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Thread: Kovacevic: Clear now 2012 Steelers were fat cats

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    Kovacevic: Clear now 2012 Steelers were fat cats

    Kovacevic: Clear now 2012 Steelers were fat cats

    By Dejan Kovacevic
    Published: Saturday, August 3, 2013

    Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer runs during practice Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.

    The rolling hills wrapping St. Vincent are suddenly alive with the sound of Steelers professing their commitment to conditioning.

    Which is, of course, awesome.

    I mean, who wouldn't applaud Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman for dropping roughly 20 pounds each to compete for a running back spot neither of them claimed last season?

    Or LaMarr Woodley for dropping roughly 20 from his playing weight of the past two seasons?

    Or Troy Polamalu for showing up hale, healthy and more active in drills than anyone's seen from him since INACTIVE dominated his ledger?

    There are other examples, and they even include poor Marcus Gilbert. You've no doubt heard how he cramped up on the opening run test and had to be carted off but, in reality, has received sterling reviews for his shape.

    It's all wonderful. Really is.

    Just one problem: Put all these various warm-and-fuzzy pieces together, and it exposes, now more than ever, that the sore-thumb shortcoming of those 8-8 Steelers from last season was — and I'll say it because Mike Tomlin won't — being overweight and out of shape.

    Think that's oversimplifying?

    Think again: Those Steelers lost five games by three or fewer points. And in at least three of those — Titans, Bengals, Raiders — all they needed was one play in the waning minutes to flip the outcome.

    One play!

    And if anyone can't see how running an extra lap, taking one more turn at the weights might have made up the difference, I'll assure there are plenty — in this camp, no less — who can.

    “I don't think there's any question,” guard Ramon Foster said before practice Saturday. “We're in better shape as a team, and we've got a better mindset.”

    Why now, not then?

    “Hey, 8-8 will do that. You look back at last season and all the things that got us down to that .500 level … that's not us. When we're out there one game beating the team that won the Super Bowl but losing other games we could have had … that lets us know it was there for the taking. Guys came in here wired this time.”

    Ike Taylor, who just might be the conditioning king in this camp and every camp, has seen the same thing: “Guys came back in shape,” he said. “That's a good thing. No looking back. It's a good thing now.”

    See, it's not that hard. Just spit it out: Those Steelers were slow and sluggish, always seemingly a step behind on offense and defense. They saw it. I saw it. You saw it.

    Be sure Tomlin saw it, too.

    No, he isn't openly acknowledging it. To do that would reflect terribly not only on him but also the coaching, conditioning and athletic training staff, none of which changed much since then. And I guess that can be understood, to an extent. The players need to look up to these people. That's the football culture.

    Besides, it's the athletes who need to hear about it way more than any of us. And they most certainly are.

    “Every day,” Taylor said. “Morning, noon and night. More than ever.”

    That much you can hear from Tomlin. He's been admonishing players — with gusto — on the fields, beginning with the unusually spirited offseason training activities. Better yet, there's been action: Practices have been a half-hour longer. There's more tackling than walkthroughs for the first time anyone can recall. Tomlin even stopped having carts available to shuttle the players around campus after practices. Now, they hoof it like everyone else.

    But I'll ask again: Why now, not then?

    Did everyone associated with the Steelers, from the head coach on down, get too comfortable, too complacent?

    Did the locker room leadership falter without James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward around?

    If Tomlin won't acknowledge that conditioning has extra emphasis now, he certainly won't address why it didn't then. Closest he's come all year — and it wasn't much — was the opening day of camp: “Guys came ready in good shape and are ready and excited to move forward. That is really how I look at it. I don't look at it in comparison to anything else. I'm more singly focused on the opportunity and challenge that is in front of us.”

    But I did get answers from Keith Butler, the always candid linebackers coach, who remains the only one inside the organization to publicly call out Woodley.

    Yes, including Woodley.

    “Our guys look good right now, and I think maybe it's because we need to have a little chip on our shoulder,” Butler said. “I've got a chip on my shoulder. I'm ticked off about what happened last year. None of us likes to be 8-8. The guys who have been here, they've won a couple Super Bowls. What we did with this group … wasn't good enough.”

    Not when one more play was so often all that was needed?

    “Exactly. You know what I tell all my guys? When you're done with your career, no matter how it turns out, don't have regrets. Prepare yourself. Do everything you can. And they have now. I think there's more of a sense of urgency this year.”

    More, indeed.


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    Quote Originally Posted by steeler_fan_in_t.o. View Post
    Hard to argue.
    Hard to argue, yes, but would make me angrier than a hornet if I was Tomlin, Colbert or the Rooneys, that would just p1$$ me off to no end that the players wouldn't take their job seriously enough to be in shape for the season.

    They'd pay dearly this training camp if I were Tomlin, just sayin.

    Bill Parcells would have none of that, guaranteed.

    Last edited by papillon; 08-04-2013 at 02:51 PM.

    The referee said that you hit Brian Sipe too hard. Did you hit him too hard?
    I hit him as hard as I could - Jack Lambert

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    Hence, Tomlin using Chuck Noll like tactics in training camp...

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    Positive reviews of Steelers weight and conditioning in training camp suggests obvious problems in 2012

    By Neal Coolong on Aug 4 2013

    What's done is done as far as 2012 goes, but it's fair to question why Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has ratcheted up tackling, extended the length of practice and taken away certain comforts in this training camp.

    Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic is pointing to the overweight elephant in the black and gold corner of the room.

    Listing off example of players losing weight and/or reporting in excellent condition, he drives home the simple reason why this team was 8-8 last year; they weren't in shape.

    Whether that's excess weight or a lack of stamina, it's no secret this team lost several close games last year. If it's a good thing running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman showed up 20 pounds lighter, it only suggests carrying extra weight was a problem last year.

    It's clear to Kovacevic there's a different mentality in Steelers' camp now.

    "There's more tackling than walkthroughs for the first time anyone can recall," he writes. "Tomlin even stopped having carts available to shuttle the players around campus after practices. Now, they hoof it like everyone else."

    With a more physical camp currently underway in Latrobe, it appears the Steelers are attacking some of those fundamental shortcomings from a year ago. Gone are Max Starks and Casey Hampton, who were clearly not in football shape due to the short time frame following ACL tears in the team's final game of the 2011 season.

    Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who shouldered the brunt of the criticism regarding a lack of fitness this past season, is reportedly in good shape this year.

    These things coming together, plus a batch of younger players who will see plenty of time this season, suggest the Steelers, if nothing else, won't collapse in the fourth quarter this season due to conditioning.


  6. #6
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    I complained of this loudly last year at our Steelers bar. People just laughed me off saying, come on, these are pro athletes, they can't be out of shape!!

    Come on now.

  7. #7
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    Clear now ... and it was clear last year.

  8. #8
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    I wonder how many Steelers players were out of shape in camp last season? How would this issue compare to previous years?
    Football is probably one of the few sports that makes it difficult to assess how poor conditioning relates to the overall numbers of injuries that happen in the sport. Players continue to suffer injuries in Steelers training camp and training camps around the league even though players are in shape.

    Last edited by BURGH86STEEL; 08-04-2013 at 09:56 PM.

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    The point of the article isn't about injuries. Those are going to happen. You have huge men running into each other at high speeds and things happen. Sometimes freak things.

    But being out of shape can cause a team to tire quickly during long drives or at the end of the game. When you need one more defensive stand or one or two more offensive plays to win a game. Watching Dwyer have to come out after 1 play for air is ridiculous. Woodley looking slow and sluggish due to excessive weight. That o-lineman holding that block for the all-important extra second b/c he's not winded or doesn't get the holding call because mentally he's still sharp. A starting d-lineman staying in the game on a critical down because he's not gassed. These are all things that led to 8-8 instead of 11-5 and the playoffs.

  10. #10

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    Well-conditioned Polamalu hopes for injury-free season with Steelers

    By Ralph N. Paulk
    Published: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

    Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu practices Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, at St. Vincent

    Troy Polamalu, visibly trimmer and more fit than a year ago, is pacing himself like a savvy distance runner during preseason practices at St. Vincent.

    At 32, one of the most-feared strong safeties in the NFL enters his 11th season physically and mentally refreshed. He isn't half-stepping around the Steelers' training facility to guard against the pulls and tears that ravaged his body the past several seasons.

    Polamalu, often victimized by his sometimes-reckless style, has missed 22 games over the previous four seasons because of injuries — including a bruised calf, torn Achilles and damaged knees.

    “I absolutely have to pace myself in camp,” Polamalu said. “You've got to see what you need to see. Whether or not you're practicing every day in camp or whether you miss the entire camp, no one remembers as long as you play 16 games.

    “It's been going well in camp. I see where I'm weak and where I need to get better. It's benefited me as much as anyone else being here.”

    The four-time All Pro insists he's fully recovered from a calf injury that plagued him much of last season. Though Polamalu started the final five games after sitting out nine, his aggressiveness was tempered as he delivered more measured blows.

    “It's a blessing for Troy to keep playing at such an incredible level, considering how aggressive he plays,” cornerback William Gay said. “Hats off to the way he treats his body and the way he prepares for the season.”

    At season's end, Polamalu wondered if he could go another round.

    However, the long, grueling offseason workouts with trainer Marv Marinovich left him feeling rejuvenated and confident. He is genuinely convinced that he can stretch his career beyond the final year of his contract extension, which ends in 2014.

    “I feel great standing here right now,” he said while hundreds of fans screamed for his attention following Monday afternoon's practice. “How I felt in the past, I don't have too much memory of that.”

    Polamalu's recent past has been a perplexing mixture of pains and gains. Only twice over the past seven seasons has he made it through the regular season unscathed, but he was named 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year even as he patrolled the middle of the field on a tender Achilles.

    Polamalu again teams with 12-year veteran Ryan Clark to give the Steelers the oldest pair of safeties in the NFL — a badge of honor for both. And they'll be accompanied by left cornerback Ike Taylor, now is his 11th season.

    “If we can stay healthy this year, we all three could play in this defense for the next five years,” Polamalu said unblinkingly. “We all feel like we're in great shape.”

    The trio missed a combined 14 games in 2012. Taylor was sidelined the last four games with an injured ankle, and Clark skipped the season opener in Denver as the altitude adversely affects his spleen because of his sickle-cell trait.

    “There are few guys who never lose a step,” Gay said. “Troy and Ike and Ryan — they can play as long as they want to. They are machines. Machines do break down but not the guys I play with.”

    Despite his enthusiasm, Polamalu acknowledged the future is uncertain past this season. He conceded he could abruptly walk away from a game that he never considered playing this long.

    “It's possible,” he said. “Who knows what the next moment could bring?

    “If anyone wants to plan anything with me, I'm the wrong person. I live for the moment. I live day to day. So, when preparing for a season, I never thought I'll be playing the next season.”

    Taylor, though, can't envision lining up without Polamalu and Clark. But he knows the reality of time has afforded rookie safety Shamarko Thomas the opportunity to position himself as Polamalu's heir apparent.

    “It's kind of rare to have that kind of experience in this age of free agency,” Taylor said. “We know each other on and off the field. I know Troy the person as well as I know Troy the football player. Whenever the (Steelers) feel like our time is up or we can't do it anymore, I'm sure Troy and I would agree we've had a helluva ride.”

    For Polamalu, it was a turbulent ride last season. And the Steelers' rollercoaster season that leveled out with a disappointing 8-8 record is something he put behind him almost immediately after a 24-10 win over Cleveland in the season finale.

    “Last year is over with,” he said. “Whether we had won the Super Bowl or finished 0-16, I would say the same. It's all about preparing for the moment and trying to get better to make a playoff run this year.

    “I'm not one to prognosticate anything because only time will tell if we'll work well together this season. We've had a lot of success around here, and I'm very thankful for that. I'm confident we've prepared ourselves to be successful again.”



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