Q & A with OC Jeff Hartings

<b>LATROBE -</b> <B>GVB:</B> Another training camp…I noticed a conversation you had with Tunch and Craig Wolfley last week when I was at the training complex, you said this is an old-fashioned training camp because you're using it to get back in shape. You took some time off in the off-season to get the knee problem straightened out, right?

Hartings: Yeah, I definitely did. I had to take a different approach because the last, really probably the last two years, I probably didn't train properly, considering one year I was coming off a knee injury, one year coming off a knee surgery, both years had to play through a lot of pain, and basically I talked to a lot of retired guys who were like, "a year after you're done playing, you heal up, you'll be fine," so I was like, "I'm gonna take that approach into this off-season and see if I can come back and feel a lot better," and I did. And you know, I rode the bike a lot at the same time, and stayed in shape that way, and I feel like I haven't lost anything as far as being in shape.

GVB: That's great. Now, the line was hit by injuries last year and that sort of gummed up the works. I know you gotta stay away from the injuries, but does this line have a chance to get back to where they were a few years back?

Hartings: Yeah, no doubt. I mean, I could see it in just the one practice. Kendall's so much more comfortable, playing physical again, his strength is there, that's something that he didn't do at all last year, he did already yesterday in the first 9-on-7. Oliver feels comfortable over there, much more comfortable than he felt last year knowing what to do. That makes a big difference, you know: if you play this game, you understand that. If you never played this game, you kind of feel like "what's the problem, you should be able to step right in there," and…

GVB: Repetition is important?

Hartings: Experience, you know, it's game experience, it's not even practice experience, it's getting into the games and into the heat of the moment, seeing how things happen and week after week preparing yourself to play those games forces you to think about this game a lot more, mentally, versus if you're just a backup or out for a year or whatever because of injury, so those guys have really come on strong and I expect good things.

GVB: Bill Cowher said that last year, not running the football as effectively as they have in the past, that wasn't Steeler football. If this team is going to be effective, you gotta get that running game back in gear.

Hartings: Yeah, I like the word, "effective," because that's exactly right. We might have had as many rushes as some other teams, although we did throw the ball a lot, but the fact is, we weren't effective running the ball, and that's what we need to get back to, is effectively running the ball on first down, putting ourselves in a good position to run the ball again, or pass the ball, or run draw plays. You know, we definitely weren't an effective team on first down last year.

GVB: You came here with the idea of trying to win a championship. Is that window of opportunity still there for this team?

Hartings: Oh, no doubt. When I look offensively, we still have basically the same team that we had three years ago when we were in the championship game, and I think defensively, most of those guys are still there, a lot of them playing better than they played then because they weren't rookies. Casey Hampton is a case in point; that guy, in my opinion, is probably one of the best defensive linemen in the league right now, so they're going to dominate, it's just a matter of us offensively putting some points on the scoreboard.

GVB: I appreciate it.

Hartings: Thanks.

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