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Old 10-24-2008, 08:04 PM   #1
SteelersMongol
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Default Grucci "Steeler tradition: Missing teeth, jutting chins and hard-nosed football"

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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' tradition is defined by Jack Lambert's menacing glare and missing teeth. It's defined by players with nicknames such as "Mean," "Torpedo," and "Rocky." It's defined by a running back whose fan club wore Army helmets.

"There's always been a tradition of toughness with the Steelers," linebacker Larry Foote said. "This whole city is all about being tough. That's just the nature of the place."

When Bill Cowher coached the Steelers, no one questioned whether the tradition was being upheld. His teams were known for their hard-hitting defense, power-oriented offense, and that prominent chin jutting from the sideline with a figurative sign that said, "Go ahead, take your best shot."

When Mike Tomlin took Cowher's place last year, no one was quite certain what to expect. Tomlin's coaching influences were varied and not easy to identify. But through the first seven weeks of this season, the personality of his edition of the Steelers has taken hold. Tomlin might not have "The Chin" or Cowher's habit of giving saliva showers during sideline tirades, yet he has communicated the Steeler tradition of toughness quite well.

Too well, some might argue.

In successive games against Baltimore and Jacksonville, wide receiver Hines Ward made bone-rattling blocks that drew fines totaling $15,000. In Week 7 against Cincinnati, he hit Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers so hard that he ended the rookie's season with a broken jaw. Steelers safety Troy Polamalu criticized the league for its crackdown on rough play, saying, among other things, the NFL was turning into a "pansy game."

The situation came to a head earlier this week when Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations, paid a special visit to meet with a small group of players, including Ward and Polamalu, as well as with Tomlin and club owner Dan Rooney. The idea was to clear the air and make certain there were no lingering bad feelings between the team and the NFL.

Suffice it to say the Steelers, who are 5-1 and have a three-game winning streak entering Sunday's clash against the 5-1 Giants at Heinz Field, have no intention of changing their hard-hitting ways.

"The Steelers have played this way for years," Rooney said. "Toughness is something that we don't want to lose. Now, when you have a meeting like (the one with Anderson), some people get the impression of, 'Hey, what's going on?' Basically we want to play football and we don't want to hurt anybody.

"But to win … you can't be a pansy."

Rooney certainly had that in mind when he began searching for a new head coach after Cowher resigned following the 2006 season. The owner knew of Tomlin's background as a secondary coach in Tampa Bay, working for Tony Dungy and then Jon Gruden, and as defensive coordinator in Minnesota, working for Brad Childress. The defenses Tomlin was associated with had an abundance of talent and played well, although there wasn't a particular stamp that he left to indicate his style of coaching.

When Tomlin pursued the Steelers' coaching position, he made no attempt to be anything like the head coaches for whom he worked.

"Every job that I've had in this league, I've followed what I believe were great people in those positions," Tomlin said. "I followed Herm Edwards as a secondary coach in Tampa, I followed Ted Cottrell as a defensive coordinator in Minnesota, and now Bill Cowher. I've gotten quite comfortable with stepping into big shoes. Really, I just focus on doing the best that I can do in being me."

That was good enough for the Rooney family.

"There's a reason that I'm here, and probably first and foremost is that I fit the mold of a head coach that the Rooneys were looking for," Tomlin said. "I'm an extremely competitive person. I want to play the game the way it's supposed to be played. I want to play it hard, but fair. And I want to be a team that wins by attrition on both sides and in all three phases of the game. We believe that this is a physical game and we need to play in that manner, and that's what we encourage."

Players who were here when Cowher guided the Steelers have had little trouble making the transition to Tomlin.

To them, it's simply a matter of staying focused on the bigger picture -- of understanding that being on this team means embracing the hard-nosed history created by the likes of Jack Lambert, Joe Greene, Donnie Shell, and Robert (Rocky) Bleier.

"We pride ourselves on going out and being a physical team and swarming to the ball and having fun," defensive end Travis Kirschke said. "With a couple of Hines' incidents with his fines, that brought to light just how physical of a team we are. And then last week, with that nice hit on (Rivers), that just brought more attention to it. It's not that we've changed or anything. It's always been there. It's just being highlighted now."

"It's contagious," Foote said. "(Wide receiver) Santonio Holmes had a big hit in the Baltimore game, too. He got one of those linebackers on a reverse. Hines' (hit) was a little harder, a little more devastating, so everybody sees that. But that's the makeup of our team. We definitely don't want any injuries from it, but wide receivers have got to crack back and block. A lot of receivers don't choose to do it, but Hines is fearless out there. He likes doing it."

Ward has long prided himself on his considerable blocking skills, going back to his days at Georgia. Given the run-oriented offense the Steelers used when he joined the team as a third-round draft pick in 1998, he knew he was never going to make a name for himself as a 100-catch-a-year receiver. He knew he had to build a reputation around something else -- like knocking down defenders (safeties and linebackers, as well as cornerbacks) so backs would have more room to run...
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Old 10-24-2008, 08:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: Grucci "Steeler tradition: Missing teeth, jutting chins and hard-nosed football"

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...This season, Ward has taken that reputation to new heights. During a radio interview, Ravens linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs called Ward a "dirty" player and "cheap-shot artist." He also said the Ravens had a "bounty" on Ward and rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury after a hit from Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis.

Ward accepts that he is not liked by many defensive opponents, but offers no apologies for his rugged style.

"I love to catch a touchdown, but I love to get a great block as well," Ward said. "It's something that just stuck with me and grew and, for 11 years, that's all it's been around here. And a lot of it has to do with the players that we have. It starts with the captains on your team. You take (linebacker) James Farrior; he's a hard-nosed player. You take (linebacker) James Harrison, a hard-nosed player. Myself, our offensive line, our running backs.

"This (AFC North) division is known to be a physical division. Due to the weather, you're not going to go out there and pass the ball all the time. And being that we run the ball so much, we just became a physical team."

That includes the quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger has played with a bruised right (throwing) shoulder, but refuses to complain about it or even hint that it has caused him problems. He also takes plenty of hard hits behind a line that has struggled in pass protection. But Roethlisberger continues to hang in the pocket as long as he can in order to make the best play possible, just as he has done since his rookie season in 2004.

"We've got tough players on this team, and I think Ben's a reflection of that," center Justin Hartwig said. "You get a sense of (the pain Roethlisberger feels) by the look on his face during a game, but injuries are something you've got to deal with. When we go on the field on Sunday, nobody cares if we're injured, if we're nursing something. We've just got to get the job done."

When a player can't make it onto the field, his replacement is expected to perform at the same level. That's something Tomlin has demanded of his team since arriving here.

"We believe, in order for us to be a good team, that the standard of expectation cannot change," Tomlin said. "We have starters and starters in waiting. The level of expectation is not going to change when people get injured. We acknowledge that injuries are simply part of the game and that they not only happen to us but to every team. The ones that are successful don't blink and deal with it."

Despite suffering several injuries on both sides of the ball, the Steelers haven't blinked. They've simply leaned heavily on their depth, and kept winning.

The situation at running back has been nothing short of an injury crisis. Starter Willie Parker hurt his knee early in the year and Mendenhall was lost for the season. So the Steelers turned to Mewelde Moore to carry the bulk of the rushing load. He responded by giving a fairly good imitation of former Steeler great Jerome Bettis. The 5-foot-11, 209-pound Moore had proven to be a powerful and explosive force, gaining 99 yards against Jacksonville (while averaging 5.8 yards per carry) and following that up with 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati (while averaging six yards per carry).

"It's kind of like anything in life," said Moore, who joined the Steelers as a free agent from the Vikings. "You hope for the best and then you prepare for the worst. That's what guys who are stepping into roles are doing. They've prepared for the worst, with some guys going down, and they're stepping up and doing the job that helps us win football games."

What would it mean to win against the defending Super Bowl champions?

"It would mean we're 6-1," Foote said. "We're a veteran team. We don't get too high with the highs; we don't get too low with the lows. From a defensive standpoint, it's by far the best offense we've played in quite some time as far as being complete -- throwing the ball, offensive line, running the ball. It's going to be our biggest challenge.

"But (if the Steelers win) 6-1 is 6-1. Records mean nothing (in October). It's all about December and January. This is definitely important to get there, but we're not blinking."

Tough guys rarely do.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=090...s&confirm=true
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Old 10-25-2008, 12:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: Grucci "Steeler tradition: Missing teeth, jutting chins and hard-nosed football"

That's what the steelers are all about. hard nose football.. 'Rough Rugged and Raw"
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Old 10-25-2008, 06:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: Grucci "Steeler tradition: Missing teeth, jutting chins and hard-nosed football"

Good article, thanks for posting.

"What would it mean to win against the defending Super Bowl champions?

"It would mean we're 6-1," Foote said. "We're a veteran team. We don't get too high with the highs; we don't get too low with the lows. From a defensive standpoint, it's by far the best offense we've played in quite some time as far as being complete -- throwing the ball, offensive line, running the ball. It's going to be our biggest challenge."

Exactly the attitude I want to see.
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Old 10-25-2008, 08:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: Grucci "Steeler tradition: Missing teeth, jutting chins and hard-nosed football"

Hard nosed, smashmouth, kick you in the gut football - that's the Steelers tradition!

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"It would mean we're 6-1," Foote said. "We're a veteran team. We don't get too high with the highs; we don't get too low with the lows.
Gotta love the 'tude. Now if some of our fans would just develop the same mantra.
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Old 10-25-2008, 11:53 AM   #6
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Default Re: Grucci "Steeler tradition: Missing teeth, jutting chins and hard-nosed football"

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Originally Posted by HometownGal View Post
Hard nosed, smashmouth, kick you in the gut football - that's the Steelers tradition!



Gotta love the 'tude. Now if some of our fans would just develop the same mantra.
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