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|01-31-2009, 12:31 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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Buddy system works for Steelers - Jim Wexell
Buddy system works for Steelers
AP photo GENE J. PUSKAR The Steelers were loose during practice Friday. Troy Polamalu and William Gay even tried ripping off linebacker Larry Footeâ€™s shoe.
Times Sports Correspondent
TAMPA, Fla. — Injuries curtailed Troy Polamalu in 2007, but he flashed his immense ability throughout the first half of the Steelers’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Polamalu was a one-man wrecking crew until he got hurt returning an interception toward the end of the half.
What does he remember about that brilliant half of football?
“I remember my ribs were hurting,” he said with a forced smile. “But I also remember it was really a highly emotional game, just seeing the coaches. You know, we really have that family mentality in Pittsburgh. We still talk to guys like Joey (Porter) and Chris Hope and they still have their hearts in Pittsburgh. So when you see coaches leave like that, there’s still a little bit of animosity, probably from them, that they’ve left.”
So it was a case where the Steelers’ family mentality, their chemistry, might have worked in reverse. Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm, Kevin Spencer and the 16 other former Steelers scattered throughout the Cardinals’ organization were hurt that they weren’t asked to remain a part of the family they’d come to know.
That “family,” or chemistry, was credited by many of the Steelers as the reason behind their championship run in 2005. Polamalu was asked to explain the key to the Steelers’ chemistry.
“I think it’s the personalities that we have,” he said. “We’re not really a bunch of rah-rah guys. Potsie (James Farrior) is different than your prototypical linebacker in that he’s not a big rah-rah, trash-talking guy. But we do have those on our team. It’s just a great mix of characters. We get along off the field. We get along in the meeting rooms. We have a lot of fun there. And I think what you see is a product of our closeness, of our chemistry, on the field.”
Is the chemistry better than it was in 2005?
“That’s tough to say,” Polamalu said. “Our identity is much different from then. It’s much different year to year. I don’t know.”
“You can’t really measure that,” said Deshea Townsend. “The good thing is it’s a lot of the same guys as we had in 2005, so the chemistry is still there.”
The Steelers get along; that’s obvious. It’s described as brotherly love, “so when you’ve got your brother beside you, you don’t want to let him down,” Townsend said.
But how do the Steelers continue to put “brothers” together on the field?
“Our scouts do a great job,” said assistant head coach John Mitchell. “They know what kind of personnel we need to run our schemes, but they also understand the type of guy we want.”
And that is?
“First of all, I want a person who has a love for the game,” Mitchell said. “If he has the tangibles – you know, the long arm reach, can use his hands – I can help him become a good football player if he’s a good person. And then when you have guys like Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke and the guys who’ve been here, I don’t have to yell and scream at them. When I get a rookie or a free agent, the guys tell them, ‘this is the way we do things.’ And when the new player goes to practice and sees how Aaron Smith practices, how Casey practices, Chris Hoke, it makes my job easy because they fall in right behind.
“Since we’ve become established here, it’s just snowballed. My guys are never late for a meeting. I don’t even have to tell a guy about being late. Aaron Smith doesn’t tell them. Casey doesn’t tell them. We just come on time. That’s what we do.”
“It’s the whole attitude of the whole organization,” said Hoke. “When you come here, you conform to what’s going on. This is more of a family atmosphere, a buddy-buddy atmosphere. That starts up top and trickles down. The guys here fall in line.”
But the question remains: Is the chemistry this season better than that much-acclaimed togetherness of the 2005 team?
“I’ll let you know after Sunday,” Hoke said.
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