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Old 06-12-2009, 08:08 AM   #1
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Default Steelers look ahead to Super Bowl title defense

Steelers look ahead to Super Bowl title defense
By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff
Published: Thursday, June 11, 2009 11:44 PM EDT
PITTSBURGH — The next time the Steelers gather, the drive for yet another Super Bowl begins in earnest.

That would be the evening of July 31 when they take part in their annual conditioning test and the morning of Aug. 1 when the horn sounds for the first training camp practice.

“By the time we report to training camp, our quest is to still be a driven group, to go out and play hard and not worry about Super Bowl (XLIV) being down in Miami, but putting in the foundation,” wide receiver Hines Ward said Thursday as the Steelers’ completed the last of their organized team activity workouts.

“What happened last year is over.”

To many Steelers, the afterglow of the Super Bowl XLIII victory came to an end Tuesday night when they received their Super Bowl rings. To others, it ended Thursday with the last of the OTAs.

After that final OTA, the Steelers huddled around coach Mike Tomlin, who told them that they had better be prepared for a tough time in Latrobe.

“What I said to the football team was physical conditioning precedes anything else,” Tomlin said. “So between now and (the conditioning test) on July 31, they need to do whatever they can to be in great physical condition.

“If they do that, and that alone and nothing else, we are headed in the right direction. In order to begin the journey, we need to be in great spirits, great physical condition. That is where it is going to start for us.”

For some — like all the rookies and a handful of younger Steelers whose roles will expand this year — the off-season workouts were the start for ’09. Tomlin deemed those “football in shorts” workouts as “productive.”

It was encouraging to see linebacker Lawrence Timmons and cornerback William Gay move into starting roles.

It was encouraging to see backup running back Rashard Mendenhall galloping with gusto as he returns from a broken shoulder that ruined his rookie season.

It was encouraging to see Limas Sweed, a second-round draft pick last year, practicing with a confidence he lacked last year.

It was encouraging to see all the rookies, especially the draft picks, learning football the Steelers’ way.

It was also encouraging to see that the Steelers haven’t had to deal with very many distractions since winning the Super Bowl.

Linebacker James Harrison was in the news twice last month, first for refusing to attend the traditional White House ceremony for Super Bowl champs, then for his pit bull dog biting his 2-year old son.

But really, that’s about it.

Even the marijuana charge against wide receiver Santonio Holmes was dropped Wednesday.

Certainly, this off-season has been calm compared to the last time the Steelers defended their Super Bowl championship. In 2006, running back Jerome Bettis had to be replaced, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was recovering from a near-fatal motorcycle accident, there was speculation about coach Bill Cowher’s future with the team, and perhaps most importantly, the Steelers were a bit profanityfilterprofanityfilterprofanityfilterprofa nityfiltery after winning the big one.

“I think we had that profanityfilterprofanityfilterprofanityfilterprofa nityfilteriness that we could just walk over anybody we played, but then we went 8-8 and struggled to get into (playoff contention),” Ward said. “That’s what was most disappointing. You win the Super Bowl (in 2005) and then you come out the next year and don’t even make the playoffs.”

Ward says the Steelers won’t have that same kind of pompous attitude this year.

Tomlin agrees.

“I am not concerned about what happened in ’05 or ’06, or ’07 or ’08 for that matter,” he said. “I am a singularly focused guy. My single focus is on developing a world championship-caliber team for 2009.

“2008 was great. It was an awesome team. But more important than that, where we are headed (next) is our focus.”

Mike Bires can be reached online at mbires@timesonline.com.
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Old 06-12-2009, 09:22 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers look ahead to Super Bowl title defense

Just reading the quote from Ward in the first few paragraphs of this article just tells me that the players are buying into Tomlin's philosophy and that the leadership and thought process trickles down from the top to the veterans, who then sell it to the younger players. This is why we are the best franchise in the NFL, and why we've been the winningest franchise in the NFL. This is why we are here to stay at the top of the NFL and in Superbowl contention.
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Old 06-12-2009, 09:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers look ahead to Super Bowl title defense

It simply amazes me the way the Rooney's have been ability to see in someone...who is young...the ability to lead men and coach.

This isn't luck by the Rooney's. They truly have a gift to discern this.
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