a
glimpse Sunday of what could ultimately be a more pass-driven attack under new offensive coordinator
Bruce Arians when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected on a 55-yard strike to wide receiver Cedrick
Wilson on the second play of the game. Only two of Roethlisberger's 280 completions last season covered as
much ground, one of which was on his last pass of the season.
"Coach Arians likes to put the ball in the air," Wilson said. "If we execute, he will do it more often."
FOX Sports on MSN - NFL - Tomlin establishing identity in Pittsburgh
Page 2 of 2
Defensively, Pittsburgh seems likely to introduce some of the 4-3 alignments and cover-two zone schemes
that Tomlin mastered while coaching Tampa Bay's defensive backs from 2001 to 2005.
There are other smaller changes in training camp, like more contact during practices and two-a-day sessions
that place a heavy emphasis on special teams.
"It's been a little tougher than when coach Cowher was here," said right tackle Max Starks, a 2004 Steelers
draft choice. "We have a lot of hitting going on. It's a little bit of a change."
Tomlin admitted that conducting a pre-game interview with NFL Network announcer Deion Sanders was the
biggest change for him in Sunday's game.
"I had never given an interview right before kickoff," Tomlin said. "That was probably the only thing new and
exciting that I got to do.
"Maybe I'll be more excited next month. I'm sure I will be when we open in Cleveland (on Sept. 9). Really,
tonight was about this team taking the next step and developing."
Just like Tomlin himself.
Alex Marvez is an NFL writer for >> Feedback | Press | Jobs | Tickets | Join Our Opinion Panel | Subscribe
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Calmer, with less chin and spittle, Mike Tomlin coaches his first Steeler win
Page 1 of 3
Calmer, with less chin and spittle, Mike Tomlin coaches
his first Steeler win
Monday, August 06, 2007
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CANTON, Ohio -- The new guy donned his
customary mental-warfare black outfit, paced the
sidelines with a relatively quiet purpose and failed to
spit on any of his players.
So went Mike Tomlin's Steelers head-coaching
debut last night, having broken camp in Latrobe -site of America's first professional football game -for a first game in the birthplace of the National
Football League.
Even if it was only a meaningless exhibition, in the
Hall of Fame Game, a new head coach must start
somewhere. Inside a high-school stadium next door
to pro football's hall, Tomlin watched his starters
outplay second-year coach Sean Payton's defending
NFC South champions, the New Orleans Saints,
when the game mattered at least a whit. Ben
Roethlisberger connected twice for 73 yards with
Cedrick Wilson, who days earlier publicly
complained he wasn't an intended target often
enough, and the heavy-pressure Steelers' defense
made that 7-0 lead stand for more than a quarter in a
20-7 Steelers triumph.
Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
shouts instructions at Hall of Fame
Click photo for larger image.
More Coverage:
By the second quarter, Tomlin settled mostly into a
Steelers start strong in 20-7 victory
midfield lurker at Fawcett Stadium and remained
nowhere near as animated, or moisture-imparting, as
predecessor Bill Cowher, who resigned in January to
become a full-time dad and part-time CBS analyst ... for a year or so anyway.
Easily three-fourths of the roughly 22,302 patrons inside Fawcett Stadium -- more of a
Faucet during the two-hour pregame rain -- came garbed in black and gold to watch their
favored Steelers. They were intrigued to see the new approach, the new coach.
"A good first step," Tomlin said afterward.
Calmer, with less chin and spittle, Mike Tomlin coaches his first Steeler win
Page 2 of 3
"He'll be good," said Jim Fragasse, a Jack Lambert jersey-wearing Steelers fan from Dover,
Ohio, south of the Pro Football Hall and about equidistant from both Cleveland and
Pittsburgh. "He's got a good team. We're pulling for him." Son Gabe, 10, on his shoulders
and wife Laurie beside him nodded in agreement. But eldest son, Cody, 14, was reserving
judgment on the new guy.
Brenda Simmons of Canton, the mother of a Browns son even though she has faithfully
followed the Steelers for three decades, talked from underneath her soggy Steelers cap about
the legacy of sideline consistency into which Tomlin treads.
She talked about him being the third Steelers head coach since 1969, not about him being
the eighth fellow African-American to lead an NFL team onto a field, though she expressed
pride in that latter fact. "I think we're going to do well with him," she said.
For pure viewing pleasure, Cowher long was a favorite among a Steelers Nation that foamed
at the mouth almost as often as he did on a sideline. This, after all, was a 15-year coach who
stuffed a photograph in an official's pocket, nearly tackled a Jacksonville returner, jutted his
famed jaw, cried in front of the cameras and otherwise wore his rampant emotions openly.
Like Cowher before him a defensive coordinator named Steelers head coach at age 34,
Tomlin is nevertheless a stark sideline contrast.
"You know, I really kind of took myself out of it," Tomlin said of the first-game equation. "I
just wanted to create an environment for players and coaches to get what they needed out of
it. When you do that, you kind of get your job done in the process."
Tomlin emerged onto the field at 6:57 p.m., harbinger or not, just as the slate skies opened
with a sturdy rain once again. The new guy wore a Steelers waterproof jacket and
windpants, still in the black he regularly wears on the steamy St. Vincent College fields at
training camp (prompting his remark this week relating that to "mental warfare" with his
As fate would have it, the Fawcett Stadium videoboards were playing the 2006 Steelers'
highlights film. Two minutes after he took the field, Tomlin was sharing a laugh with
receivers coach Randy Fichtner and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians because the visage
on the big screen was the new guy. There he was as the Minnesota Vikings coordinator.
There he was as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary coach.
Coincidence wasn't done with him just yet, either.
For then a fellow former Bucs assistant tapped him on the shoulder, ex-Browns center Jim
"We knew he would be a head coach," offered Pyne, out of coaching and living in the
Cleveland area. "Good guy. Hard worker. Smart. Intelligent. Great with people. Great
By game's start, Tomlin had changed into a Steelers sweatshirt -- black, of course -- and
took his sideline spot at midfield, strolling back and forth between offense, defense, special
Calmer, with less chin and spittle, Mike Tomlin coaches his first Steeler win
Page 3 of 3
Give the new guy credit: When it came time for the national anthem, he positioned himself,
black Steelers ballcap over heart, among the on-field officials.
By the end of the first quarter, after a play in which Wilson appeared to be a victim of
interference, he was working those same officials gently. "Nothing new. I did that as an
assistant," Tomlin said. But, heretofore, "I had a coach who would tell me to shut up."
As for sideline demeanor, he opened the game walking up and down the bench shaking
hands, giving embraces and patting both behinds and helmets. He poked his head into the
kickoff-return huddle before that opening kickoff. He pointed in praise at Roethlisberger
after that 55-yard pass to Wilson on the exhibition's second play from scrimmage. He
rubbed Wilson's helmet in congratulations after the 80-yard drive to the inaugural
touchdown, by running back Najeh Davenport. Later, he stayed mostly removed, a manager
at work.
"You know what," nose guard Chris Hoke said. "Coach Tomlin is doing a great job. Coach
Cowher was an icon. Coach Tomlin, he's his own man. His philosophy is, we're here, we're
professional athletes, we can get ourselves ready to play."
Added offensive tackle Max Starks, "Coach Tomlin definitely demands that respect. He's a
great guy. We look forward to playing for him."
The debut difference? A pre-kickoff interview with the NFL Network's Deion Sanders.
"That was unique," Tomlin admitted. "That was about the only thing new and exciting that
happened to me, giving an interview 30 seconds before kickoff.
"Maybe I'll be more excited next month. I'm sure I will when we open in Cleveland."
In 35 days, he and his Steelers will return to northeast Ohio and start for real.
(Chuck Finder can be reached at [email protected] or 412-263-1724. )
Copyright © PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.
On team full of leaders, Tomlin has risen above
Page 1 of 2
On team full of leaders, Tomlin has risen above
LATROBE - Much has been made this offseason about the Steelers and their loss of leadership.
That's only natural for a team that lost head coach Bill Cowher and linebacker Joey Porter during a
tumultuous offseason. Couple those losses with the retirement of center Jeff Hartings and Pro Bowl
guard Alan Faneca's announcement that he didn't feel he could be a captain given his contract status, and
you understand why there are some raised eyebrows about where the leadership was going to come from
this season.
But, really, there shouldn't have been any doubts.
New head coach Mike Tomlin has firmly established himself during the offseason and the first week and
a half of training camp as a man capable of leading. That's what he's getting paid to do.
It's been a process, but both the team and their new head coach are settling in with each other.
"I'm getting comfortable in my own shoes," said Tomlin. "I'm getting comfortable seeing the things that
I need to see in terms of this football team. I'm getting comfortable with my eye and seeing the things
that I want to look at. My personality, it probably coming out a little bit more."
The players have largely bought into Tomlin's plans and the transition from Cowher to Tomlin has gone
more smoothly than probably anyone could have imagined.
Part of the reason for that is because of the inherent leadership on this team.
They may not get the public notice that Porter did, but Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Deshea
Townsend, Casey Hampton and, yes, even Faneca, are the kind of veteran players who their younger
teammates can watch and learn from - even if they aren't always the most vocal players on or off the
Tomlin said prior to this training camp that he will do away with allowing the players to vote for their
team captains this season and will instead pick the captains himself.
Some would think that would be a problem for the players, but for a veteran team that is just one season
removed from winning a Super Bowl, it isn't.
"To me, this team is a bunch of captains," said Ward "They're captains in their own little way. Faneca
said he doesn't want to be a captain, but he gets that respect in the huddle. We know what Red is going
to do. You know what I'm going to do on Sunday. You know what guys are going to give you. Whoever
he picks as captains, it doesn't bother us. We've been to a lot of fights together. We know what it takes
and what people are going to give us on Sundays."
The players and Tomlin may not know what to expect from each other under duress, but they have
quickly figured it out,
That was at least part of the reason for Tomlin's boot-camp style opening week of camp. He wanted to
push the players harder than they had been pushed as professionals in the past and see how they would
On team full of leaders, Tomlin has risen above
Page 2 of 2
"We tried to present some adversity to them and see who would rise and show that competitive spirit,"
Tomlin said of the team's first week of practice. "We started to lay some foundation in regards to that. It
felt like we were able to do that."
And now that he's started to see some of that, Tomlin has scaled the practices back a little this week giving some veterans a day off for rest and ending some practices earlier than scheduled. On
Wednesday, he allowed Roethlisberger to mostly watch the afternoon practice to help rest his arm.
Today, he'll do the same with backup Charlie Batch.
It's a welcome respite for the players, who will suit up for their first preseason game of the Tomlin era
Sunday in the Hall of Fame game against New Orleans.
"There's been some variety," said Ward. "We're doing some things we used to do and he's added some
things that he's wanted to do. Some players may gripe or disagree with what we're doing, but I think we
understand what he expects out of us. People looked at the two-a-days the first two weeks, some guys
hated it. Some guys really didn't care. But it's training camp. Nobody ever said training camp was going
to be easy.
"But he's done a great job with that. He ended practice early (Tuesday). He's had some walk-throughs
and stuff. He's taken care of us as far as that goes. That's what you need and players appreciate that."
And that is part of the process of winning guys over, something Tomlin seems to be doing quite well.
Dale Lolley can be reached at [email protected]
Steelers eye using Keisel to disguise defense - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Page 1 of 2
First Polamalu, now Keisel as Steelers seek to disguise
By The Associated Press
Thursday, August 2, 2007
LATROBE, Pa. - Brett Keisel is a pass-rushing defensive right end who put
more pressure on the quarterback last season than any other Pittsburgh
Steelers player.
At 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, Keisel doesn't begin to resemble in size or makeup
the more mobile Troy Polamalu, the Steelers' evasive strong safety.
But, to take advantage of Keisel's ability to get to the quarterback, defensive
coordinator Dick LeBeau is experimenting with having Keisel be something of a
Polamalu Part II -- a player who moves, shifts and flip-flops positions from down
to down.
LeBeau, who was retained by new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, believes Keisel
can be as disruptive and deceptive as Polamalu is when he moves in from the
deep secondary to line up as an outside or inside linebacker.
Think Polamalu, but in a size XXXL.
Keisel still lines up at his customary position of right defensive end but, just
before the snap, he may stand up and become an outside linebacker.
At other times, Keisel may shift from one side of the line to the other
immediately ahead of the snap, possibly creating overloads that offenses will
find difficult to manage when they have two linemen trying to block three
"That's what training camp's for, to get comfortable with everything so it's
second nature," Keisel said.
Some players find it hard to adjust from putting their hand on the ground as a
defensive lineman to being upright as a linebacker, but Keisel feels comfortable
doing either. His ability to play numerous positions could help transform the
Steelers from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense within a season or so.
"It is fun, man," Keisel said. "I really enjoy it so far. I just hope it works and we
can use it in every game. I think it can definitely cause the offense problems
and hopefully it will work."
Steelers eye using Keisel to disguise defense - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Page 2 of 2
While Keisel is listed as a defensive end, LeBeau considers him to be a roving
linebacker -- the Steelers' biggest linebacker since Levon Kirkland played there
at nearly 300 pounds. Keisel can move for a big man and has played on special
teams in the past.
The AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens used the 6-2, 270-pound Adalius
Thomas in a similar role last season, but he signed with New England during
the offseason.
Since LeBeau came to him with the idea, Keisel has studied how the 5-10, 207pound Polamalu -- a Pro Bowl player each of the last three seasons -- adjusts
from positioning himself near the line on one play but drops 15 yards back into
coverage on the next. Keisel may occasionally drop into pass coverage himself,
something not many 285-pounders do in the NFL.
"Troy is definitely the master of deception," Keisel said. "He looks like he's
rushing, and he'll get back into the deep third (of the coverage), and I'm trying
to learn from him and see how it goes."
With longtime starting outside linebacker Joey Porter gone after being released,
the Steelers are looking at various ways to improve a pass rush that was limited
to 39 sacks last season -- their third fewest in the last 15 seasons.
Porter had a team-high seven sacks last season, but Keisel was credited with
pressuring the quarterback 23 times, or nearly twice as many as Porter's 12.
"Troy's still moving around, so we're both kind of doing our own little thing,"
Keisel said. "It's kind of neat."
Notes: Keisel is signed through 2009, so the Steelers don't risk making major
changes with him only to lose him in free agency. ... The Steelers will hold the
second of their two evening practices Thursday, this one at the new Chuck Noll
Field at Saint Vincent College. The 1,500-seat stadium will be dedicated before
the practice starts at 5:30 p.m. ... Arnold Palmer, who lives part of the year in
Latrobe, will take part. ... The early start time is required because the field has
no lights. Last Friday's night practice was held at Latrobe High's stadium, which
has lights.
The Associated Press can be reached at or .
Images and text copyright © 2007 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent from
Rookie Woodley big hit at OLB
Page 1 of 2
Rookie Woodley big hit at OLB
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
While the first-round draft choice has spent the past
five days standing around on the practice field,
LaMarr Woodley has made more valuable use of his
time at training camp.
While Lawrence Timmons continues to slip further
and further in his development because of a groin
injury, Woodley continues to grow and grow in his
transition from collegiate defensive end to NFL
outside linebacker.
"He's strong, man," outside linebacker Clark
Haggans said. "He's got great explosiveness, and he
plays with great leverage. He's only going to get
Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Woodley, the Steelers' second-round draft choice,
was such a dominant defensive end at Michigan he
won the Lombardi Award as the college football's
top lineman and the Ted Hendricks Award as the
best defensive end last season.
Rookie LaMarr Woodley reaches to
block a volleyball during special
teams drills Friday in Latrobe.
Click photo for larger image.
Now, he is trying to follow in a tradition of
defensive ends who have made the transition to
stand-up outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense -Jason Gildon, Joey Porter and even Haggans, the starter at left outside linebacker. Woodley
is even wearing Porter's former jersey number (55).
And while he still has a long way to go to get comfortable with formations and the nuances
of pass coverage, Woodley certainly has shown the coaches he is very comfortable doing
what he does best -- rushing the passer.
"He's a good football player," linebackers coach Keith Butler said.
"He's strong and he can move. We like the matchups we will get from him. He has shown he
can do the things we thought he could do."
Woodley has done them so well he has a chance to be a contributor this season in third-
Rookie Woodley big hit at OLB
Page 2 of 2
down situations, spelling Haggans and perhaps even James Harrison, the starter at right
outside linebacker, to rush the passer.
He will get a chance to put those skills on display Sunday night when the Steelers open the
NFL preseason against the New Orleans Saints in the Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio.
"I'll probably go in there, give Clark a breather, and use my rushing skills and try to get to
the quarterback," Woodley said.
"It's a great opportunity. If stuff happens during the season, while you never wish anything
bad on anybody, I got to be ready when I get called."
Haggans, who has 15 sacks the past two seasons, says he is not upset by suggestions he
might be replaced in third-down situations.
"Doesn't bother me at all," said Haggans, a defensive end at Colorado State before making
the transition to outside linebacker.
"Whatever formula we need to win, if we're going to be successful at something, we have to
do it full steam ahead. Him coming in, just rotating and keeping everybody fresh, is
probably a good thing."
Butler compared Woodley (6 feet 2, 264 pounds) to Harrison (5-11, 242) because both are
small, quick and very strong.
"He's quick and he stays low coming off the edge," said right tackle Max Starks, who
usually goes against Woodley in practice.
Woodley did that so well at Michigan he ranks second in school history in sacks (25) and
tackles for losses (50 1/2). In addition, he has strong hands, using them to force a schoolrecord 10 fumbles in his career.
Of course, in the NFL, he will be going against offensive tackles who, for the most part, are
bigger, quicker and stronger.
"It's just using your hands and your technique," Woodley said.
"You can't just overpower everybody. You have to use the technique you got."
(Gerry Dulac can be reached at [email protected] )
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