While it has not necessarily been the norm, the Pittsburgh Steelers have from time to time enjoyed shared practices with select squads. Two years ago, they worked out a two-year agreement to hold a couple of joint practices with the Bills, though that fell through for last season in the midst of a regime change.
Seemingly having reignited a desire to hold competitive practice against actual competition, Pittsburgh is once again holding a joint practice with an opposing team, this time against the Detroit Lions, against whom they will play in their opening preseason game later this week, on Friday.
But as least one Lions player is hoping for a pretty tame affair. Detroit safety Glover Quin recently told reporters that he hopes “no one’s acting crazy”. “They’re always fun”, he said, “until somebody starts acting crazy and people start acting crazy and then everybody starts acting crazy”, alluding no doubt to physical altercations.
In recent years, the Steelers have not had many skirmishes within their own midst. Nor do I recall any significant incidents between Pittsburgh’s players and Buffalo’s when they competed against one another in Latrobe for a couple of days back in 2014, though that is not to say everything will be peace and love when practice resumes.
It will not help matters that the Lions hold on their roster two prominent former Bengals, who were will Cincinnati as recently as last season. Both wide receiver Marvin Jones and defensive end Wallace Gilberry signed with Detroit in the offseason and—wouldn’t you know it—both have taken issue with the Steelers in the past year.
For his part, Jones was lit up by safety Mike Mitchell during one of their meetings in 2015 as he stretched out to try to snare an overthrown pass deep down the field. Mitchell leveled him with a clean but physical strike to his midsection that left him on the field for a short while.
Gilberry managed to have multiple confrontations with the Steelers’ offensive linemen, most notably Marcus Gilbert. After one game, Gilbert not only told reporters that Gilberry was a clown, but also instructed them to inform Gilberry of what he said.
Oh, there are also former Ravens Haloti Ngata and Anquan Boldin on their roster, so that should add additional flavor to the AFC North reunion theme that will underscore at least part of these joint practice sessions with the Lions.
With all that said, I don’t expect there to be any serious issue. There rarely is, after all, even if the media might do its best to exaggerate the significance of a push and a shove here and there. Mike Tomlin values his team’s ability to compete with both intensity and discipline.
“Hopefully we can go down there and get some good work”, Quin said, “because they’ve got some really good offensive players who we want to get some good work against”. Though he didn’t leave out the defensive players, I suspect the Steelers defense is also looking forward to being tested by the Lions’ passing game.