PITTSBURGH – Last year at this time, key special-teamers were already complaining about the extended special-teams work. And that was before extra practices were added at training camp.
This year, the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing less. Much less.
“About 40 minutes a day less,” said safety Ryan Clark.
Will it help?
“I really like it,” said linebacker James Harrison. “I think last year we were doing it so much it got to where guys were real lackadaisical with it, complacent, and gave a real nonchalant effort to it. Right now, I feel guys are more focused on it because you’ve only got a short period of time to actually get what we’re doing, whereas last year we had damn near an hour of practice to go through one drill. The scarcity of it right now is going to help.”
That was Mike Tomlin’s plan as told to special-teams coaches Bob Ligashesky and Amos Jones. Last year the three new coaches utilized new equipment and new ideas and a lot more time, but got the same old results. So Tomlin is hoping less will be more this time around.
“As much as we practiced and did all those different things, we never really got good at anything,” said Clark. “I’ll be honest, you think about the time wasted. You think about the time you put into practicing it and not going out and efficiently and effectively implementing it on the field. That’s the worst part. If you’re going to do all that practicing you might as well be good at it.”
Clark’s a big believer in talent being the difference on special teams, and he’s seen some positives.
“I think getting Anthony Madison back last year was really big for us,” Clark said. “William Gay’s a very good special-teamer too. But on the other side, it kind of hurts when your best special-team player becomes a Pro Bowl linebacker, so you’ve got to find guys to fill that void.”
But Harrison, the special-teams captain who made the Pro Bowl last season as an outside linebacker, doesn’t see himself receiving fewer special-teams assignments.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fit it,” he said of his usage.
However, playing so much almost broke Harrison last season.
“I did get tired,” he said. “But it’s something I’m going to have to get used to or get in better condition, but I don’t think I can get any better condition than I was. I was taking a lot of defensive snaps and a lot of special-teams snaps. It’s going to wear on you, so you’re going to have to come out here and there. But, like I said, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’ll just have to roll with it.”
Harrison has been used on most of the first special teams this spring. And with former co-captain Clint Kriewaldt gone, the special teams appear to be under Harrison’s rule.
“They seem to think it is,” Harrison said of his coaches. “I guess we’ll see when the season rolls around.”
For full coverage of the Steelers' OTA workouts, click here.