Tomlin-isms. Mike Tomlin loves them. They’ve gained a sort of cult following in Pittsburgh. Obviously. We’ll defend every blade of grass. We’re going to unleash Hell.
Ok, let’s forget about that last one.
But at the end of minicamp, the last event standing between grueling, 18 practice, five game preseason, Tomlin was blunt. And stern.
“I want them to get in the very best physical condition possible; that’s all they have control over…What they do have control over is the level of conditioning that they show up in. That’s been the consistent message from us,” he told reporters on the last day of minicamp.
Numerous coaches and veterans have echoed those words. Shakim Phillips talked to me about Richard Mann preaching good conditioning. Maurkice Pouncey spoke to conditioning helping players withstanding the grueling nature of training camp while Arthur Moats pointed out the need to hold yourself accountable to your diet and training.
It’s impossible to say how unique this is, players train hard every offseason, but countless Steelers are using these June and July months to put their bodies – and their NFL chances – in the best possible position.
The NFL is a fraternity and those who spend time on the same team develop an even closer bond. And, at the risk of sounding homerish, perhaps no unit ends up closer than those who spend the majority of their career in Pittsburgh. Ike Taylor was a lifer, a rare feat to achieve in the hustle and bustle state of free agency. Ryan Clark didn’t spend his entire career in Pittsburgh but then again, it sure feels like it.
So it should come as no shock that current Steelers are flocking to the recently retired duo. Taylor trained under Tom Shaw for years, arguably owing his longevity to him. Now, Taylor has become a trainer alongside him, currently coaching up Vince Williams, Cortez Allen, Antwon Blake, and William Gay.
Robert Golden is in Arizona working with Clark at “Safety “U” with several other NFL defensive backs.
Pete Bommarito may be the only man able to give Shaw a run for his money as the most renowned trainer in Florida. Le’Veon Bell, Marcus Gilbert, and Sean Spence are all clients.
Antonio Brown and Josh Harris have hooked up with Miami trainer Bo Smith. Smith has an extensive clientele list including: Andre Johnson, Santana Moss, Chad Johnson, and Ricky Jean-Francois.
Here, it’s not just players working separately. Brown and Harris have pitted themselves against excellent competition. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and CB Xavier Rhodes of the Minnesota Vikings, WR Stedman Bailey of the St. Louis Rams, and CB Kayvon Webster of the Denver Broncos all have joined them. It’s practically 7-on-7s in July.
On the other side of the country, we’ve repeatedly mentioned James Harrison and Kelvin Beachum’s work in Scottsdale, Arizona. Harrison is working at an elite facility with legendary workouts while Beachum is training with LeCharles Bentley in a rigourous program that’s not afraid to spit out the weak or disinterested. Jarvis Jones joined Harrison earlier in the offseason before and could be there now, too.
Elsewhere, Devin Gardner is back home at Performance 80 Fitness Studios in Michigan while B.W. Webb has taken up boxing, an ever popular NFL workout.
We’d be remiss to forget the time Stephon Tuitt put in with Chuck Smith before OTAs, a pass rush specialist who sees steady business.
Those are only the workouts we can see, the players who choose to make an imprint on social media. But what’s there is awfully impressive. These players have chosen to push themselves to the limit, whether it’s working in the daily 100+ degree Arizona heat, challenging top cornerbacks each day in workouts, or paying money to work with the most respected in the industry. Some Steelers are going to show up to training camp truly in the best shape of their lives.
It’d be easy to slow down, enjoy the time off, but these players know they’ll pay the price on July 26th. It’s easy to identify who went the extra mile and who didn’t after the first training camp practice. Remember when Bill Cowher cut Jamain Stephens shortly after the first round pick failed his conditioning test?
Tomlin is all about expectations, standards. The Steelers have responded in spectacular fashion and that’ll only help themselves, and by extension the team, in 2015.