Steel Quotes: The Coaching Sessions's Jim Wexell caught up with head coach Bill Cowher, running back Jerome Bettis, rookie safety Troy Polamalu, and tight end Mark Bruener today and touched on everything from Bettis' physical condition and the rumored release of Bruener, to what its like to cover Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress.


I feel good physically. I had a good time in LA training with Coach (Bob) Kersee and I'm ready to go. The knee's fine. We had the corrective surgery, the surgery went well and now I'm ready to go.

How important are these practices?
Not very. After 10 years, seven years in the same place, it's like clockwork. But you come out here, inspire confidence in the rest of your teammates and you get ready to go.

How's the weight?
I feel good about it. I'm just glad that I'm healthy. It's been two years since I could go into an off-season healthy. I feel good.

What did you do in Los Angeles?
A little bit of everything. Sprints, plyometrics, stairs, lifting, you name it we did it. It was a fully comprehensive look at what a track-and-field person would go through.

Will you go back after minicamp?
I always go out there the end of June and stay until the end of July. That won't change.

Do you feel you have something to prove?
I don't have anything to prove. I think 10 years in and what I've done, I think that proves it all. I just think that sometimes you need to show people that it's still there. It's just an opportunity for me to come out and show everybody Bus still has some tread left.

Did the thought you wouldn't be back here cross your mind?
It never crossed my mind. It was one of those things where physically how well your body's going to recover. I'm not a young one anymore. Your body recovers a little bit different the older you get. I didn't know how I was going to recover. We recovered beautifully. (Trainer) John Norwig here and Coach Kersee out in California, the combination did a great job.

Encouraged that they didn't draft a running back?
It was encouraging but just about every year I've been here they've drafted a running back. This is probably one of the first years they didn't, so that may be strange.

What's the status of your position?
I'm not hearing a thing. It's the first day out. We'll see what happens. Whatever it is you've just got to deal with it. You figure nobody's going to be really happy, myself nor Amos (Zereoue), but you work within the parameters of the team concept and you do what they ask you to do.

Are you still a feature 12-1300 yard back in this league?
Well until I'm not playing that's what I consider myself.


How did practice go?
It's the first one and I told the guys, in all the years I've been here this is the first time we've had everybody here – all the ones that can be here. Jack (Fadule) is the only guy who's not here. He's graduating from Harvard so we don't want to interrupt that. But I think it's important. We've got the next four weeks: three sessions this week; three the next; and then four and four. This is the foundation. This is our football team and this is everybody and this is where it starts. It doesn't start in training camp. It really starts about now. I appreciate everybody showing up who doesn't have to be here, but it's good that they were. But it is important and it's kind of us again getting together for the first time and hopefully picking up where we left off.

Encouraging to have Bettis back?
Yeah it's encouraging to have everybody back. Jerome's been working hard. He was out here working. The only one who wasn't doing things full speed was Mike Logan and we're very optimistic. He's way ahead of schedule. Obviously we're not playing games this spring so we're going to take him along and be very cautious about it.

Jerome looks great, doesn't he?
Yeah, I think all the guys did. That's why we ran them a little bit today and it was good to see. Like I said, this is the 12th year I've been here and I think it's the first time we've had everybody here on day one. Hopefully they'll stay in town the next month. It was a very impressive start toward this season. It was just good to see everybody on the field today.

Bettis' status?
He's on our football team. You know, there's no guarantees. There's going to be some very competitive situations going into camp with Amos and Fu (Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala) and Jerome. There's no guarantees but oh no he's here. The way he's approached the off-season I think it's obvious to a lot of people he's out to remove any doubt anyone may have. There's no uncertainty as far as that's concerned in terms of him being a part of this football team.

Does he look better than at the end of last season?
Yeah, I mean, again he looks great. They cleaned his knee at the end of the season. He's fine and he's been working out. He's out here on day one. It's great to see, but not just him, everybody.

What's Troy Polamalu showing you?
He's learning the defense and he'll get a good opportunity to be in there while Mike is rehabbing his injuries. It's going to be an ongoing learning process. Every practice and every day is going to be a big part of his growth.


It's nice to have the veterans here and learn from them. Brent Alexander and Mike Logan are great players and it's nice to be able to learn from them. I'm only playing right now because he's injured. I'm sure when he gets back he'll be in the starting role and I'll be able to learn with him and hopefully we'll make each other better. With his experience I'm sure he's in the lead role right now. I don't see it as an issue at all, as long as I'm learning from him. And if he's in the starting role and I'm able to help on special teams, I'll go in and give it my best shot and do everything to learn from both safeties.

What was covering NFL receivers like Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress like?
They're great wide receivers and you can definitely feel their presence on the field.

Who'd you cover today?
No one. I was in zones all practice, the deep third.

Why did you stay on the field after practice?
It's a lot of time to get better. I ain't got nothing else to do the rest of the day.

Did you notice the difference in speed?
Oh, definitely. It's tons faster than college. But after playing against top-level competition in the PAC 10 and playing against the West Coast offense obviously is something I'm very used to. The transition of the speed wasn't too bad but there's definitely a difference.

Is this city a drastic change for you?
Not really. I was raised in Oregon in a really, really small town. But I went to the extreme opposite in L.A. Now I get a good mix of both here.


It's amazing how quick the off-season goes. It almost feels like we're practicing and I'm wondering who we're going to play this Sunday to be honest with you. It goes by pretty quick.

Are you going to be on this team?
That's a good question. I'm approaching this off-season program as I've approached the last eight, and that's to help this club and organization win a championship. There are a lot of questions that are out there. What's going to happen? I don't know. We may have to wait until the end of training camp; we might know sooner than that. But my approach hasn't changed. I'm going to do everything I can to prove to this organization I have a lot of football ability left in me. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You've got to move on. It's a brutal business unfortunately. I've been fortunate that I've been here eight years and I've enjoyed every year, and I hope to play a lot more. If it's not in a Steelers uniform, I'll be very disappointed. But I still believe I can contribute to a football team. I hope it's here but we'll cross that hurdle when it comes.

Would you take a pay cut?
I don't know. That hasn't been discussed. If the question comes to me, that'll be addressed when it comes.

Have you approached them and asked about their plans?
No. I don't think I need to right now. I feel this organization is going to be straight with me if a decision's going to be made. I haven't had a reason to change my approach, with how I'm working with Chet Fuhrman, our strength coach, and with the coaches out here. I'm going to keep doing that. I'm going to show up for work every day with the same attitude I've had. If that has to change then I'll have to adjust, but I feel I shouldn't worry about things I can't control and worry about things I can control. If I change my attitude because of what-ifs and worst-case scenarios that people are predicting than I really think it's going to change the person that I am. I don't think that's fair to my teammates nor fair to my family. So why not approach every day like I've been and worry about adversity or an issue when it comes?

Were you disappointed in the signing of Jay Riemersma?
No. I think Jay Riemersma's a great tight end. I've had a brief opportunity to work with him and I think he's going to be a solid contributor and a great asset for our organization. I really think he's going to be a great receiving tight end and I'm going to help Jay in every way that I can. We had our first practice today and I tried to help him out. Why not? If he's going to be here in September and he's going to be a part of this puzzle, why not try to help him and make him the best player he can and hopefully help this organization win a championship.

What do you think about Bettis' shape?
One thing about Jerome Bettis, he could be on crutches on a Wednesday and come Sunday he's ready to go. He's going to rush for 120, 130 yards. I've never met a competitor like Jerome. He by far is a true example of what it's like to be a true professional in this business. Jerome works hard every off-season and a lot of people are making issues and have questions about Jerome and myself. I think everybody's trying to focus on little things. But Jerome always shows up in shape. I've worked with Jerome for seven years now and there's not been one time when that young man's been out of shape. I think he's in great shape. He's going to be a solid contributor and play at the level we know he's capable of playing before his injuries, and you're going to see a quick, better Bus this year.

How is your knee and what can't you do?
I'm feeling great. I can do everything. Dr. (Jim) Bradley's just being a little cautious right now and only allowing me to do part of these coaching sessions but after this week I'll get the green light and have full activity. I feel very comfortable out there. I haven't had any problems and I plan on and hope that there are no problems in the future.

Are you ahead of schedule?
I'm not quite sure but I've been very fortunate and I've been having some great reports from the doctors.

If you're going to be released, would it be better to happen early?
I'll be honest with you, I think it's kind of thinking negative. Everybody has their own views on things I guess, but I really think this is a great organization and they'll be forthright and honest with me. So if there is going to be a decision that's going to be made in regards to June 1, then I believe that they probably would tell me instead of having me working until May 31. There are a lot of ways to look at things, but I really haven't thought of it that way.

So you wouldn't think they'd string you along, right?
I'm just going to approach every day like I'm going to be a contributor to this team in September. Until they tell me I can't be here anymore, than that's how I'm going to approach it. As far as them stringing me along, I don't think that's going to happen. No.

Jim Wexell

Steel City Insider Top Stories