Former Steeler Tunch Ilkin has a wealth of knowledge and insight about the black and gold. During the season, Ilkin can be heard on the radio and seen on Steelers.com, breaking down plays and analyzing players and matchups.
On Thursday afternoon, though, Steelers Nation Unite members received an exclusive opportunity to chat with Ilkin on a fan forum conference call and get his thoughts on this year's team with training camp on the horizon.
Coming off a record-setting campaign, many are looking at the Steelers offense to once again lead the team and repeat last season's performance. Ilkin thinks the offense can take it another level in 2015 and points to the guys up front as a big reason.
"I think that they have the potential to be even better, if that's possible, because the offensive line is going to be better," said Ilkin.
He also knows that Ben Roethlisberger is playing perhaps the best football of his career.
"Ben is playing at a level that is off the charts and part of that is because his physical game has not suffered any as he has matured, and yet his mental and emotional maturity and his understanding of the game is probably at its peak," said Ilkin. "I think we're going to see another great year from Ben. I think this offense is going to be very explosive."
After spending 13 seasons as a player, Ilkin has many memories from summer training camp at Saint Vincent College. However, there is one that stands out in his mind, and it came on his first day as a player.
"My most memorable moment was the first time I was on the field and I saw Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White and all those guys walking down the field. I went to Indiana State University and there were 18,000 fans at the first Steelers practice my rookie year. We didn't get 18,000 at homecoming at Indiana State," said Ilkin with a laugh.
"I remember asking myself if it was appropriate to get an autograph because if I got cut I didn't want to go home empty-handed," Ilkin joked. "But just seeing the fans and the crazy Steelers Nation – 18,000 fans, all those Hall of Famers, they had just won their fourth Super Bowl and I just remember looking around and going, 'I can't believe I'm here with the Pittsburgh Steelers.'"
Having been with the organization for so many years, Ilkin has spent many summers at Saint Vincent College and in the greater Latrobe area. During the exclusive call, one Steelers Nation Unite member wanted to know where Tunch enjoyed grabbing a bite to eat at the team's summer home.
While many fans have their favorite spots to visit for a bite to eat when visiting training camp, Ilkin also had his as a player, and the reasoning behind it was interesting.
"I liked to go up to Ligonier and go to Bull's Tavern. Bull was a great gentleman who opened the place when I was a rookie, but has since passed. They used to have the best frog legs anywhere," Ilkin said.
"When we were rookies, we'd go up there when meetings would end and he'd be waiting for us. Right about 9:30 he'd come out with a giant platter of frog legs. We'd throw darts and shoot pool. He had one of the first Pac Man and Space Invaders machines. That was by far my favorite place to eat."
And as the call was ending, the former Steeler made it known that he feels there is a lot of potential for the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers.
"This defense is going to be a lot better than everybody thinks and this offense is going to be spectacular," said Ilkin in his closing comments. "When we start chatting again once the season starts, you're going to see that this is going to be a fun football year."
Be sure to get connected with Steelers Nation Unite for more opportunities to interact directly with your favorite team and your favorite players as training camp and the season get underway.
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