Tomlin's rhetoric cranks up Steelers
By Mike Prisuta
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
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The Steelers' transformation, in coach Mike Tomlin's estimation, from a team that had been "enduring" training camp into one that was suddenly "enjoying" it didn't occur without a little prompting.
Tomlin sensed as much was necessary after observing a Monday morning workout that suggested his team was stuck in neutral, or, as Tomlin put it, "in survival mode."
"He gave a little speech (Monday) morning after practice," nose tackle Chris Hoke said. "He said, 'Hey, listen, let's start thriving and not surviving in this camp. Let's get to work.'
"I think (Monday) afternoon guys were trying to buy into it a little bit."
The Steelers were so crisp and enthusiastic in that Monday afternoon session that Tomlin suspected a "threshold" might have been crossed.
Tuesday's scheduled festivities, especially last evening's practice at St. Vincent College, offered "spirited" confirmation, especially a second live goal-line drill that was "much better" than the one the Steelers had conducted Sunday.
Still, the response from Tomlin was more prodding.
"It's easy to come out here and have a great time and compete when you know you have 'goal line' at the end," Tomlin said. "We'll see what the dog days are like (today) when there's a less attractive drill waiting at the end of practice."
The big plays that wow the crowds, the long, accurate passes, the leaping interceptions and the ferocity of goal-line challenges are obvious indicators that a team is on its game.
The more subtle aspects of two-a-days indicate whether a team is merely working hard or working smart.
"You want people flying around," linebacker Larry Foote said. "You can feel the momentum out there, you can feel the energy. That's probably what Tomlin looks for, the energy.
"As long as he sees that from both sides, it's a good day."
The second week of a camp is when teams are traditionally susceptible to soreness and boredom.
And today's two practices will conclude a run of five two-a-days (counting morning special teams practices) in six calendar days, the Steelers' busiest stretch of their stay at St. Vincent.
That's what makes this week's "threshold" crossing so "significant" to Tomlin.
"He can tell when guys are pushing it, pushing through and not 'fakin' the funk' but still doing all the little things you're supposed to do when you're not tired," cornerback Deshea Townsend said.
Fakin' the funk?
"When you still run to the ball (on every play, no matter where it ends up) like the coaches tell us to do," Townsend said. "You can tell when guys are slowing down, fakin' the funk, but guys are working.
"That's the sign of a good team, how you work when you're tired."
Added Hoke: "You notice the days when there's no energy and it's quiet and everybody's just trying to get through it. And you notice the days when the tempo's picked up and we'll finish our set amount of plays (in a given period) before the buzzer goes off on the scoreboard.
"You'll notice that kind of stuff. You'll notice when practice is more lively."
And when it isn't.
"Camp is always going to be up and down," Foote said. "We have better days than others, just (due to) mental fatigue and physical fatigue. But we're coming along, definitely moving in the right direction.
"You just want more better days than bad days."
Tomlin, seemingly, has a feel for his team.
But he might have been stretching it just a bit when he said his players were "enjoying" what's taking place.
"You never enjoy camp," Clark said. "But I don't think we're enduring it. Everybody's just trying to get better.
"If he would tell us we could go home now I think guys would leave. I don't think we're enjoying it that much. But everybody's just working hard, man. We just want to be a good team