LATROBE, Pa. – They were three players who loved their time with the Steelers. They loved playing football, loved the game and the sense of family that came along with it.
But just like everyone who puts a helmet on, they couldn't play forever. So they found another way to channel their passion for the game, they cover it as NFL analysts for ESPN.
Former Steelers running backs Jerome Bettis and Merril Hoge and safety Ryan Clark are all part of ESPN's NFL coverage, which included them making a stop at Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College on Monday.
"The best part of it is it still gives you a piece of football," said Clark, who began the transition to television while still playing. "I still get to do the things I love about football except hitting people. I get to watch the film, breakdown what each team is doing, the pros and cons of the players I am studying. That part is fun. I always loved being in the meeting room, watching film. I have enjoyed that."
Bettis, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015 on Aug. 8, loves talking football. So why not do it for a living.
The ESPN crew paid a visit to Steelers Training Camp. Jerome Bettis, Ryan Clark and Mike Tomlin spent some time on set.
"I have enjoyed it," said Bettis. "It gives me the opportunity to still talk about football, be a part of football, without taking any of the hits. I enjoy it."
When the time came for Hoge to decide on his future, it was former Steelers Coach Chuck Noll who provided the insight for what direction he should go. Noll wasn't one to tell a player what to do, but rather give words of wisdom to make the decision easy.
"I will go back to Chuck Noll," said Hoge. "He and I debated should I coach or do this. The tipping point was passion. He told me do what I am passionate about. I was more passionate about broadcasting than coaching at the time.
"I love doing this because it gives me a chance to help fans understand the game. I tell it like this - you tell the truth and have evidence of the truth. You say things so the fans can understand it. This game evolves and to stay on top of this is challenging, but that is what creates the passion every year."