Steelers Lay Foundation For Success - By Kirk Holliday
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|As I was making the trip from my home in Uniontown, Pa. up Route 119 to Saint Vincent College, the longtime home of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, and also the place I called home for four years, I knew I was bound to run across some construction areas. Little did I know, Latrobe would be the biggest one I would come across.
The first open practice of 2005 was the venue for a team building process that begins every year at this time. This year the Steelers had to begin construction without one of its key engineers. Hines Ward, or no Hines Ward, it was time to lay the foundation. The Steelers did just that.
It was time to let the incoming free agents know just what Steelers football was about and to build the camaraderie and competitive spirit that it takes to hold a championship football team together when it counts. Leaders like Joey Porter and Jerome Bettis knew what they had to do and they did it.
"It was probably one of the best I've ever been around. It was pretty fierce. So if that's an indication of the camp, it's going to be a tough camp and it's going to be a great camp," Bettis noticed. "When you start low you have a long way to go to the top. But when you start high you have a good foundation," Bettis added.
Day one's sweltering heat didn't stop the offense and defense from creating some heat of their own. Despite the team welcoming a group of new faces to the Black and Gold, there certainly wasn't any jitters , and the chatter was flowing like a volcano between the two units.
"People are pushing each other and competing, but not crossing the line. There's a lot of pride out there," Coach Cowher explained.
One person whose pride may have taken a blow on Tuesday afternoon was newcomer Cedric Wilson. After the former San Francisco Wide Receiver made a diving catch three feet in front of me, as a result of a obvious push-off on his part, Linebacker Joey Porter wasn't at a loss for words.
"That don't count," #55 exclaimed, right before he turned to the media and asked anyone if they had a "cell phone to call Hines (Ward) up and tell him to get his (backside) out here". A comment that took the bored looks right off the media's faces to be replaced with an uproar of laughter.
At this point I was wondering to myself if any of my media counterparts were slipping Porter one-hundred dollar bills to say things like this. But his soundbites hadn't ended yet. Porter then reminded Wilson loudly that "this isn't San Francisco, this is the east coast."
Well if Cedric "The Entertainer" Wilson, a nickname that is circulating at camp, was lost, Porter swiftly let him know that he wasn't in San Francisco anymore, but had found himself in the heart of Steelers Country.
Wilson didn't take the jabbering of his teammate to heart and understood it was all for a greater good. "I'm glad these guys got me involved. They started talking to me about how I needed to start doing something on offense. I shouldn't have pushed my teammate in the back, but it's all in the game. We leave it all on the field and we're going to be friends once we step in that locker room. I think they wanted to bring that competitiveness out of me and Joey pretty much did" Wilson said laughing, as Porter strolled by.
Bettis weighed in on the situation saying, "You need to create an atmosphere for him where he sees where we are and how we do things around here. So I think it was great for him. We got his juices going and a lit a fire under him. You're going to see him moving pretty quickly in the next couple days."
With the continuing absence of Ward, leaders Porter and Bettis didn't waste any time breaking in the man who has taken #86's spot in the starting lineup. I'm pretty sure that if he wasn't before, Cedric "The Entertainer" Wilson is fully aware that he's not in San Francisco anymore.
Bettis, asked about the loss of the right side of the offensive line that took the Steelers to the AFC Championship game last year advised, "It's a process. You'd be doing these guys a disservice to look at them and say it's this or it's that. Rome wasn't built in a day. You have to be patient, but you can't be too patient."
Rookie Cornerback, Bryant Mcfadden, had a "minor tweak in his hamstring according to Cowher.
Second year Wideout, Zamir Cobb, who's season was cut short last year due to a knee injury, looked impressive hauling in catches, which prompted a media member to emphatically inform me, "he's going to make this team!"
Corner Ike Taylor was beat for a deep ball by rookie Wide Receiver, Fred Gibson, who continues to look like a steal in the draft. This resulted in him being compared very loudly to departed Corner Chad Scott by a fan on the hillside, to the amusement of the media on hand.