Talkin' turkey with Russ

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Westmoreland County's favorite son, Russ Grimm, has had an up and down four years with the Steelers, and right now, he's back on top.

Grimm retired from the Washington Redskins, as a player, after his third championship with the team in Jan. of 1992. He began coaching with the Redskins the next season, but was swept out upon the arrival of coach Marty Schottenheimer in 2001. He landed his present job coaching the Steelers' offensive line shortly thereafter. In his first year, Grimm's line paved the way to the Steelers' No. 1 rushing ranking. However, the bottom dropped out in 2003 when the Steelers finished next-to-last in rushing. Thanks to Grimm, a comparatively healthy starting five and the power running of Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis, the Steelers are back to pounding the ball, and it'll likely be their M.O. Sunday when Grimm coaches against his old friends Joe Gibbs, Joe Bugel and the Redskins for the first time.

Is this a big deal?
It's far enough removed that it's just another game. It really is. It's just another game on the schedule. You know a lot of people over there but I've gotten to know a lot of people on other teams too. I don't think it's anything special.

Do you stay in contact with Gibbs or Bugel?
No, not really. I may talk to Buges once or twice a year but that's basically it.

Didn't they want you to coach with them in Washington?
I didn't hear anything about it.

Wasn't that in the papers?
Yeah, but I was never contacted about it.

How much of what you're doing is similar to what you did then?
It's like 50 percent, but that 50 percent, really, all teams run. We're 2-back here. They're more 1-back. That's probably the biggest difference.

What exactly was the counter trey?
One side down-blocked and the back side pulled. It's not rocket science.

Gibbs' first season started 0-5 but you won the Super Bowl the next year. What keyed that turnaround?
It's very similar to where they're at now. He's going to be consistent on his approach to what he wants done. As more and more of them get on that same page, they're going to get better and better.

Last year was your third year here and it was such a disaster. Were you questioning yourself in any way?
No, I don't think so, and I don't think they questioned their ability. I credit those guys. They moved around and played different positions. And we were kind of looking for an identity as an offensive line, as an offense. And it's hard to get that if we're rolling a bunch of players through there. We lost continuity, not confidence. In some ways, you learn a lot about guys when you're in situations like that. Some of them play harder; some of them try to do too much; some have to step up and take different roles. We're one more year experienced.

Did you need this kind of year to vindicate yourself as a quality coach in this league?
I think everybody needs some type of adversity, whether it's personal, business, recreational, whatever it is. How do you react to adverse conditions? I mean, it could've rolled into this year. You go through those things and you usually end up a better person for it.

How did you react?
You've got to weather the storm. You've got to believe in what you're doing, what you're teaching and push through those things. To appreciate the good times, you've got to know what it's like to go through the rough times.

So do you appreciate these times?
Oh, there's no question. I mean, as a player, my rookie year we started 0-5. There were nights I went home and said whoa, this is the NFL. Can I do this? Am I ready for this? You sit back and say, yeah, I'm ready for it. We got to turn this around. It's the same thing.

So you didn't go through any of those self doubts as a coach?
No. I don't think so. To me, that's like grabbing at straws. When all the sudden things start to deteriorate a bit, or slide a bit, are you going to be somebody who says 'We're going to get through this?' Or are you going to start grabbing at things? You can't do that.

You've got to go through those things, and they're going to happen again. I guarantee it. Somewhere down the road, those situations will occur, and it's all about how you handle them.

What did it mean to you when Bill Cowher promoted you to assistant head coach?
It was a nice recognition. That was a compliment, especially here in Pittsburgh. I mean that's back home for me. I enjoy it here. People always say, 'Well you interviewed for the Chicago job and you could go somewhere.' But don't always jump on that first train that comes by. I mean, things are pretty good as is.

What happened with the Chicago thing?
It was a combination of everything.

The time wasn't right, was it?
I don't think so. I mean, I retired after a Super Bowl. People were like, 'What are you going to do now?' I said I don't know. Things will work out. A month later, I was into the coaching thing. I got fired at Washington when a new staff came in. It was like, 'What are you going to do now?' And a day later coach calls. So if I start planning things ahead of time, I usually screw it up.

So your advice to somebody in any profession would be?
It'll all come out in the wash.

What's been the key to this line, besides health?
To me, the key is all 11 guys playing as a unit. I mean, the receivers complement the line the way they run their routes, the way they block on the run. The quarterback complements the line because he gets out of there and makes plays. The running backs complement the line. There are times we turn somebody loose and Duce breaks a tackle, or J.B. breaks a tackle, or Willie (Parker) or Verron (Haynes) step in there and make a run. It's kind of like one part feeds off the other.

But in the Philly game those holes were massive. Is that the game you put up there as the ideal?
We really haven't done anything yet. You sit here and say, 'yeah that was a good game.' You reflect on that stuff when the year's over. Two weeks ago everybody thought we were ready for the playoffs. We're halfway through the year. We've got a long way to go. We haven't done anything yet.

You're starting to sound like your boss, you know that don't you?
It is but in reality, in this profession, you're as good as your next game. That's it. We didn't play up to par last week and that's something we have to turn around.

What happened last week?
It was a little bit of everything, you know, one here, one there. That unit is a different position. If there are 75 snaps in a football game, and your left tackle has five bad ones, you say he had a pretty good game. But if your left tackle has five, your left guard has five, your center has five, the next thing you know you're up to 25 snaps where we didn't get the job done. It's a different type position. You play as a group, not as an individual.

Obviously Alan Faneca deserves Pro Bowl recognition. Anybody else?
I think Jeff Hartings is having his best year yet. I thought he had a great year last year. It usually takes a year or two to get recognition. But I think he's playing great. And Keydrick (Vincent) and Oliver (Ross) are getting more and more experience, and Marvel (Smith) is doing what we expected. Everybody said he's moving to a new position, but it's really back home for him.

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