Wonderfully done, sir, had to laugh at the "getting over the whole 'nerve' thing... - nc
First of all, let me say that I am an absolute noob at this, so please bear with me…
I would have introduced myself on the "Get to Know Each Other" thread several weeks ago, but I knew that this personal premier was just around the corner, so I figured I’d just wait until after my training camp visit to make my first post. When Momma Rollett posted her observations of the same day’s practice before I had even gotten back home from Latrobe, I was at first a bit dejected and almost gave up on the idea. As I read on though, I realized that I had a somewhat different perspective to offer than what she had elaborated on, speaking from both the physical and personal points of view, so it looks like you’re getting it regardless.
I am from the Eastern part of Pennsylvania (about a four-hour drive from Latrobe). I am a calculus teacher (OLB Adrian Robinson was a former student of mine; more on him later) and sing in a rock-n-roll cover band. I have lived with my girlfriend and her two children for about 7 years. I have been a daily reader on this site since 2009, have recently started to make some comments on posts, and have even engaged in a debate or two with some of the regulars over the past couple of months, but it has taken me this long to finally get the time (as well as get over the nerve thing) to offer my first post. I sincerely hope you like it. Now with that out of the way…
Much of my trip to St. Vincent’s College on Tuesday for training camp was focused on Offensive Line Coach Sean Kugler due to the location of my seat (I could have hit him with a wiffle ball exerting almost no effort), and Adrian Robinson due to the fact that I have had a personal/educational relationship with him.
Watching and listening to Kugler work with the lineman was something that I had not prepared for, but in retrospect, I think that it was the most fascinating part of the whole trip. Generally he worked with 6-8 linemen, who would alternate between practicing their own job, and playing the role of the defensive lineman while the next guy took his turn. One of the drills consisted of two O-linemen blocking down on one D-linemen, while there was a linebacker hiding behind him. When the linebacker would poke out from behind the joust for a delayed blitz, one of the the O-lineman would have to peel off of the block to pick him up. With Kugler taking the very precise and appropriate angle behind the linebacker (and invisible to the O-lineman) so as to watch the exact moment when the O-lineman should first see the linebacker, he had the perfect opportunity to analyze the reaction time of those guys… very interesting. Another drill consisted of a three on three situation. Kugler would make the call from behind the O-linemen, and then use hand signals to tell each D-lineman what his actual assignment was (so that the O-linemen had no clue what was about to happen in front of them). Usually, he would send one or two of them straight ahead, while stunting the others, but there were times when he would send all of them straight ahead or on stunts.
He was working a lot with Willie Colon (G), Kelvin Beachum (G), Doug Legursky (C), Mike Adams (T), Ryan Lee (G), and Trai Essex (T) (my best guess was that this was a collection of guys who needed more work at the position they would be asked to play this year). From a teacher’s perspective, I was enthralled. This man had his students’ undivided attention and respect. He would use Socratic questioning techniques between each play; asking one or all of them what they would do if this or that happened, increasingly challenging their understanding of the system as he went along. He frequently called out Willie as his "go-to-guy" to answer questions when the young guys didn’t know the correct answers. He seemed to take a very special interest in Kelvin Beachum. At first glance, it might have appeared as though Beachum was simply making a lot of correctable mistakes, and although that may have been true, there was an extraordinary amount of conversation that took place between the two men when something went wrong. With the others, it seemed more like the teacher was trying to "inject" the knowledge into the student with a short anecdote, followed by the student accepting what he was supposed to be doing. With Beachum, it was more like the teacher sharing his experience, then the student trying to analyze it from that perspective by asking questions or making comments, and then adapting it so that he could feel comfortable with it in his own mind.
The most relevant thing that I took with me from these sessions was that Kugler must have uttered some form of the word "violence" at least 6-8 times over the period of about thirty minutes that I watched. He would say something along the lines of, "…drop your left foot back and plant, but be prepared for the guy coming from the right… and BE VIOLENT!" We have heard some lip service from Tomlin, Colbert, and Co. about the new aggressive offensive approach, but I can attest to the fact that the reality matches the lip service. It is delightfully obvious as you watch this O-line practice and play that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year. They are mean and nasty, and they appear to have the perfect mentor. If mixed with some unpredictable offensive play-calling, I can see us giving some defensive coordinators fits this year.
Defensively speaking, the way that linebackers were lining up gave me significant cause for thought as well. In addition to the fact that Stevenson Sylvester was doing a lot of work at OLB, the inside guys seemed to be moving around a lot. I did not have a good vantage point to see what the offense was doing exactly, so I can’t really say what was going on in terms of weak or strong side, but Lawrence Timmons took a ton of snaps from the left side of the defense (looking from behind them). Unless I’m losing my mind, that seemed to be a bit out of place. I remember him working more often from the right side of the defense (Mack - usually the weak (left) side of the offense). I suppose this could be a sign of a couple of different things; either they are toying with the idea of using him situationally in the Buck position (to allow for all kinds of personnel options that have been discussed quite a bit on this site), or our offense is showing off its ambidexterity, and the defense was forced to adjust accordingly. My thought is that it’s the latter, and I am perfectly fine with that; even ecstatic.
Undrafted rookie free-agent OLB Adrian Robinson, as I started to mention earlier, was a former Precalculus student of mine at Harrisburg High School. Of all of the student/athletes I have taught in my career, Adrian was without a doubt the one that I thought had the most chance of ever making it to the big leagues. When considering pure athletic talent, the intrinsic drive to succeed, maturity level, and overall academic ability, he brought more to the table than any other that I have taught. He is a very likable young man, with a great sense of humor, and a ridiculous work ethic. He truly deserves the shot that it appears as though he is getting in Steelers training camp with the likes of James Harrison and Jason Worilds running around on the auxiliary fields.
At 6’1" - 250lbs, he is almost identical in size and structure to Chris Carter, and he has pretty much the same skill set. The difference is that Carter is certainly further along developmentally that Robinson. Fortunately for Adrian, it is not likely that he will have to beat out Carter, who has looked pretty darn good so far during camp, for a roster spot. Instead, his challenge is starting to look like it might be the possibility of Jason Worilds staying healthy long enough to show that what he put on tape during the 2011 season was not his "ceiling". Worilds has certainly underwhelmed, but let’s not forget that he was a 2nd round pick (#52) in the 2010 draft. When you compare that with the UDRFA status of Robinson, the outlook appears bleak. Looking a little bit farther, one might notice that Robinson has been making plays so far during camp, and the coaches do not seem to be afraid to run him out there with the first team to get some additional looks. As I watched intently throughout practice, I saw Adrian set the edge on a sweep turning the runner back inside, push a tackle into the backfield on a three-step drop disrupting the timing of the play, and crash down on an inside running play to make a perfect form tackle for about a 1 or 2 yard gain. I also saw him get caught on one play where he was not deep enough in our defensive backfield to defend a receiver’s short curl route, and not deep enough in our offense’s backfield to get to the quarterback, who was rolling out to his right. It is a tough spot for an outside linebacker in our system, and one I’m sure that many of his predecessors have experienced, but ultimately I’m not sure what his assignment was on the play, so I’m not sure what to make of it. My thought is that since the corner was closer to making a play on the curl than he was, and there was nobody else in front of the quarterback, that Robinson’s responsibility was probably the QB, and had that curl pattern not been completed, there would have been an ugly collision near the sideline after about a 1-yard gain (assuming that it was a real game, of course).
My overall point is that he was out there making plays, and Worilds was… well… I’m not really sure where he was, but I know that he’s not where he needs to be to make a positive impact on his chances of the Steelers putting up with his inconsistency when they have a young hard worker with a good attitude that they seem to be trusting to make some plays in camp. My biggest fear is that of practice squad eligibility. Obviously, Robinson’s got it and Worilds does not. This may be the deciding factor in the equation, considering the fact that UDRFAs don’t normally get claimed off of the waiver-wire. The flip side of that argument is that he’s getting a lot of playing time and other teams know of the reputation of our scouting department for finding linebackers. It’s a toss-up, but I think you can tell what my wishes are! If you think that strength might be an issue for him, fear not; take a look at the picture below showing Robinson blowing up a blocking sled and sending a passenger along for a ride... all while Keith Butler watches on.
- I did not see Toney Clemons drop anything – hopefully he can show enough to stick around and be our "big target".
- Marquis Maze is looking like the real deal – if Wallace continues his holdout, I see Maze filling the void
- The returning duties appear to be Chris Rainey's to lose
- Ben and Dwyer both appear to be in pretty good shape
- Stevenson Sylvester continues to improve – if that trajectory remains true, I predict that Larry Foote will be supplanted from his starting role by the bye week.
- Sharkey’s Café has the most outstanding, wonderful, delectable, mouth-watering, scrumptious, delightful stuffed banana pepper pizza on the planet (this coming from a bit of a pizza connoisseur who has been making pies from scratch for several years now). If you go to Latrobe and don’t stop for some of that culinary goodness, then you should probably end up as the butt of one of Mechem’s hate posts.
- In comparison to last year’s camp, it appears as though a LOT more running plays are being called and worked on this year. We are NOT going to run the football for the sake of making the percentages look even (I'm looking at you, BA). We seem to be dedicating ourselves to proficiency in that aspect of the game under the Haley/Kugler/Wilson/Montgomery regime. Giddy up!
Well, there you have it Steeler Nation… my take on the day at St. Vincent’s. Feel free to agree, disagree, dispute, discuss, critique, complain, and otherwise offer your collective infinite wisdom upon the sport and the team that we all love so much.
Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!