The Pittsburgh Steelers will be sporting a revamped, and largely new, secondary when the 2018 season officially gets underway at training camp July 25th. This isn’t just with the personnel on the field, but also in the coaching staff.
Tom Bradley takes over where Carnell Lake left off, and brings with him a wealth of defensive knowledge, just not at the professional level. However, don’t look at this as a negative. Mike Tomlin spoke this offseason about how Bradley’s time in college football helped him become a better communicator and teacher.
This will be key as Bradley takes over a new, and young, secondary. Outside of veterans Joe Haden and Morgan Burnett, the Steelers’ defensive back half is made up of nothing but young players: Artie Burns, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Terrell Edmunds, Marcus Allen and Sean Davis.
Bradley will have his work cut out for him, and his first order of business will be focusing on the fundamentals.
“When you’re a college guy, if you’ve been in college all those years, you have to start off sometimes with 17-year-old old kids, so you have to start off with fundamentals,” Bradley told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’ve already had that problem here — I assume they know something just because they’ve been in the league a while. So we’ve gone back and done a lot of basic things. It’s a lot of fundamental work.”
This should be music to the fan base’s ears considering the lack of fundamentals the secondary had put on the field under Lake. Poor angles, horrible tackling technique and a lack of communication regularly left players vulnerable. Bradley is in charge of rectifying this situation, but isn’t worried about the youth he has in this area of the field.
“I’m very excited what we have going with the guys back there,” Bradley said. “The older guys have done a great job helping the younger guys get better. Even today, when I said to Terrell, how’s it going, he said, ‘It’s starting to slow down a little bit, coach, it’s starting to slow down a little bit.’ I think we’re on track.”
In the back of Bradley’s mind, and likely coming down from Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler, is always tackling. The importance of the secondary, often times the last line of defense, being able to bring down the ball carrier.
“Anytime you’re playing defense, there’s always things you want to eliminate. Eliminate big plays and missed tackles, you got a chance to be pretty good.”
Throughout his transition from college coordinator to professional position coach, many have wondered what the difference will be for him moving to the pros. Bradley suggests the change will be more for how the players handle their jobs rather than his coaching.
“When you’re in college, you’re hesitant to make as many different calls and changes because you don’t have the time to work on it because they got school and a lot of other things going on,” Bradley said. “Here, when you have them all day, you can add to the repertoire of the things you’re doing.”
All reports from players are things are going well with Bradley so far, but the real challenge, and litmus test, will be when the team gets on the field and has the opportunity to actually put his teachings into practice.