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Coming Out of Hibernation
Article by Jonathan Pasterick (8/2/01)
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Ok, so here we are at training camp time. When Timmy asked me to contribute to his website, I thought, "Hey, great! I'm as big a Steelers fan as they come and I could write all day about them." Then I realized that it was still, in fact, May, and that not much was going on. I scanned the Pittsburgh headlines to find some items of note that I could wax on about, like, "Steelers sign Will Blackwell to 2 year deal" and "Steelers sign free agent Mike Jones." Not really the stuff of analysis, so I didn't analyze... perhaps to Tim's chagrin, perhaps not. Not even the extension of Josh Miller, not an insignificant move given the Steelers offense, got the proverbial pen flowing. And I got a newfound appreciation for Steelers beat writers, who have to make something out of nothing in May when the best they have to work with is the resigning of a second-string wide receiver or a free agent linebacker that may well get beaten out of a job by a rookie this season.

But now things are different, and not because it's official that my hometown baseball team, the Orioles, truly suck. Rather, training camp has started, and so it's time to refocus the microscope on Steelers, sort of. Let me say first off that I don't give a crap about training camp or preseason generally. Don't follow stats, don't care who had a good practice, don't care that some undrafted free agent is impressing the hell out of the coaching staff. That just means that he'll be the last cut rather than the third to last. In reality, there are only about four spots on this team that there will be any real fight for in training camp, and I only care who wins one of them. Will Mike Logan beat out Brent Alexander? Who cares, Alexander played fine last year. Will Kendrell Bell beat out Mike Jones? Who cares, Jones will be fine as a weak side OLB if Bell isn't ready yet. Will Witman beat out Kreider? Who cares, they both played fine when healthy last year. Will Casey Hampton beat out Kendrick Clancy? Well, we gotta care about that one because Hampton was the first round pick and one of the reasons he was drafted in particular was the belief that he would be ready to make an impact early.

Aside from that, the Steelers starters, for better or worse, are set at every position. Thankfully, this offseason, with the exception of losing Dawson and Kirkland, the first of which was expected and the second of which should have been in hindsight, was relatively quiet. Far from losing key free agents, the team actually picked some up.

Sure the team lost an offensive coordinator that some hold in high regard, but when the guy insisted on trying to teach the offensive equivalent of the theory of relativity to a quarterback that has the defense-reading equivalent of a GED, he pretty much dug his own grave. Can't say I shed too many tears when Gilbride hit the bricks. To my mind, his ego was too big to acknowledge that his personnel, either in terms of talent or intellectual capacity, didn't suit his PhD style of offense, and he wouldn't make the necessary adjustments. So now the team has an offensive coordinator that may be just inexperienced enough to keep it simple, stupid, which was the Steelers way all along. That's a net gain in my book. Plus, there no longer appear to be any scandals regarding the personal lives of the Steelers head coach or starting QB, which was easily the most regrettable byproduct of a couple losing seasons and which may have been the only thing in my life that ever made me ashamed to be a Steelers fan, with the possible exception of the unnecessary and largely self-defeating booing of Kordell at Three Rivers.

My view of the preseason is simple: if nobody gets hurt, it's a good preseason. If the Steelers come down to play the Redskins in a preseason game, and I can see all the wine-and-cheese Skins fans watch their heartless, loser team with a jerk of an owner get their asses kicked by some real football players, it's a little better. But the important thing is that the team is all together now, and while the games that count don't start until another 40 or so Orioles losses from now, it's time to rub the sleepies out of my eyes and start to at least pay attention to the injury wire.

So even though you shouldn't expect any updated articles from me (I can hear the sighs of relief from here) about how DeShea Townsend is tearing it up in preseason or Ron Rivers is showing eel-like elusiveness on the fields of St. Vincent, just know that I'm having my first cups of coffee in preparation for what I truly believe will be a season that will last more than 16 games for the Steelers. By the Jacksonville game, my enthusiasm should be at a fevered pitch, and I hope that the rest of you all will be right there with me.

Later for now,
Jonathan Pasterick

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