It was in March of last year that I wrote an article about the ‘steel’ feel that was starting to brew down south. The Tennessee Titans brought in former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau the year prior, and over the course of the next couple of offseasons, the Steelers presence became quite palpable.
By the time that I wrote the aforementioned article, the Titans had already signed three former Steelers players in Antwon Blake, Brice McCain, and Sean Spence. Already on the roster was Al Woods, and B.W. Webb had spent time there as well.
Of course, Ken Whisenhunt, the Steelers’ former offensive coordinator, was the head coach, and was then fired and replaced with Mike Mularkey, another former Steelers offensive coordinator. So when the Steelers brought in Steven Johnson from Tennessee last year, he had already heard some things.
That was definitely the case for Daimion Stafford, whom Pittsburgh just brought in last week to compete at the safety position. Playing under the team’s former defensive coordinator, it was fortuitous that he could slide into a defense in the middle of the year that he would a higher than average level of familiarity with.
“I’ve heard random stories about everything”, he told reporters recently during OTAs, in which he was already participating. “You hear about how hard-nosed the Steelers are, they just have that culture around here”.
Stafford echoed what I said above about the Pittsburgh presence, saying that they “had a lot of guys in Tennessee that were from here”. It wasn’t just limited to the players, or the major coaches, either. Several former Steelers were also on the coaching staff among positional assignments.
Most notable is the fact that Deshea Townsend works with the Titans’ secondary. Nick Eason and Keith Willis work with the defensive line. Others who have coached in Pittsburgh are also on staff, such as Bobby April and Russ Grimm, whom Whisenhunt originally brought with him to Arizona, and then to Tennessee.
While he may have heard a lot of stories, he no doubt was relieved when he arrived to discover that they were accurate. “Everything they said is pretty true about the guys’ character and just how [Head Coach Mike Tomlin] is and things like that”, he told reporters.
Stafford has had issues over the course of his career controlling his weight, and that was a contributing factor in his wait for a contract this offseason. He previously came in for a visit, but the Steelers asked him to drop some weight and report back when he did.
Now he is on board in an organization about which he has heard stories, and is ready to write some of his own. Of course, first he has to make the roster, which is not guaranteed. But he should make more than a fair run at claiming a spot. Especially given how familiar he already has been with Pittsburgh without ever being there before—not since the first game of his rookie season, anyway, which the Titans won.