Wolfley's O-line workshop: Trai Essex

Trai Essex was the Steelers' No. 3 tackle as a rookie, but slipped to No. 4 last season. Steel City conditioning coach Craig Wolfley believes Essex can turn it around, and shares his ideas.

Trai, I'm really glad you stopped by my gym. Want some coffee? No, just want to talk some training, huh? Okay, here's my two cents worth of what I saw through the year and what I think can help you for next year.

I'm going to be straight with you and the fact is you have regressed this past year. Now you're coming into your third year, this is the time to get on your horse and get something done this off-season.

First off, I'm not buying that listed playing weight. The program says 324, but I'm guessing it's closer to 340 than 320. I'd give you a hard line 315, and make that muscle lean and mean. You have good feet and quickness, the excess only slows you down.

You know that boxing program that I run for you guys in the off-season? I want you to go further. You should head on out with James Harrison, who likes to come out to my gym and have a little more in-depth instruction.

Frankly, I think getting you to do a little sparring wouldn't be a bad idea. Here's what it does. Number one, you play with your hands too close to your body, and you carry them low. You've got to be more aware of keeping your hands up. Hand fighting rules in the trenches. Boxing is a cure all for that. Getting ripped in your grill a few times will encourage you to keep your hands up.

Another thing that boxing will do for you is to increase your hand speed. And learn to use them with intent, to be violent with them. Go with Chukky and see the video guy (Mac) and break out vintage Tunch Ilkin, Jon Kolb, and Larry Brown footage to see the best punching tackles the NFL ever saw. Larry Brown once made Mark Gastineau literally quit in a game; he was punching him so hard. Which brings me to what I think is the one area that you can make huge leaps and bounds.

You've got to get more aggressive. Have you noticed the young man from Hofstra, Willie Colon, who got the start over you when Max went down? He's a perfect example of unbridled aggression. Now what I would suggest to you is that you learn to "bridle" the aggression. Develop the attitude, control it, don't let it control you, like what happens with Colon.

You have to make the guys on the other side of the ball respect you. And that starts with the attitude. Boxing will help you to develop that attitude and control.

Please understand now that I'm not talking about going out there and starting fights just to prove something. That's silly and worse yet it can cost you a game. Ask Tunch about that sometime.

I'm not questioning your heart or desire, you've got plenty. No I'm talking about playing with attitude. Have you ever heard of a Wolverine? It's the only animal known to fight just to fight. It has nothing to do with protecting territory, fighting for food, or anything else like that. A Wolverine will have a go just for the fun of it. It is one aggressive critter. I guess that makes Colon a "Willi-verine." But it is that essence of aggression that you want to tap into.

All right, enough of that. To add a little snap to your punches I think you need to build your triceps up a little. When Larry Brown walked into a room, his triceps came in five minutes later. His guns were that big. And he got them that way by benching with a narrow grip.

Periodically add in some medicine ball throws where you lay on your back and have someone drop the ball to your extended hands and you catch and reverse the downward motion of the ball and fire it right back to the trainer. The key is to reverse the action as quick as possible. A well-known trainer on the west coast, Marv Marinovich, might be a little crazy but he's crazy like a fox. Just ask Troy.

Now, go over to that heavy bag over there and throw 1,000 punches before you go. You can pay my two cents worth in "sweat-equity."

Steel City Insider Top Stories