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fordfixer
05-24-2009, 12:23 AM
Support system working well for Steelers

By Scott Brown, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, May 24, 2009

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 26579.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_626579.html)

Offseason practices are more about teaching than evaluating, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is quick to point out.

But coaches aren't the only ones providing guidance to the younger players particularly rookies who feel as overwhelmed as a station wagon in the Indianapolis 500.

What is unsaid but expected out of the veterans is this: Help the players who came after you even if you are preparing them to one day take your job.

"It's something our guys embrace," Tomlin said.

Such an embrace explains starting center Justin Hartwig talking intently to rookie A.Q. Shipley as the two walked off the field during a recent practice. It explains Willie Parker welcoming the competition Rashard Mendenhall will provide at running back even if the Steelers' 2008 first-round pick usurps some of Parker's carries.

It also explains why veteran wide receiver Hines Ward is still valuable to the Steelers while watching offseason practices instead of participating in them so he can offer pointers to younger players just as former Steelers wideouts such as Charles Johnson, Courtney Hawkins and Will Blackwell did for Ward when he broke into the league in 1998.

"That's what's special about us," said cornerback Deshea Townsend, who was drafted the same year as Ward. "When we say we are a team, we really are a team."

Steep learning curve for rookies

To understand how daunting it is for rookies to learn an NFL offense or defense, consider the case of second-year Steelers linebacker Patrick Bailey.

He graduated from Duke University in four years with a degree in computer and electrical engineering, and he finished with a 3.3 GPA. When it came his turn to tell his new teammates something unique about himself last spring all rookies are required to do this during their first mini camp Bailey revealed that he builds robots in his spare time.

Yet even a guy as smart as Bailey couldn't help but feel a little lost after he signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent last year and received his playbook.

"The playbook's intense," Bailey said, "and it's hard to cram that into your mind at one time."

Bailey said he constantly asked older players questions during drills. That they were receptive to his queries is not as much a reflection of the sort of buddy system the Steelers have but rather their collective buying into the belief that team building starts from the bottom.

"If you get everybody to come together, then you'll be strong during the season because you might need a play or two from that guy," cornerback William Gay said. "So, if you hold information back and a guy gets out there and messes up, the blame is on you because you could have helped him instead of being selfish."

Such a mind-set is what Steelers defensive coach Ray Horton calls the players taking "ownership" of the team.

Horton, who played in the NFL for 10 years before going into coaching, said most teams in the league take a similar approach but likely not to the same degree.

"We have camaraderie here," Tomlin said, "but I think the same thing can probably be said about any of the teams that are consistent winners."

Several players, however, said the esprit de corps the Steelers have is unique. And the willingness of the veterans to help rather than haze rookies is passed down.

Jerome Bettis became a mentor to Parker when the latter signed with the Steelers in 2004, and that is one reason why the two are still close friends. It is also why Parker, who is going into the final year of his contract, has helped Mendenhall.

Emotions can hinder team building

In some ways, it would be natural for players to look out for themselves at the expense of the team.

"I've never been around (selfishness), but I can just assume that's happening around the league," Parker said. "You get afraid that someone's going to take your job, so you don't say anything. You probably know the answer, but you just keep it to yourself."

Willie Colon feared that and worse when he joined the Steelers as a fourth-round pick in 2006.

"I had a couple of buddies that made the NFL and they were like 'Man, guys don't talk to you, and they actually tell you something wrong, and it kind of makes you look bad,' " Colon said. "I was like, 'Is this guy really telling me the truth?' and extra paranoid about my playbook because I didn't know if someone was telling me the truth. But here, it's not like that."

Max Starks was one of the offensive linemen who helped Colon during his transition from college to the NFL and Colon eventually supplanted Starks as the Steelers' starting right tackle.

In addition to veteran offensive linemen helping him, Colon said he also got tips from players on the other side of the ball. Defensive end Aaron Smith, for example, told Colon one day during his rookie year that he had been tipping whether the offense was going to run or pass before a play with his body language.

"That's extremely helpful to a young guy," Colon said. "The reason we're the best is we all kind of have each other's backs."

Smith follows the example former Steelers defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen once set for him.

Smith said he tells younger players to ask him any time they have a question. And, in fact, he challenges them to become good enough to take his starting job.

"It makes me better," Smith said of the competition. "It makes me more motivated. Everyone can get complacent, don't you think, if nobody pushes you?

"I think that's kind of the environment we created. Really, we just want to win, and we don't care who does it."

RuthlessBurgher
05-24-2009, 12:42 AM
Will Blackwell tutored Hines Ward when he came into the league? C'mon now. Blackwell was drafted a year before Ward, so he wasn't exactly a wily veteran during Hines' rookie season. I, for one, am glad that Ward did not take any of those Blackwell lessons to heart, or else Hines might have been out of the league years ago.

Oviedo
05-24-2009, 08:36 AM
To understand how daunting it is for rookies to learn an NFL offense or defense, consider the case of second-year Steelers linebacker Patrick Bailey.

He graduated from Duke University in four years with a degree in computer and electrical engineering, and he finished with a 3.3 GPA. When it came his turn to tell his new teammates something unique about himself last spring all rookies are required to do this during their first mini camp Bailey revealed that he builds robots in his spare time.

Yet even a guy as smart as Bailey couldn't help but feel a little lost after he signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent last year and received his playbook.

"The playbook's intense," Bailey said, "and it's hard to cram that into your mind at one time."

Bailey said he constantly asked older players questions during drills. That they were receptive to his queries is not as much a reflection of the sort of buddy system the Steelers have but rather their collective buying into the belief that team building starts from the bottom.


After reading this how many morons will still be complaining about rookies who don't contribute in their first season?

To think you can step into the NFL on a team that returns quality starters at nearly every position and are expected to play significant time is just a stupid, urealistic expectation. It doesn't matter where you were drafted. On the Steelers the best you can hope for is a role on special teams. If you want to see rookies play become a Bumgals, Stains or buffalo Bills fan.

AngryAsian
05-24-2009, 10:21 AM
To understand how daunting it is for rookies to learn an NFL offense or defense, consider the case of second-year Steelers linebacker Patrick Bailey.

He graduated from Duke University in four years with a degree in computer and electrical engineering, and he finished with a 3.3 GPA. When it came his turn to tell his new teammates something unique about himself last spring all rookies are required to do this during their first mini camp Bailey revealed that he builds robots in his spare time.

Yet even a guy as smart as Bailey couldn't help but feel a little lost after he signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent last year and received his playbook.

"The playbook's intense," Bailey said, "and it's hard to cram that into your mind at one time."

Bailey said he constantly asked older players questions during drills. That they were receptive to his queries is not as much a reflection of the sort of buddy system the Steelers have but rather their collective buying into the belief that team building starts from the bottom.


After reading this how many morons will still be complaining about rookies who don't contribute in their first season?

To think you can step into the NFL on a team that returns quality starters at nearly every position and are expected to play significant time is just a stupid, urealistic expectation. It doesn't matter where you were drafted. On the Steelers the best you can hope for is a role on special teams. If you want to see rookies play become a Bumgals, Stains or buffalo Bills fan.


People are always so quick to make comparisons of players around the league that made an immediate impact on their respective teams (i.e. Patrick Willis for the Niners, Demeco Ryans fo the Texans, etc....) all those teams don't execute a defense as intricate and as elaborate as a Dick LeBeau scheme. Also, those players had to start because their teams' weren't competitive and the talent pool was weak. We have the luxury of slowly forging the skills of our players... and veteran leadership is just one avenue that we use to accomplish this. We build a better team. A shining example is Lamarr Woodley... limited rookie snaps, huge sophomore year with double digit sack total.

True Fan
05-25-2009, 12:44 PM
i have to laugh at the retards that think the steelers playbook is so much more complex than any other team in the league that it is impossible for them to see the field their first year, but other teams rookies(including quality teams, not just the bungles and lions) start from day one.

hey, if the steelers offensive and defensive playbooks are so complex, why dont the steelers win the superbowl ever year with their veteran players that have mastered it?
if the steelers dont need to sign any top FAs, why dont they win the superbowl every year? if the way the steelers build thru the draft and that's the way to do it, why dont they win the superbowl every year?

BURGH86STEEL
05-25-2009, 02:11 PM
i have to laugh at the retards that think the steelers playbook is so much more complex than any other team in the league that it is impossible for them to see the field their first year, but other teams rookies(including quality teams, not just the bungles and lions) start from day one.

hey, if the steelers offensive and defensive playbooks are so complex, why dont the steelers win the superbowl ever year with their veteran players that have mastered it?
if the steelers dont need to sign any top FAs, why dont they win the superbowl every year? if the way the steelers build thru the draft and that's the way to do it, why dont they win the superbowl every year?

I am not so sure that the Steeler's play book is more complex than every team in the league. I don't think it is impossible for rookies to see the field the 1st year. I think it is very difficult. I think Hampton was the last rookie to start in the defense.

What difference does it make if the rookies do or do not start as long as the Steelers continue to win? After all, that is the bottom line. I swear, some people like to complain about the dumbest things.

Oviedo
05-25-2009, 04:51 PM
It is funny that you can never get enough braindead comments to try to establish a debating position that is simply a feeble attempt to continue to complain about something the Steelers do. It's like building a foundation on quicksand.

RuthlessBurgher
05-25-2009, 05:18 PM
i have to laugh at the retards that think the steelers playbook is so much more complex than any other team in the league that it is impossible for them to see the field their first year, but other teams rookies(including quality teams, not just the bungles and lions) start from day one.

hey, if the steelers offensive and defensive playbooks are so complex, why dont the steelers win the superbowl ever year with their veteran players that have mastered it?
if the steelers dont need to sign any top FAs, why dont they win the superbowl every year? if the way the steelers build thru the draft and that's the way to do it, why dont they win the superbowl every year?

It's the combination of already having solid starters on the team plus the fact that we run a defense (3-4) that very few colleges run that leads to the fact that rookies need a year or perhaps two to adjust before they are ready to be starters. Other positions, such as WR, take more time to adjust for just about anybody regardless of scheme (and it tends to be even more pronounced for bigger WR's like Sweed). There are unusual cases of big WR's succeeding right off the bat like Randy Moss and Marques Colston, but it is not the norm. Typically, RB's have an easier time contributing right away (see the contributions of rookie RB's like Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Steve Slaton, Jonathan Stewart, etc. last season). It just so happens that our rookie RB got injured right when he happened to be getting his first real opportunity. Them's the breaks (literally).

Oracle
05-26-2009, 02:05 AM
another point to keep in mind...

the steelers are a solid defense mostly because they play together, as a unit, and they don't make big mistakes. it's very rare that the steelers have major breakdowns in coverage or have their players significantly out of position. other teams allow their rookies to learn 'by' making mistakes on the field. we ask them to learn 'before' they take the field so that they don't make mistakes.

one mistake can cost a game. one player (if not properly prepared) can be isolated and exploited to win/lose a game. the steelers are a patient organization. they make sure their players are ready both physically (one year of weight training) and mentally (one year of playbook study). it's not that our playbook is so much more complicated than other teams, it's that we don't tolerate as many mistakes with our playbook than other teams do.

for every patrick willis that excels, there's another 49ers rookie who gets exploited. look at what we do against the ravens and patriots... we attack their weak CB's or other young bucks. tell me who you choose to attack on our defense. there aren't a lot of glaring weaknesses. that's because when they EARN the right to take the field as a Steeler, they are prepared.

AngryAsian
05-26-2009, 06:34 AM
i have to laugh at the retards that think the steelers playbook is so much more complex than any other team in the league that it is impossible for them to see the field their first year, but other teams rookies(including quality teams, not just the bungles and lions) start from day one.

hey, if the steelers offensive and defensive playbooks are so complex, why dont the steelers win the superbowl ever year with their veteran players that have mastered it?
if the steelers dont need to sign any top FAs, why dont they win the superbowl every year? if the way the steelers build thru the draft and that's the way to do it, why dont they win the superbowl every year?


Easy Mr. Controversy, your position can be easily made without the veiled insults. :P

ramblinjim
05-26-2009, 12:27 PM
or un-veiled insults.

Slapstick
05-26-2009, 02:34 PM
i have to laugh at the retards that think the steelers playbook is so much more complex than any other team in the league that it is impossible for them to see the field their first year, but other teams rookies(including quality teams, not just the bungles and lions) start from day one.

hey, if the steelers offensive and defensive playbooks are so complex, why dont the steelers win the superbowl ever year with their veteran players that have mastered it?
if the steelers dont need to sign any top FAs, why dont they win the superbowl every year? if the way the steelers build thru the draft and that's the way to do it, why dont they win the superbowl every year?

Oh wow! How insightful!

Actualy, I won't speak about the Steelers offense...a rookie QB went 13-0 as a starter with their offense...

But, the defense is indeed complex...quite possibly moreso than most if not all of the other defenses in the NFL...

And, the "veteran mastery" shows:

Since 2000, the Steelers have never finished out of the top 10 in total defense in the NFL...no other team can say that...not even the Ravens nor the Buccaneers...