The debate and discourse worthy of a hot-button political issue has centered on the drafting of a punter.
Not that Steelers special teams coach Bob Ligashesky is surprised.
"That just shows you how much Pittsburgh is involved with the Steelers," Ligashesky said. "So I think it's great that they're that much in tune with it." If "Lig" appreciates the passion the Steelers generate in these parts, that's because he is as Pittsburgh as chipped ham and gum bands.
Ligashesky, 44, grew up going to Steelers games at Three Rivers Stadium and playing football at Sto-Rox High School and then Indiana (Pa.).
Given his roots here, it is safe to say that last weekend's draft -- the Steelers took punter Daniel Sepulveda, a two-time Ray Guy Award winner at Baylor, and several other players that should help on special teams -- is far from the only happy return Ligashesky has gotten.
He had, in fact, been looking for work -- St. Louis declined to renew his contract after two years as the Rams' special teams coach -- when Mike Tomlin got the Steelers' head coaching job.
The two knew each other through a mutual friend, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, and Bisaccia recommended Ligashesky to Tomlin.
Just like that, Ligashesky went from not having a job to having a dream one.
"It's only ideal," Ligashesky said of coming home, "when we win the Super Bowl."
The Steelers figure to get their money's worth out of Ligashesky as they try to achieve that goal.
At the Steelers' first minicamp, the guy with the spiky brown hair barked out instructions and encouragement and generally hopped around the practice fields as if someone had put lit firecrackers in his tennis shoes.
The sense of urgency that Ligashesky showed is somewhat common to coaches in his position.
They have a limited amount of time to work with large groups of players.
They have to maximize that time so they can minimize the margin for error since no miscues are more glaring than the ones that occur on special teams.
"You have 30 plays in a game and 29 are good and one isn't, that's what you remember," Ligashesky said. "You're trying to get that big play on your side, and a lot of time that's what special teams are."
Ligashesky has coached special teams at Pitt -- he was a Panthers assistant from 2000-03 -- and other colleges as well as with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Rams.
The one common thread that runs through his football career as a player and coach is Ligashesky's refusal to let the opposition "out-will" him.
That trait, he said, is something that has been ingrained in him from the time his love affair with football started.
"And I think that's the mentality of this area of the country, whether it's football or working in the mills," Ligashesky said. "We're going to out-work you, and we're going to out-tough you, and I think that's the mentality that you grow up here with from your parents."
That mentality should serve Ligashesky well.
The Steelers' draft class is a clear indication Tomlin and his assistants have deemed special teams as an area that needs to be shored up.
The responsibility for that will fall largely on Ligashesky. That may explain why he seems to have the energy of someone the square root of his age when he is on the practice fields.
Ligashesky said his overcaffeinated style isn't something he does for show -- or consciously, for that matter.
It is simply who he is as a coach.
And a guy who is through and through Pittsburgh. "You're trying to make it fun as long as you understand what fun is: fun is working hard and getting things right," Ligashesky said. "And you're trying to bring that fun and that energy in a positive manner to help the team win."
By Scott Brown
Friday, May 4, 2007