LATROBE, Pa. – Find me a football coach who doesn’t covet speed, and I’ll walk from St. Vincent College to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
And that is with rookie defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 352 pounds, sitting on my shoulders.
But speed can apparently be overvalued in football, even when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.
“Good defense is really predicated on being where it is you’re supposed to be and good tackling,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Speed is an awesome asset but it’s not going to be the defining asset for us. It’s going to be our ability to play smart collectively and be a good tackling group. It’s football. It’s not a track meet.”
The Steelers’ improved speed on defense emerged as one of the early themes of training camp as several players, including veteran cornerback Ike Taylor, talked about it after reporting to St. Vincent College.
Taylor said the Steelers’ speed on defense reminds him of the 2004 and 2005 teams. Defensive end Cameron Heyward said the speed that the Steelers have added through the draft and free agency stood out during offseason practices.
“I think that’s the one thing you can take from OTAs and minicamp,” Heyward said, “but I think I think you want to see the speed with the physicality of it and see how the wear and tear goes being in pads full-time now.”
The Steelers will see plenty of that.
Tomlin has already said that it will be a physical camp and he hinted that there could be tackling as early as Monday – the first day that the Steelers are allowed to hit.
As for all of that speed on defense, Tomlin said, “Obviously we’ve got some young people that are capable of infusing some speed into the unit, but we’re not going to be talking too much about it. It seems like too much has been talked about it already.”