Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Steelers Training Camp - Back To Basics

"Every year [the defense is old] it's said about the Pittsburgh Steelers and every year we're playing in Super Bowls or making a run in the playoffs." 

That statement was made by the Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley on one of the first days of Training Camp. It was in response to being asked about yet more "the defense is old" comments in the national media. 

"You gotta be able to kind of let people across the field from you know that you got teeth too, and that you're willing to bite." 

Guard Willie Colon uttered those words not long after Woodley's remarks. It had to do with the various media comments of the Steelers offensive line having to go through different combinations yet again. 

In other words, the national media is starting to piss the big guys off. 

There is a mentality that has pervaded Training Camp so far: get back to basic, physical Steeler football! In three days of padded practices there have been four fights. Both offense and defense are looking to smack the other in the mouth and neither is willing to give any ground. 

Rookies have dominated veterans and vets have schooled the rooks. Woodley and Steve McLendon have driven blockers into the backfield. Colon and rookie David DeCastro have mauled pass rushers. It has been physical and even nasty from the moment the pads were donned. And the players like it just fine. 

"A physical offense is typically a good offense. So, it's a good start," said Steelers tight end Heath Miller. Not only is it a good start, but it's a good chance for certain players to provide an answer to national media yet again. 

As said by Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "My camp phenom through three padded practices is Steve McLendon. The guy is virtually unblockable right now." The backup Steelers nose tackle had his weight and ability questioned by Pro Football Talk recently, so McLendon is on a mission to impress. 

He's succeeding. 

As Steelers veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton pointed out, "Everybody thinks McLendon is a small dude. He is a big, strong guy. He can be dominant." It didn't end there.

"Steve McClendon is a lot bigger than the 280 lbs they have him listed at on the roster," said former Steelers lineman and current WDVE reporter Craig Wolfley. "He told me that he weighed 325. A very impressive 325 I might add. And he ran well on the run test..." -

Others are also attempting to make their presence felt as roster spots are up for grabs. Like undrafted outside linebacker Adrian Robinson whom Wolfley also mentioned and about whom we've written about in previous blogs. Overall, though, it's the mentality of the offense and defense as whole units to be aggressive and dominant. Both want to establish a presence and impose its will on opponents. 

To that end, Steelers new offensive coordinator Todd Haley says that he will be starting each practice with run-play drills. "Really, the passes are just to keep the defense honest. I think it's just the way I think myself and our staff believes you have to play football." -

He went further saying, "We want to be a team that can, most importantly, run it when it has to run it and throw it when it has to throw it. That's the name of the game offensively, being able to get the yards you need to get on the ground when the defense knows you're running." -

Haley is still, though, enamored with the Steelers wide receiver corps...minus one: "Across the board we've got a lot of good young guys that have a very versatile skill set."

The defense is echoing that mindset, per CBS Sports' Rapid Reports correspondents (@CBSSportsNFLPIT on Twitter). They said that "player after player, defensive coach after defensive coach, has told anyone who would listen how much the defense needs to improve this year."

It truly says something about an organization that wants to make amends for a defense that was so bad that it ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points and total yards allowed. The Steelers mindset, though, dictates that their pride should be hurt over two embarrassing losses to the Ravens and a historic loss to the Broncos in the playoffs. The Steelers' rich history of defense cries out for retribution. 

Like the blast furnace of a Pittsburgh steel mill, a fire has been lit in the pits of the stomachs of Steelers players up and down the roster. Be it the national media, bitter losses or pride, the Steelers are taking a very physical approach to Training Camp. Simply put, they're getting back to basics.


TIDBITS: Keenan Lewis has looked good early on in the cornerback competition with Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Lewis tweaked his shoulder, but seemed to be fine. 

Emmanuel Sanders was a full participant in practice Tuesday. Reportedly looked good and showed the great hands and route running ability we expect from him.

Marcus Gilbert got fingers/hand stuck in Cameron Heyward's mask during linemen drills. Didn't seem too bad. 

Steelers signed wide receiver Paul Cox from Mississippi Valley St., per Bob Labriola. He'll wear No. 81. Waived was tackle Bridger Buche.