On the Steelers: Players doing little during lockout

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The Steelers generally have not followed the practice of some other teams, except for some informal and sporadic gatherings led by Ben Roethlisberger with his wide receivers and a few linemen at a local high school.

There have been no organized gatherings by the defense, and safety Ryan Clark believes this long rest from football will benefit that unit.

"The good thing for us," Clark said, "is there are no spring chickens on defense. This time's been good for healing of your bodies. The mental part? We know how to play football. We know how to run cover 3. That dog blitz will still be deadly. We'll be fine."

Most players have been working out on their own or with a few teammates. Ike Taylor, James Farrior, William Gay and others are working with trainer Tom Shaw in Orlando, Fla. The past week, that group traveled to Atlanta to work with another instructor's group of players there.

Clark said Roethlisberger's "workouts are good for receiver/quarterback timing, but if you can't get a whole gang together, there's definitely not much you can do there that you can't do on your own. There will never be OTAs, minicamp, but it's good to get the guys together and work.

"It's tough for us on defense. I don't know any DBs other than myself and Ryan Mundy who stay in this area. Asking guys who don't live here to come up, get housing and all that, it's a tough sell."

Nose tackle Chris Hoke agreed with Clark.

"I guarantee you this, our defense is not going to do anything. One day, when they lifted the lockout, our strength coach had everything out and ready to go at 7 a.m., and nobody showed up. How do you expect guys in Hawaii or here and there or down south to quickly get here to work out?

"I would say 90 percent of the veteran players are fine with this lockout right now. I want to be in training camp, but, if we're not going in now, when's the last time I could go work out 3-4 hours in the morning and have the afternoon with my wife? Never."

Hoke said he is working out the same way he does after the spring drills with his teammates would have ended.

"I miss being out there running around, miss the guys, miss the D-linemen. You miss that stuff, but you have to look at the positives."

There are, however, unexpected drawbacks to not working out at the Steelers' facility.

"I'm doing the same workout I always do in June and July," Hoke said. "On Monday, I go to the gym, work out, go down to the soccer fields by my house, run cone drills and stuff."

But this past Monday, he forgot something.

"I get there and open my truck and there were no cleats. I took my bag of cleats out of the truck when I went camping with the boys, and, when I went to run, they were not there. I was sitting at the field with no cleats, no nothing.

"I also run sprints on a treadmill at home. I get home and now I can't find the key to the treadmill. My wife put it somewhere. That's the kind of stuff you don't get when you work out on the South Side."

There, his cleats are in his locker and all the equipment works.

Larry Foote said he is working out with the University of Michigan women's track coach, training, running, lifting weights. Like Hoke, the thing that's lost for Foote is being around his teammates.

"You miss your boys. Normally, I'm driving back and forth up the turnpike," said Foote, who makes his home near Detroit. "That football itch is starting to come back."

Still, Foote believes a reduced camp wouldn't hurt the Steelers.

"Call us in the middle of August, and we'll be ready to go for the first week."

'How the heck are they laying people off?'

Foote became angry when he read in a Detroit newspaper about the Lions forcing employees to take unpaid furloughs because of the lockout. Many teams have done this, including the Baltimore Ravens, who this week rescinded a 25 percent pay cut for office staff and repaid them the money after it became public.

"That's ridiculous. We all know through this lockout owners aren't losing money, they're making money," Foote said. "They pay us $1,000 a week just to work out. Roster bonuses haven't been paid."

They also don't have to pay health insurance, contribute to the pension fund, pay for medical issues, pay for lunches during the spring workouts and much more.

"To lay people off to save money," Foote exclaimed. "I don't know who they're trying to fool. How the heck are they laying people off? I don't get that part. That ain't right right there. That's affecting people's lives; they're not making millions of dollars, many of them are going check to check.

"It's the first time I actually got mad when I read that the other day. They're going too far. That's ridiculous now. The owners are starting to make themselves look like the big companies that move people outside the country. I'm not talking about the Rooneys, I know what they're cut from."

Ryan Clark: Dance judge

Like many of Hines Ward's teammates, Clark watched the finale of "Dancing With the Stars" Tuesday night. Clark was disappointed. He wanted more drama.

"It was a weird deal," Clark said. "They took the suspense out of it when Chelsea Kane finished third. Kirstie Alley has great spirit and did a good job, but she was not close in the competition to Hines. Once Chelsea was out, if Hines lost, it would have been a big disappointment."

Clark called Ward's performance "amazing, right?"

It was the first victory for an active NFL player. Emmitt Smith won the event after he retired.

"I'm surprised he didn't cry," Clark said about Ward's win.

"I was expecting him to shed a few tears for us. He didn't give me what I wanted.

"I never watched other seasons, but I can actually say while watching Hines do a few of those dances, you couldn't tell the difference between him and the real dancers.

"For a guy who has some of the worst end zone dances in NFL history, he did well."

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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