By Teresa Varley
Latrobe, PA - Many of the Steelers offensive linemen arrived at St. Vincent College for training camp on Sunday fit and trim, looking like they just completed one of those weight loss programs that you can never escape from when watching television.
But there were no gimmicks, no group meetings and no prepackaged meals.
"It's training," said tackle Max Starks. "Getting ready for the season ahead you have to be in the best shape of your life. Also, out here in the sun it's not good to be overweight."
Starks said he shed 10 pounds, but he looked much leaner, so much so that some of the assembled media didn't even realize it was him when he first got out of his Hummer.
"That's just an individual thing," said Starks. "Coaches give you a weight to come in at for camp. For us it was no different than any of the years past. It was about guys wanting to come in prepared for a long grueling season. The schedule looks tough, but if you are well-equipped it doesn't matter who the opponent is."
Fellow tackle Willie Colon also dropped about 10 pounds prior to camp, happy to be in shape for the tough competition ahead. Colon, who started last year at right tackle, knows that he and Starks will be fighting for playing time at that spot. He is up for the challenge of defending his starting position.
"They are putting us in a pot and seeing who is going to cook," said Colon. "Max is a great ball player. He has been working hard. It was probably a blow to him not starting. For me I am not willing to give it up. I have been working hard all summer. I did everything I could to get better and improve. I am going to compete and make it happen."
And he is going to compete with a new look for the offensive line, and it has nothing to do with who the five starters are. Last year Larry Zierlein replaced Russ Grimm as the team's offensive line coach. But with a veteran group already in place on the line, there was some resistance to the changes Zierlein brought. This year, things are considerably different.
"I think Coach Zierlein took a blow. He wanted to establish his system," said Colon. "They put the reins on him as far as having such a veteran group. He held back some. His time is this year. We had all spring and OTAs learning what he wants us to do and we have to come in and perfect it."
Colon didn't get specific as to what changes were resisted, and did say that no player hindered the team's progress. But he did point out how some just weren't ready or willing to make a change.
"Any time you have a new coach come in it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks," said Colon. "It doesn't work like that. With Alan (Faneca) gone it's a new year, a new ship. There are a lot of guys on deck. Alan is gone and we all realize that. Coach Zeirlien is the boss and we all realize that."
Head coach Mike Tomlin understands that change is hard as he knows last year was an adjustment for players who were used to things being run a certain way. He also knows that change is inevitable.
"I don't know about (what Willie said) specifically, but from a human nature standpoint, we're all resistant to change," said Tomlin. "That's part of the process we went through last year as a football team. We don't take this process for granted, because there is continuity this year. We have to be open to getting better, to learning new things. Because there is familiarity, we can't take that for granted."
And so far, it looks like the line is now open to those changes, including the veterans.
"They are buying in to it," said Colon. "We need them to buy into it the most because they are the oldest and they need to lead us."