Published: Monday, July 23, 2007
Tomlin's training camp may make grown men cry
Much like a year ago, there are relatively few open
positions with the Steelers.
PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Tomlin has long said he would coach football 365 days a year if he could. The Pittsburgh Steelers are beginning to believe it.
The Steelers' training camps became relatively predictable during former coach Bill Cowher's 15 seasons, with a limited number of two-a-days and occasional practices called off to give the players a break or to take a trip to the movies.
When the Steelers start their first camp under Tomlin today, the movies probably will be limited to film study sessions and days off will be virtually nonexistent, with none in the first 14 days.
The only planned days off before camp ends Aug. 17 occur the day after each of the first three exhibition games.
"This is what training camps are about," Tomlin said. "They are not supposed to be pleasant."
Poor start in 2006
Tomlin isn't saying whether he thinks the Steelers had it a little too soft a summer ago. Maybe he doesn't have to. Then, coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Steelers won only two of their first eight games following a relaxed training camp.
It appears obvious Tomlin didn't pay much attention to Cowher's camp schedule when he planned his own except to retain the traditional, middle-of-the-afternoon workouts that have been a staple since Chuck Noll's days as coach from 1969-91.
Maybe it's fitting the Steelers will hold a majority of practices on Chuck Noll Field, where St. Vincent College will renew its football program this fall following a 45-year lapse.
"I'm not familiar with how it is has been in the past," said Tomlin, who said he took considerable time planning his first camp.
"I really can't speak to that, but it will be trying at times. There will be some adversity."
Tomlin has multiple practices scheduled on 15 days, or about twice as many as Cowher did though seven of the early practices will be devoted mostly to special teams. While some NFL teams have gotten away from multiple practices, they are common in the AFC Central.
Baltimore and Cincinnati have 12 two-a-days apiece, and both teams report to camp later than the Steelers do. Cleveland has six days with multiple practices.
Also, Tomlin will hold conditioning tests shortly after the players report, while Cowher always held them a day later. T
he tests will be different from the 14 40-yard dashes that Cowher required, though Tomlin isn't saying yet what they will be.
Much like a year ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may be the most-watched player in camp, though for entirely different reasons.
Last year, he was only weeks removed from a near-fatal motorcycle accident and there was doubt when camp began if he would be healthy enough to play immediately. Now, he is coming off the first poor season of his three-year career (18 TD passes, a league-high 23 interceptions) as he tries to get acclimated as quickly as possible to a refined offense.
Coach's job switch
New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was the receivers coach under Cowher, and it appears he'll give more leeway to Roethlisberger than former coordinator Ken Whisenhunt did to throw on early downs and to check off plays.
"I know he is very motivated and very competitive," Tomlin said. "I know on a personal note he has some critics to answer to, which is great. Whatever motivates people to do their best."
Much like a year ago, there are relatively few open positions.
Second-year lineman Willie Colon will compete with Super Bowl starter Max Starks at right tackle and Sean Mahan, who can play multiple positions, will press Chukky Okobi at center.
On defense, the most scrutinized player may be James Harrison, the undrafted linebacker who is penciled in to replace longtime star Joey Porter at right outside linebacker.
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