By Teresa Varley
Head coach Mike Tomlin knows how important intangibles are. He knows that chemistry is a key for his football team, as is camaraderie and other things that can't be measured.
And there is no better place for that to develop than at training camp.
The Steelers will report to St. Vincent College on Sunday, an idyllic setting in the Laurel Mountains where distractions are few and time spent with teammates is plentiful.
Sure there are questions that need to be answered on the field, but before that happens, Tomlin is focusing on the intangibles.
"More than anything it's about the group dynamics, the development of leadership, the chemistry; the things that you can't measure are always a question to me," said Tomlin. "Some of the other things are always more obvious and sort themselves out where they should on the grass at training camp and in the preseason games.
"I am more concerned and more interested in the development of the things that you don't measure; the camaraderie, the natural leadership, the ever-changing roles that are involved on a football team."
One area where that all important chemistry will be most obvious is on the offensive line, where some changes could take place. While Tomlin hasn't inked in any starters yet at the majority of positions, center will make for an interesting battle and one that will hopefully play itself out early.
"It is open, like all of our positions are open," said Tomlin. "We have two guys there, Sean Mahan of course who played quite a bit for us last year and started every game, and Justin Hartwig who was picked up in free agency and has been a starter at that position. That will be a hotly contested battle and one that I am excited about watching unfold. If I write in pencil at this time it is very light, and I've got a nice eraser at all positions."
Tomlin is also excited to see what last year's rookie class, led by Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley, will do this year in camp. He is expecting big things out of them, and others, in their sophomore season.
"We will put a bunch of pressure on those two men as we will everybody else in that draft class," said Tomlin. "I think that when you look at the changes that occur on a football team from year-to-year, those second-year men have the biggest and best opportunity to make a dramatic jump in how they approach their business and in their level of productivity in their roles on the football team.
"Those are two men who have worked extremely hard in the offseason and have shown that at this point they are going to be ready to make that jump. They have to do it with their actions and I think that they are in the right frame of mind to do that. I am excited about watching those roles grow and expand, as I am with guys such as Matt Spaeth, Daniel Sepulveda, Ryan McBean, William Gay, Darnell Stapleton and Gary Russell. All of those guys, Dallas Baker, the second-year guys that weren't on our 53-man active roster, the practice squad guys who have been through the 12-month calendar if you will, and it is their second lap around the track.
"There are no unknowns for those guys. There is a great deal of comfort in that, and hopefully that produces the outcome that we are looking for, which is quality play from them."