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Steelers training camp: It's time to strap on the pads

An ode to the efforts taken to establish a team as the strongest and most violent team in the NFL.

Justin K. Aller

The Steelers will actually hit each other today.

Coach Mike Tomlin may be immune to the general hushed nature in which contact is now discussed among fans and the media. He says he likes that aspect of the game, and as fans, so do we.

Each time it's brought up, though, we naturally think we're bordering on the taboo.

"It's football," Tomlin said. "I know that there's going to be a lot of people excited about (hitting)," Tomlin said, as quoted by Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette. "I'm always excited about who ascends in those situations and who shrinks in those situations and that's just the reality of it. It's a big step in the process, one that I'm sure we're all excited about taking."

He's right. A lot of people will be excited about the first non Football In Shorts workouts. The sound of pads thudding together in front of a ton of strength, creating immovable objects and irresistible forces. It's the essence of football, and it's the time where teams establish the tone for their season.

The team that hits and continues to hit is generally the team that wins the game. To dip way back into Tomlin Vernacular, its a game of attrition.

We all hope the Steelers still like those kinds of games.

The savagery of it may not be something people want to admit they enjoy, but in an NFL that has done everything it possibly can to make it solely about the perimeter players - speed on the outside, quick passing and the importance of space and tempo - the brutality involved with the old style of play has been lessened.

Until someone lays someone else out, of course.

While we don't want to see it so much within our own team - or at least not to the point of injury - we revel in the idea, true or possibly rationalization for our instinctive wants for conquest of an opponent, of becoming the bully. The team no one else wants to face because ours is a team that will flat-out beat you to a crumpled heap if you get in the way.

A team's ability to do that can be set in training camp. One big hit, one slight brawl, one act of aggression that sparks the competitive fire in the collective head of the team.

That fire can be lit today with the onset of hitting. So here's to tackling, hitting and organized violence. Here's to our collective efforts to will our team into the mindset no one is tougher, stronger or better.

Here's to contact.