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The Pittsburgh Steelers have a secret weapon, and it isn't a player

What are the Steelers using to gain an edge this season? Dani Bostick talked to TITIN founder Patrick Whaley to find out more about new technology that is helping athletes take their game to new heights.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Whaley remembers trying to bulk up in middle school. "I'd overload my backpack and do shrugs all the way to class," he said. Decades later, the Whaley's weighted backpack has evolved into TITIN weighted compression gear.

Whaley began in earnest on his quest to modernize the weighted vest when he was an engineering major at Georgia Tech, and he became deeply committed to the idea when he was shot in a 2009 armed robbery. The prototype he created in his dorm room was key to his personal rehabilitation. He used the shirt for an hour a day for two weeks and noticed an immediate improvement in range of motion and posture. "It was like it was my own muscle," he related.

Six years after that incident, Whaley's company sells thousands of units a month to individuals, universities, and professional sports teams. "It is designed around the human body," Whaley explained. It allows players to train with added weight without compromising form."  Even distribution is critical because being off balance can render an athlete more susceptible to injury.

Earlier this year, Whaley was in Pittsburgh for a meeting with Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods. With some time to kill before his flight, he got the idea to make a pitch to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It took a while to find the training facility, but once he did, he walked in and claimed he had a meeting with strength and conditioning coach Garrett Giemont. "I faked it," Whaley told me.

The receptionist called his bluff, but after Whaley's brief pitch decided his product was something coach Garrett would definitely want to know about. Whaley was able to get the coach's cell phone number, gave him a call from outside of the facility, and minutes later was back inside telling him about TITIN products face-to-face.

"It was just what the Steelers were looking for," Whaley told me. "Coach Garrett wanted athletes to focus on proper form and training. That is his whole premise. He could allow athletes to train with added weight without compromising form."

Now, the entire Steelers organization is sold on TITIN. One major use for the product is to help players get acclimated to the weight of their football gear without wearing shoulder pads. "It allows athletes to get used to the weight of their gear so they can last four quarters. They can train as if it is their own muscle." The shirts do not restrict movement, so players can train in the shirts without feeling bogged down.

TITIN is not just a training tool, it is also a recovery device. The garments can be warmed in the microwave or frozen to help athletes recover more quickly after a workout. "It's not about how much you can train," Whaley shared. "It is about how fast you can recover." Many athletes use ice baths to bounce back from intense workouts. TITIN garments can provide the experience of a mobile ice bath, which can give athletes the simultaneous advantage of motion and cold to speed up their recovery.

While a lot of what goes into a successful team depends on the player's work ethic and effort on the field, new technology can help athletes get into even better condition and reduce the risk of injury. Each generation has had its performance-enhancing technology, from the first running shoes to moisture-wicking fabric. TITIN is a similar innovation.

"It's like training on earth and competing on the moon," Whaley said. "Athletes call it their secret sauce." Hopefully the Steelers' use of the 'secret sauce' will equate to more wins this upcoming season.

For more information on TITIN visit