View Full Version : Steelers coach: Age not an issue

05-07-2009, 01:19 AM
Steelers coach: Age not an issue
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Thursday, May 7, 2009

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 23971.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_623971.html)

Following a practice during last week's minicamp, Steelers veteran defensive end Aaron Smith pulled rookie Evander "Ziggy'' Hood aside for some personal instruction.

Smith showed Hood how to use his arms and hands to rush the quarterback, and Hood eagerly copied Smith's movements. It was the first step in a process to get Hood, the Steelers first defensive lineman drafted in the first round since nose tackle Casey Hampton in 2001, NFL ready.

"They know that if we took a guy in the first round, he must be a pretty good football player,'' defensive line coach John Mitchell said. "They are going to do everything in their power to help this guy.

"It is good to have some depth and have a young guy who I am going to have time to bring along slowly. He is not going to get thrown out there because he is a first-round draft choice.''

That's because Mitchell has full confidence in who's returning from the league's top-ranked defense.

Smith is 33. Fellow starting defensive end Brett Keisel and Hampton turn 31 and 32, respectively, in September. Their backups are Chris Hoke (31) and Travis Kirschke (34), with Nick Eason (28) being the baby of the bunch.

On paper, the Steelers were overdue to select a defensive lineman early in the draft. On the field, however, Mitchell said the performance of his veterans tells a different story.

"It has been written that I have a lot of guys who are getting old,'' Mitchell said. "I said this earlier, chronologically, they may be old, but when you look at these guys, Brett was here four years before he played. Aaron Smith was here two years before he played. Those guys, chronologically, are old, but football-wise, they are not.

"It makes my job very easy when you have guys like that here year in and year out. It's easy to coach them. They play well because they have been in this scheme a long time. If you look at some of the numbers from this past year, I think we played very well defensively.''

Mitchell explained why the Steelers likely will to re-sign Keisel despite the franchise's philosophy of not always retaining its older players.

Keisel and Smith missed games last season because of injuries, but Mitchell said they weren't typical injuries.

"Brett and Aaron didn't have an injury because their athletic ability had diminished. Both of those guys were running to the ball when they got nicked up by one of their own players,'' Mitchell said. "I think they can be around for the next three, four or five years. Brett takes good care of himself, and so does Aaron.''

Keisel is entering the final year of his contract. Smith signed an extension in 2007.

Mitchell issued a challenge to Hampton, who, like Keisel, is entering the final year of his contract but has had issues regarding his weight.

Hampton, who also missed playing time in 2008 because of injuries, was held out of the first week of training camp by coach Mike Tomlin when he didn't complete his conditioning run.

"Casey, I think he was embarrassed when he came back with the weight situation, but these guys have a lot of football (left) in them,'' Mitchell said.

05-07-2009, 10:13 AM
Age may not be an issue, according to this article, but Chris Hoke is 33, not 31.