Super Bowl or Die

Reporting Day has just about all the ingredients of a full-blown sports holiday, except for one thing at St. Vincent College:

Nothing happens.

Oh, they report all right. The Steelers reported yesterday amid immense hype. They had to be there by 3 p.m., so to greet them the media was allowed to stand in front of the players' dorm at 11 a.m.

That's where all the pre-camp excitement comes to a boil. Except for me.

This is my 19th training camp, and in those 19 years I really don't think I've witnessed anything more important on this day than the annual parade of fancy cars, trucks, tractors and this time an off-road dump truck, courtesy of Brett Keisel.

On some Reporting Days you think you can tell a player's fitness level, but I've praised Casey Hampton when he's been grossly overweight and I've ripped him when he's been at his most fit.

Casey used to laugh at my guesses, as did Levon Kirkland, so now I just wait to see them on the field.

But the players talk. Do they ever. Of course they don't say anything, but would this year be different?

I hoped so, particularly when five steps after checking into media central I crossed paths with tight ends coach James Daniel. He never says much, but I felt a beam of karma coming my way, and this time I was going to get the scoop on Heath Miller's recovery from his torn ACL.

How's it going coach?

"Good."

How's Heath doing?

"Good."

And James Daniel kept right on walking.

So, I did too, right up to Rooney Hall where Plaxico Burress had just stepped out of his car with a suitcase in one hand and a pillow in the other.

Plax, how was your speed, your explosiveness, your burst last spring?

I asked him this because I thought Burress appeared to be deep into the aging process this past spring. I thought he looked slow. He didn't see it that way.

"I felt OK," he said. "I was kind of taking it easy."

Hmmm.

Can you be anything more than a red-zone threat this season?

"I believe so," he said. "I'm just here to compete."

But not answer questions.

Matt Spaeth arrived about that time, so I moved from the mob of reporters surrounding Burress to the mob surrounding Spaeth. He just might be able to provide some insight on Miller, who, like Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, is way too smart and experienced to enter the front door on Reporting Day.

But Spaeth didn't know anything about Miller, either.

"He's so professional that I don't know his timeline," Spaeth said.

Maurkice Pouncey, of course, was another of the interesting topics on Reporting Day, but I had arrived too late. Pouncey was the first Steeler to arrive, and he told those most energetic reporters that "manning up is always important."

But in "manning up," about how he absurdly supported murder-suspect Aaron Hernandez, all Pouncey really said was "Let's move off from that" and "I don't want to get into that."

Ah, who could blame him? But one of these days, in a one-on-one moment, I'm going to ask him this question:

What in the world were you thinking?

But on this day, no information was passed. I mean I couldn't even get Mike Adams to say whether he was ready to practice.

"You'll have to ask coach," he said, and Coach Mike Tomlin later offered up that Adams, who was stabbed in the abdomen six weeks ago, "has full clearance" to practice, and that he will.

See, even when they know something, players don't want to give it up on Reporting Day, not in front of 20 TV cameras, 30 radio stations and 145 pod-phones, or whatever one calls the technology that relays the answers to all of my questions to everyone on the 'net before I can even sit down to write.

Not to be bitter.

But I did ask Kelvin Beachum if he's learned all 12 positions on offense. He laughed, which might've been the most honest moment of the day.

Speaking of honesty, there's David DeCastro. His honesty isn't so much in his words but on his face, as in, "I hate the media."

But DeCastro seems to have made strides. In fact, I asked him about being overpowered by Geno Atkins late last season, and after ducking I heard DeCastro say, "He's a good player. Yeah. But this is a new year. I feel a lot better than I did then."

There even seemed to be a sparkle in DeCastro's eyes, as if he really didn't want to hop inside Keisel's dump truck and run us all over. DeCastro actually didn't mind talking.

"We've got a good group of guys," he said of the offensive line. "It's a young group of guys. We have a good time together. We all get along really well. We're looking forward to working and grinding."

And, really, that's all anyone really wants to know at this camp: Can an inexperienced group of linemen, who came to the team with high pedigrees, come together quickly and formidably?

"Hey, we're hoping to be getting back to having a great run game," said running back Isaac Redman. "And the offensive line has been doing a great job working out all off-season. They've been in Pittsburgh, most of them, and I'm excited for this season."

Really?

"Yeah, absolutely I'm excited," Redman said. "We've got young guys who can move around."

Redman was so absolutely excited about the potential of this offensive line, and therefore this running game, that he came up with the money quote of the day:

"Our expectation is always Super Bowl or die," Redman said. "We're not a team that's looking to make the playoffs. We're always a team looking to win the championship."

Yet I knew this coming into Reporting Day '13. We all knew this, just like we all knew what was talked about and not talked about. But you show up anyway and you hope.

Hey, the pads will be on soon enough.

Real information awaits.

Jim Wexell


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