We all remember Casey Hampton eating his way out of the Steelers lineup in training camp a few years ago. Mike Tomlin put him on the PUP list and for those that visited training camp,it was a regular site to see him working off to the side with one of the team trainers, or riding a stationary bike alone.
Now with Alameda Ta’amu on the roster, the Big Snack II or The Coliseum or “The Big Ketchup Bottle” as some are starting to call him, you start to think if we could see an issue in the future with his weight being a problem. These huge tackles are trained athletes too, don’t let their size full you. These players still run wind sprints in camp and they still do the same workouts as other players, allbeit not quite as fast as say a Mike Wallace does necessarily but they are still held to a standard based on their position on the team.
For Ta’amu, he recently talked about his past problems with keeping his weight under control and how all of that is behind him now.
The Pittsburgh Trib put out an article today referencing the similarties between Hampton’s weight problems and Ta’amu’s. Since that training camp incident when Tomlin made a spectacle out of the Big Snack, weight hasn’t been a problem as we know. Ta’amu has taken a proactive approach as well to making sure he’s fit and ready to play on gameday. Keeping that mentality at the forefront of his off season activities in the future will go a long way to ensuring he doesn’t endure his own Casey scenario.
“(Weight) was an issue my first two years of college,” Ta’amu said. “I knew I had to change my ways.”
After reinjuring a broken foot while returning too quickly to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Game at the Orange Bowl, he ended up sitting idle from January-July and found himself tipping the scales at a whopping 380 lbs.
“I didn’t even know I was that big,” Ta’amu said.
It was a hard lesson to learn, but he was able to drop 50 lbs and has been keeping his weight in check ever since. At the Steelers first rookie mini camp of 2012 this past weekend, he weighed in at 346 lbs. Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell said he’s not worried about the rookies weight, “Here, with the nutrition plan we have in place and with working every day, that’s not going to be a problem,” defensive line coach John Mitchell said. “It doesn’t bother me.”
The rookie only has to look at the still recovering veteran, Casey Hampton if he needs any additional motivation for what not to do when entering a Steelers training camp in the future.
Personally, I’m extremely excited to see what Ta’amu can do for the Steelers this season. His size and brute strength make him a natural at the nose position on Dick Lebeau’s defense and the seeming heir apparent to Hampton.
He won’t just be handed the job though, no Steeler is given anything no matter what round you were drafted in or what your name is. He will see the field regularly whether he is the starter or not; the Steelers use a rotation system on their defensive line to keep the big guys fresh for late in the game. Unlike the offensive line, the defensive guys aren’t always all on the field at the same time together. If incumbent Steve McLendon does get the starting nod we will still see a significant amount of Ta’amu in the lineup as he learns on the job.
First round pick in 2011, Cam Heyward out of OSU saw increased snaps as the year went on, partly due to injuries to Brett Keisel but it was valuable experience nonetheless. Ta’amu will find himself in a similar situation in 2012 especially with Hampton recovering from his ACL surgery and no official timetable left.
Like we’ve been saying all along, it’s going to be a great training camp and preseason to watch this year for the Steelers.