"I don't care what you've done," said Cowher, who is preparing to lead the Steelers into training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe for the 12th consecutive year.
"What you've done has no bearing at all on what you have in front of you or
what you have to do. We do not play the game on paper. The game is being played
Cowher's statement has particular meaning this season as the Steelers enter
training camp with several veterans fighting for their jobs.
"You've got to keep the edge," Cowher continued. "The great ones,
when they've been challenged, that's how they became great. The challenges from
the outside are not as great as the challenges they put on themselves. You're
not doing anything to them they're not doing to themselves."
Cowher could have specifically been speaking about running back Jerome Bettis
and tight end Mark Bruener, both of whom have suffered through injuries in the
past two seasons and will find themselves in the odd position of fighting for a
In years past, the Steelers have opened training camp with precious few starting
jobs open. But this season, coming off a 10-5-1 campaign that ended with a
second-round playoff loss at Tennessee, the Steelers have as many as four
starting spots - running back, tight end, strong safety and right tackle - open
Cowher said that Bettis, who is second on the team's all-time rushing list
despite rushing for a career-low 666 yards last season, would begin the season
in a rotation with Amos Zereoue for the team's starting running back spot.
Zereoue got seven starts last season, including both playoff games, with Bettis
nursing a knee injury. He responded by rushing for 762 yards and catching 42
passes for another 341 yards.
"We're going to switch them up, give them a chance to run with the first
teams," Cowher said. "We'll give them both a chance to run, see how it
unfolds and go from there.
Bruener, meanwhile, will face competition from free agent-signee Jay Riemersma
and Jerame Tuman for the team's starting tight end spot for the first time since
the Steelers selected him in the first round of the 1995 draft.
"I couldn't tell you right now who'll line up in Baltimore," said
Cowher, referring to the team's regular season opener Sept. 9.
Veteran safety Mike Logan, who is coming off a severe knee injury suffered in a
playoff victory over Cleveland, will open training camp at the top of the depth
chart at strong safety. However, the Steelers traded up in the first round of
the draft for the first time in team history to select Troy Polamalu. Polamalu
is expected to mount a stiff challenge to Logan.
And at right tackle, veteran holdover Oliver Ross will get the first shot at
replacing Marvel Smith, who's moving to left tackle, with free agent pickup Todd
Fordham waiting in the wings.
Cowher's not concerned with anybody's feelings getting hurt because their job
"I think if you have the right veterans, they're fine," he said.
Coach Cowher Issues Warning to Veterans
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