Deshea Townsend is taking the Steelers' coaching change in stride and trying to impress Mike Tomlin.
They form a three-man triangle and take turns swatting the ball back and forth to each other as if it were a hot potato.
Deshea Townsend, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark don’t have a real name for the little game they’ve come up with as one of their after practice workouts. But the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs do have a method to their madness.
“It’s something we started on this offseason for hand-eye coordination. I guess it’s kind of like a game of pepper,” said Townsend of the drill. “We DBs don’t get to touch the ball too much in practice, so its a way to kind of help our ball skills while having a little fun too.”
The little drill is just one of the ways the players use to help break up the monotony of their spring drills as they work through the third week of their OTAs here at the team’s practice facility on the South Side.
Then again, with the way that new head coach Mike Tomlin has been rotating players on the first-team, just showing up at practice is a different situation every day.
“We’re looking at a lot of combos,” said Townsend. “It just gets you more ready for the game.”
But with nearly every cornerback on the roster seeing some time either with the first team defense or as the nickel back, does it make things seem more like an open competition?
“It’s always a competition,” said Townsend, who is entering his 10th season with the Steelers. “You have to think that. There’s always somebody here to get your job.”
This year, it seems like a three-man fight for the two starting jobs, with some combination Townsend, Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden lining up with the starting defense at some point and other corners on the roster getting long looks with the first team units on passing downs.
But that didn’t always seem to be the case under former head coach Bill Cowher, when a lot of positions seemed to be set in stone. In fact, Townsend had to wait six seasons as the team’s No. 3 corner before finally getting his shot to start.
“Even then, I always came to fight,” said Townsend. “I still had to come and get my job. That’s how I had to see it. There’s always going to be competition at this position. That’s how you become an elite team, when the guy behind you could be a starter.
“Everybody has got to be ready to play. It’s about getting reps for guys and seeing what they can do.”
It’s all part of the new coach taking a good long look at the entire roster.
“I was taught to be a professional, so whenever change came, you had to be ready for it,” said Townsend. “Regardless of who the coach is, I try to go out and prepare the same way and make his transition a little easier. I’m one of the older guys here, so I try to get the younger guys to be ready to follow the new leader. That’s how you have to approach.”
By Dale Lolley
Posted 7 June 2007