Steelers notebook: Nostalgic trip for Bills coach Marrone



Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone had flashbacks Wednesday afternoon when he arrived at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. Twenty three years ago, Marrone spent the 1991 training camp with the Steelers before being cut by Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll.

That training camp turned out to be the last one for Noll, who retired after a 7-9 season. The Steelers and Bills held a joint practice Wednesday and will do so again today at Chuck Noll Field, named in honor of Noll in 2007.

"I remember we used to run down the hill before practice to get ready to go with Coach Noll," said Marrone, who played offensive line in the NFL for two seasons. "Do they still wear the black jerseys without the numbers on them? We had these black uniforms. We used to call them burlap sacks. They were tough. We used to run with our pads on with Coach Noll. I was going through that in my mind when I saw the field [upon arriving]."

Marrone recalled one camp practice when Noll gave him a history lesson on the derivation of the tackle-end twist.

"I was always intrigued about how intelligent he was about everything, not just about the sport of football," Marrone said. "Not being a very good football player and being on the look team, I'll never forget how Coach Noll used to jump in. I remember the one practice he played the defensive end and I was the defensive tackle giving the offense a look during a walk-through. I remember him explaining to me about an E-T twist and a T-E twist and how it came about and how the names were Exit and Texas.

"I thought it was pretty cool for him to take the time to talk to a guy who probably wasn't going to make the roster and give me a little bit of a history lesson. I always appreciated that."

Nunn is honored

The Steelers dedicated a bench near Chuck Noll Field in honor of scout Bill Nunn, Jr., who died earlier this year. Nunn used to watch every Steelers training-camp practice from the spot where the bench sits today, high atop the hill overlooking the practice fields.

Bills general manager Doug Whaley worked alongside Nunn in the Steelers scouting department for 10 years before he was hired by the Bills.

"He's one of the main reasons I'm front of you guys today," Whaley said.

Whaley said he remembered advice Nunn gave him in May when he traded away the Bills' 2015 first-round draft pick to move up in the draft this year to take receiver Sammy Watkins.

"I always remember him saying don't be afraid to make the deal," Whaley said. "That was one of the things in the back of my head [on draft day]. If you believe in it and it's fair. Don't be crazy but be fair. If it's fair, go ahead."

Long snapper down

The Steelers could be without longtime long snapper Greg Warren for an extended time. Coach Mike Tomlin said after practice Wednesday that Warren was injured in practice with what he said could be a "significant" leg injury. Tomlin said the injury is being evaluated, and he would have an update today.

Warren has been the Steelers long snapper since 2005. They have one other long snapper in training camp -- undrafted rookie free agent Bryce Davis, who played at Central Oklahoma.

There were no other significant injuries in practice. Fullback/tight end Will Johnson and safety Will Allen left with hamstring injuries. Tomlin said they appear to be minor injuries.

'Great etiquette'

Tomlin and Marrone discussed the practice schedule beforehand, and they agreed that fighting would not be tolerated. There were a few minor scuffles, but nothing approaching the incidents that have been taking place at other joint practices around the league.

"Great practice, great etiquette," Tomlin said. "I appreciate the professionalism by both teams. That doesn't get reported often enough. We like to turn on the TV and see gory, unfortunate incidents like what happened between Dallas and Oakland. We're here to prove that teams are capable of doing it in a productive and professional manner."

Familiar faces

Whaley's influence on the Bills roster is evident. Four former Steelers are on his training-camp roster, including starting offensive lineman Kraig Urbik and fullback Frank Summers. Doug Legursky is a backup center and Stevenson Sylvester is a backup inside linebacker. On his front-office staff, longtime Steelers scout Kelvin Fisher is Whaley's director of college scouting.

Quick hits

Linebackers Jarvis Jones (groin), Jordan Zumwalt (groin) and Vince Williams (possible concussion) were held out of practice. ... The Steelers signed running back Stephon Houston, who was cut Monday by the New England Patriots. Houston is a rookie from Indiana. ... The final practice at Saint Vincent College takes place at 5:30 p.m. today. The Steelers break camp Friday morning and play the Bills Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.


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