Back to school
By Mike Prisuta
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Guard Kendall Simmons predicted rookies would be in for something they'd never quite seen when the Steelers commenced actual training camp football practices Tuesday, but at least one hardened NFL veteran also got an eyeful.
And an earful.
"(Linebacker) Joey Porter runs his mouth a lot," wide receiver Cedrick Wilson said. "(Cornerback) Deshea Townsend, I heard him rattlin' off a little bit.
"They're going to get me ticked off in a second, but I'm going to keep it cool right now."
That lasted all the way up until yesterday afternoon's workout, during which Wilson put on a receiving show and traded the defense insult for expletive.
It was like nothing he'd seen or heard during four seasons in San Francisco.
"Oh man, it's very competitive," Wilson said. "I've never witnessed, since I've been in the NFL, a practice so competitive.
"The guys are back and forth talkin' to one another, bettin' on each snap. It means that once game time comes, it ought to be easy because you have that pressure in practice."
Linebacker Clark Haggans maintained only "monopoly money" is wagered.
Pride always has been enough in the past for a team that's now taken to challenging itself within individual units as well as pitting platoon against platoon.
The linebackers, for example, are docking themselves push-ups when interceptions are dropped during coverage drills. If a ball hits the ground, the guilty player has to drop and give the unit 10.
The next such offense costs whoever made it 20 push-ups, then 30, and so on.
Larry Foote was seemingly saved by the horn ending an individual period yesterday morning, but Haggans would have none of that.
"He still owes us 60," Haggans insisted.
The receivers don't discipline themselves accordingly, perhaps because so many others are so vocal whenever a ball isn't caught.
Coach Bill Cowher wouldn't have it any other way.
One of the fine lines he demands his players navigate is the one between tearing into each other and tearing the team apart. Stopping just short of the latter in practices, Cowher believes, is the best method of honing the Steelers for the season ahead.
Not that a cacophony of trash-talking and imaginary money changing hands constitute the Steelers' sole methods of competing against one another.
Defensive end Aaron Smith took offensive tackle Max Starks to school in 11-on-11 drills yesterday morning, forcing a hurried Ben Roethlisberger rollout that ultimately resulted in an interception by free safety Chris Hope.
By yesterday afternoon, when the shoulder pads were strapped on for the first time, the hitting became contagious. And the resulting game of can-you-top-this that erupted contributed to what Jerome Bettis characterized it as one of the best opening days he's seen with the Steelers.
"It's very fast and very emotional," Wilson said.
Welcome to St. Vincent College.