The essence of training camp--the time when good players work to
become great ones--was on display one sleepy morning last week as
the Steelers practiced in near seclusion next to a cornfield in
Latrobe, Pa. Because the team's new practice field isn't equipped
to handle fans, only staffers and a few media types were present
as Pittsburgh's players toiled.
It was there that Jason Gildon and Joey Porter, the Steelers' two
Pro Bowl linebackers, took third-year protege Kendrell Bell aside
to teach him the finer points of pass rushing. Bell was the NFL's
Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 (the first Pittsburgh player
to earn that honor since Jack Lambert in 1974), and for most of
his first two seasons he has been primarily a stay-at-home inside
linebacker. This year, however, coach Bill Cowher plans to move
the cat-quick Bell to right end in the Steelers' dime defense, a
scheme that features six defensive backs. That means Bell may be
rushing over the offensive left tackle on as many as 20 plays a
As special teams practice droned on behind them, Porter and
Gildon stood across from Bell and showed him several moves. After
a while defensive coordinator Tim Lewis came over to observe.
"With your speed and power," Gildon said to the 6'1", 254-pound
Bell, "the tackle has to respect you. So he might be moving back
to wait for you to make your move, and then you've got to
just...." In slow motion Gildon, pretending that Bell was the
tackle, stutter-stepped toward Bell's right shoulder, then
pivoted in the opposite direction--his back suddenly to Bell's
belly--and charged through the space to Bell's left. "See?"
Gildon said. "They aren't stopping that move every time."
Bell's first obstacle when the regular season starts will be
6'9", 340-pound Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens' All-Pro left tackle,
on Sept. 7 in Baltimore. "Even the good ones like JO [Ogden],
they get tired," Porter told Bell. "They can't keep up with you.
But you've got to show him one thing, sell that move a few times,
and throw something else at him."
"Right," Lewis said. "Jason's best move is a shake-and-bull. But
after two or three of those, shoooom!, he takes his guy outside.
Gildon, who in nine seasons has piled up 71 1/2 sacks, spread his
arms. "JO, he's not going to move much. Why should he? He's this
wide! So you have to find a way around him." The three worked on
chopping arms and shoulders. But leverage and speed were the key
points of this 20-minute class. Bell will give away at least 70
pounds in most games to the behemoths at left tackle.
Later Bell said he was grateful for the session. "I'm an inside
'backer, so if you put me outside, there are a lot of different
movements. Outside you can't think. If you think too much, you
won't get the sack. It's something I have to get a feel for."
"This was done for me when I came in," said Porter, a fifth-year
veteran who has 30 1/2 career sacks. "Jason and Carlos Emmons
[now an Eagle] took me aside and taught me all the rush moves I
needed. They told me they were taught when they came in. It's
what we do. We like that part of the job."
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Bell has the speed to go outside, but he'll have to deal with large offensive tackles.
Tight end L.J. Smith, a second-round draft choice of the Eagles
whose Rutgers teams won only seven games, has caught everything
in sight at camp and looked impressive working with
Philadelphia's first-team offense last Saturday. Incumbent Chad
Lewis, a three-time Pro Bowl player, says the 6'3", 258-pound
Smith will be the next Jeremy Shockey. "Anybody coming from a
struggling college program will have the tag, 'Can he play at the
next level?'" says Smith. "I feel pretty good about my chances to
play well early here." ... The Patriots love feisty 285-pound
nosetackle Dan Klecko so much that they're trying to find new
ways to get him on the field. Last week Klecko, a fourth-round
draft choice out of Temple, practiced as a goal line fullback....
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan thinks he has a steal in 5'11",
215-pound wideout Adrian Madise, a fifth-round selection from TCU
who has been lighting up training camp with great catches....
What sets Carson Palmer apart from the other quarterbacks in
Bengals camp is his ability to throw the ball to a spot before
the receiver breaks on the ball. Most quarterbacks take time to
learn their receivers, but Palmer, the first pick in the draft,
performs as if he's been playing with Peter Warrick and Chad
Johnson for a couple of years.