Watch Tower: Steelers PR Team Combating Negativity in Steelers Nation?

Going into week 6 the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at 3-2, but by all accounts it’s a shaky 3-2. But regardless, the Watch Tower has plenty of material to shine its light onto including the Steelers lifting the lid on practice activities and the Steelers running game.

Steelers Combat Negativity by Loosening Practice Reporting Restrictions?

Credited members of the Steelers press corps are allowed to observe Steelers practices. Bill Cowher did manage to cut back on that during the 1997 season when he moved Carnell Lake from safety to corner, but Dan Rooney has stood firm on open practices otherwise.

  • Permission to enter practices comes with some restrictions, however.

Media members cannot shoot video, nor can they report on specifics. Access is intended to help them develop their stories during the week, but the information they can actually share is limited for the obvious reason.

So it was in early in the 2010 season, with Ben Roethlisberger serving his suspension, Byron Leftwich injured, that Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported that Dennis Dixon and not Charlie Batch had been taking snaps as the first team quarterback.

The Steelers reprimanded Bouchette, who responded by publishing the guidelines which he must follow as a practice observer on PG Plus. That in turn drew national coverage via Gregg Rosenthal on NBC’s Pro Football Talk, who did a Watch Towerish piece on the entire incident.

Bouchette didn’t appear overly worried by the reprimand, quipping on PG Plus that he couldn’t report how many snaps Antwaan Randle El was taking at quarterback, after Dixon’s injury.

  • Nonetheless, specific news out of Steelers practices has been sparse. Until this week.

Jim Wexell started things off on Steel City Insider, in discussing Brice McCain. McCain, as Tomlin acknowledged, had an excellent week of practice leading up to the Jaguars game. Wexell began by detailing McCain’s pick in practice the week before playing Jacksonville, and then supplied a little surprise:

So perhaps one of two interceptions during Wednesday’s practice will serve the same purpose this Sunday in Cleveland.
“Hey, man, I hope it’s true,” said Robert Golden, who intercepted a pass Wednesday at the goal line and sped down the sideline in a play that would’ve gone 100 yards had it not been whistled dead for practice purposes.

That’s two reports of two separate players making interceptions during practice – you don’t see that often. At all. Wexell didn’t stop there, however. He also reported an interception that Stephon Tuitt that made of a Bruce Gradkowski pass.

That wasn’t the only article where Wexell shared practice insights. Following the Jaguar’s game, Wexell insisted that what was holding the Steelers offense back was lack of a tall receiver, and he commented that Martavis Bryant “appears lost most of the time.” While these types of general comments are more common, they far from every day fair.

  • One might be tempted to think that Wexell’s unique in this category.

After all, his Steel City Insider site is a paid site, and his far less known than the mainstream publications (which is a shame because it’s so damm good, and that’s only based on the free articles.) He’s also a writer for Steelers Digest, so one might think he’s got greater leeway.

  • However, he wasn’t the only reporter providing practice specifics.

Scott Brown of ESPN also reported Tuitt’s interception turned pick six, which begs the question of whether or not the Steelers press office has loosened the reigns on practice reporting. Its no secret that, 3-2 notwithstanding, the reaction in Steelers Nation has been raw with cries of “Fire Mike Tomlin” “Fire Dick LeBeau” “Fire Todd Haley” and/or “Fire Kevin Colbert” common place.

Could the Steelers PR team be attempting to turn that around by leaking positive news? The Watch Tower wants to know.

Fresh Approach to Plea for Steelers to Rush the Ball

Historically, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been a rushing team. Art Rooney II went as far as to say the ability to run the ball was one of the franchise’s foundations.

  • As the NFL has turned pass happy, debate of the place and meaning of “Steelers Football” in todays game has ensued.

There are the traditionalists, who argue that a true Steelers team is one that can rush the ball. Mike Prisuta countered the traditionalists when he was still with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review just days after Super Bowl XLIII arguing:

Now that it ended the way it ended, we can officially put to rest the archaic, romantic and mostly inaccurate notions that 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust smashmouth is, was and always will be “Steeler Football,” and that any other approach betrays the franchise’s “identity.”

Mike Prisuta pointed to the paltry rush attack the Steelers presented during the game, and while acknowledging that Franco Harris had been Super Bowl IX’s, reminded everyone that it was Lynn Swann, Terry Bradshaw and Hines Ward who were next MVP’s.

While the traditionalists haven’t gone away, Ben Roethlisberger has certainly established himself as the focal point of the Steelers offense. Most challenges to that have been based more in sentiments of “The way things should be” (in terms of the modern game) as opposed to the way things are.

However, “Matt C. Steel” has challenged this notion on Wexell’s Steel City Insider page by taking a fresh approach. Steel Curtain Rising’s editorial policy is not to steal another writer’s thunder, and we won’t do it here.

But the synthesis of Steel’s argument is that unlike in year’s past, Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount give the Steelers a potent rushing attack. And Steel uses quantitative data to show that the Steelers are incredibly effective when using play action, and rushing from traditional, non-shot gun formations.

Steel doubled down on his arguments following the Jacksonville victory, and while his arguments might not be quite air tight, they’re very good and worth a read.

Link Sharing in Vogue?

The Watch Tower has observed and questioned the practice of the Pittsburgh’s two major dailies of not linking to past stories. The move makes no sense on a number of levels, both in terms of keeping readers on your page and in terms of SEO.

  • In contrast, ESPN aggressively links to past posts.

Scott Brown went a step further after the Jacksonville game, by linking to other, non-ESPN sites, which is a rarity. That’s a refreshing development, although he does like to the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Business Journal instead of linking to fan sites.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.
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