The Pittsburgh Steelers have a stigma about them. Not just when it comes to training camp, but in regards to how they play the game. This stigma dates back to the dominance of the 1970s, through the 1990s and into the early 2000s when the Steelers played a brand of defense which bordered on unfair and dangerous. Whether it was 'Mean' Joe Greene, Mel Blount or James Harrison, the Steelers have been known for one thing - physicality.
The physicality the Steelers possess has a starting point, and that very well could be at Saint Vincent College at training camp. As the organization celebrates their 50th camp at Saint Vincent, if there is one thing the Steelers are known for when the players get into the dorm rooms, it is the pads will be popping when practices start.
Stories are told of the famous 'backs-on-'backers drill, training camp fights between the likes of Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor and most recently the skirmish between rookie OLB Bud Dupree and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert. Physicality breeds competition, and can also cause anger and frustration to start boiling which can lead to these scenarios coming to fruition.
What does it take to be a physical member of the Steelers defense? Jeremy Fowler asked ILB Vince Williams that very question.
"I don't know what it takes to be a big hitter, I don't understand the concepts of it, I just know when I get around the ball carrier I can inflict as much damage as I can legally."
"We don't really scale it down out here," Williams said. "Pittsburgh Steelers have always been about that; we're always going to be about that. We're just a very physical-oriented group. That's what we like to bring to the game."
"When coach says it's live, it's live," Williams said. "We want to hunt people up and hit hard. We always want to be the enforcers."
The physicality starts at camp, but then has to transition to the playing field. The 2015 Steelers defense is in an unusual circumstance where they are coming off a very mediocre 2014 season, and the future very much in question in terms of which way the defense will head in 2015. The defense is fast and athletic, but also inexperienced.
As the Steelers break camp on Friday, Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin are hoping the physicality which was forged on the fields in Latrobe, PA will pay dividends for a defense searching for an identity this season.