Thinking out loud with the Wolf Man
Craig Wolfley 28-Jul-07
It's been a while, but former Steelers lineman Craig Wolfley is back with a vengeance. He's watched a handful of practices, eaten his body weight in ribs, and now churns out a notes column from the Steelers' training camp.
Ya gotta be kidding me. Time warp time, what year is this, 2007 or 1987? As I stood on the sidelines at Saint Vincent College, I couldn't help but chuckle as I watched some serious thud work going down out on the field.
Shades of Chuck Noll, these are fun practices to watch! I haven't seen guys lacing each other with such gusto since I roamed those fields mucho years ago. I don't remember bodies hitting the deck with such regularity in the recent past.
I've had conversations with Aaron Smith in the past where we would argue about how he was lucky to experience "Club Cowher." I would rail on about a Chuck Noll camp, which was all about surviving the day rather than making the team. If you survived the day, then there was tomorrow. Enough tomorrows, then you thought about making the team.
Aaron would just smile knowingly, and then ask if I had to walk five miles uphill to and from the practice field in a snowstorm. I think Aaron is going to get a taste of throwback.
* Tell me Willie Reid doesn't want an Anthony Smith early warning device implanted into his helmet. Reid may want to get turn signals installed in his grill to keep that "Syracuse Man" from whacking him as he turns up field.
* Then there's the Kemoeatu on a search and destroy mission. He pulls from the right guard position and does so full throttle. Chris then proceeds to make "goo" out of Goo Wallace. I'm telling you he planted Wallace like Johnny Appleseed with some trees on Arbor Day.
One of the things I've been critical of Big Chris in the past is his slowness on the pull. Keydrick Vincent had this problem, too. Heck, yours truly can still remember Chuck yelling at me to "run at top speed" while on the hunt. Being slow on the pull makes the ball carrier slow, and gives the chase guys on the defense time to react
One of the hardest things for a young buck to learn is to pull on a S&D and do your decision making at top speed. The guard has to be decisive. There is a subtle tendency to throttle it down as you survey the impact zone and decide who's DNA you're about to invade. It's all about the reps.
* Willie Colon has brought the edge back to one-on-one's. Back in the day, pass pro mano-y-mano was a life and death battle before your peers and as much a test of manhood as technique.
Through the years, because of the injury factor, the reps have been watered down in intensity. Guys wouldn't finish the rep. They would keep it civil.
Thanks to Willie, the amps have been revved up quite a bit. Ask LaMarr Woodley how it felt to be pancaked in a pass pro drill. It looked more like the old Oklahoma drill we used to do. That was an old school kill shot laid on Woodley.
* Speaking of Woodley, he laid one on Najeh Davenport. Er, make that two. Backs on backers is always one of my can't-miss-camp-favorite drills that revs up the crowd. Good family fun.
* Jason Capizzi is interesting. For a guy from a smaller school, he's got a lot going for him. Despite his height, he can hunker-down-dawg and flat back it on a straight block. Good feet, and he can turn his hips. I saw him mulch a guy or two.
* I really like that Matt Spaeth. He comes off the ball with a nice flat back and rolls his hips. Spaeth also keeps his feet. He's not easily thrown to the ground.
* Another Tomlin innovation I like is when the TEs go one-on-one run blocking with the OLBs. One of the TEs will take a pitch and run with the ball. The linebacker has to watch the ball carrier and try to adjust accordingly. He can't just tee off on the TE. It makes the drill much more like game day.
* By the by, the food service up at SVC is just outstanding. Had me some mighty fine ribs fresh off the grill while dining with the Turkish one. Now that Tunch Ilkin has gone organic in his eating habits, I couldn't resist rubbing it in and making him miserable. While I strapped on the feed bag with extra sauce, Tunch was enjoying a fine salad complete with sprouts and lentil beans. Tree hugger.
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