By John Harris
Monday, May 21, 2007
A new coach, Mike Tomlin, means new leadership for the Steelers.
It means players stepping out of their comfort zone and taking one for the team.
Every little thing means a lot. Even offseason workouts.
What began as a couple of players training at the Tom Shaw Performance Camp at Disney World's Wide World of Sports Complex has evolved into a Steelers group project.
No fewer than seven Steelers -- including six defensive players and three projected starters -- have made Orlando an offseason destination when they're not practicing or training with the team in Pittsburgh.
The players trained in Orlando prior to both minicamps. They'll return to Orlando following the organized team activities sessions scheduled tomorrow though June 14. They'll remain in Orlando until training camp opens in July.
Credit cornerback Ike Taylor and linebacker James Farrior with following Tomlin's advice and assuming more of a leadership role since the departure of linebacker Joey Porter.
"I'm not a rah-rah guy. I just try to do it by example,'' said Taylor, who has spoken often with Tomlin about becoming more of a team leader. "I just wanted to get the guys down there so we can get a feel for each other, especially on defense. If I can get guys to come to Orlando to work out, then we come back up here, just that togetherness, that brotherly love, that's all I'm looking for.''
The list of Steelers training in Orlando also includes linebacker Larry Foote, cornerbacks Bryant McFadden, Ricardo Colclough and Anthony Madison, and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
Seventh-round draft pick Dallas Baker, a wide receiver from Florida, trained in Orlando prior to the NFL Scouting Combine and the draft.
Speaking at the Steelers' recently completed minicamp, Farrior looked like he was in midseason form.
Shaw -- a noted conditioning expert and speed coach who has trained Farrior since his days with the New York Jets -- said Farrior is in better shape now than he was 10 years ago.
"When I leave here, whenever we don't have (team) obligations, I'm right back down in Orlando,'' Farrior said. "Ike lives down there. I stay with Ike, or I'll rent a place.
"Tom Shaw's probably one of the best trainers in the country. It's good to go down there and get some of that knowledge.''
The players say they enjoy training in Orlando because Shaw not only trains them hard, he focuses on their specific areas of need.
Farrior led the Steelers with 126 tackles in 2006. At 32, he's training this offseason to be a more physical player, Shaw said.
Taylor, meanwhile, wants to bounce back from an 8-8 season that included him missing five starts under former coach Bill Cowher.
"Ike's lifting a lot more this year. James is lifting a lot more -- he's never been like that this time of year,'' Shaw said. "Ike is trying his best not to let anyone talk negative about him. He's not leaving a stone unturned. If he's not in Pittsburgh working out, he's here working out.''
Shaw said former Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson is supposed to come to Orlando next month to work with Taylor on defensive back techniques.
"Some teams make their kids stay and do their program,'' Shaw said. "And it's not very specific to what they're doing. The good thing is the Steelers allow their players to go train where they want to train, or where they feel like they're getting better.''
Holmes said he came to Orlando last year for the first time after seeing former Ohio State teammate Michael Jenkins improve his 40 time.
"I got a lot more explosive in my legs and my abs,'' said Holmes, who caught 49 passes for 824 yards and two touchdowns and also returned a punt for a touchdown as a rookie.
Said Taylor: "We're going to get in great shape, we're going to work. If you're in great shape, the football aspect just comes natural.''
Tomlin will take take new team leadership wherever he can find it. Orlando looks like a good place to start.