Training camp is still a few weeks away, but this might be the last summer that a familiar NFL ritual plays out in St. Vincents.
What every player dreads all summer long in Latrobe is a knock at the door from “The Turk.” Who knows who plays the role of “The Turk” today.
That’s not what’s important. It’s the news he brings.
The knock at the door is usually followed by the grim phrase: “Coach wants to see you. And bring your play book.” The later part of that phrase tells all – your days as a Steeler are over.
Some unfortunate few will hear that dreaded phrase this summer, but they might be the last.
No, the Steelers are not planning on holding camp elsewhere.
But as NFL.com recently profiled, tablet computer technology is sweeping the NFL, simultaneously replacing the traditional pen and ink playbook and radically alerting the experience of film study.
As the article details, every NFL team is experimenting with the iPad with several teams discarding dead tree editions of the playbook.
The Steelers, as reported by Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain, are not one of them. The Steelers will make film and plays available for iPads, but they’re not making them mandatory.
Avoiding “Putting on the Dog?” Not so Fast
Why aren’t the Steelers early adopters? There’s no way to be sure.
Art Rooney Sr. always admonished against “Putting on the dog,” his way of reminding the boys to be modest, translating his credo in to practical advice such as “Don’t get a Cadillac, get a Buick instead.”
Dan Rooney is a traditionalist when it comes to the game and its presentation. In 1998 when a Jacksonville Jaguars team mascot and mocked the Steelers huddle Rooney loudly complained, going as far as to say, “It’s a shame we didn’t have Lambert or Lloyd with us. They’d have put him in the hospital.”
When the Jacksonvillebeat reporter protested “But its only entertainment” Rooney’s report was “At Three Rivers Stadium our entertainment is in between the lines.”
But it would be a mistake to insist that the Steelers resist technology.
In fact, as part of the BLESTO scouting combine, the Steelers were one of the first teams to use computers in the scouting and evaluation of players. In fact, former Steelers defensive back, long-time BLESTO head, and soon to be Hall of Famer Jack Butler starred in a Sperry Rand commercial touting its computer’s role in the NFL draft.
Down Side to Technology
Traditionalists like Art Rooney Jr., who ran the Steelers scouting department in the 70’s, were “OK” with using computers, but were smart enough not to become slaves to them.
As he details in his biography/autobiography Ruanaidh, that self-same BLESTO computer didn’t think that Mike Webster could cut it in the NFL.
Even when it factored in intangibles like attitude and football intelligence, Webster simply lacked the measurables, or so that Sperry Rand algorithm concluded.
Fortunately Dick Haley, Tim Rooney, Art Jr. and Chuck Nolltook the time to look at tape on Webster, who of course became a Hall of Famer.
The smart money says that the Steelers will fully embrace tablet technology. But they’ll leave it to others to work out the kinks.
So it might be a few summers before the phrase “Coach wants to see you, and bring your iPad” are uttered in the halls of St. Vincents.