Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades – Order Today!

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As heard on Tunch & Wolf show, ESPN, 93.7 The Fan, TribLIVE Radio, KDKA, SB Nation Radio and more!

Our new book Steelers Takeaways – taking the best stories and quotes from over 400 Steelers interviews and breaking them down by topic and generation – is now available. Order via Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

See what these former Steelers and others have to say about the book!

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Exclusive with Steelers Wide Receiver Jimmy Orr, 1958-1960

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First, tell us a bit about how you ended up in Pittsburgh?

Well, I was drafted by the Rams as a junior out of college. I hurt my knee and I thought I was done, but they drafted me in the twenty-fifth round then. I played in the Blue-Gray game and they signed me after that. I played very little in preseason.. I got in shape and came back in time and played the Steelers that preseason in the last game.

I caught a pass for a touchdown in the first quarter of that game and remember running by Steelers Coach Buddy Parker and watching him throw his clipboard down as I ran by him. The next day me and Billy Ray Smith were in the hotel lobby getting ready to leave when a guy walked up to us and told us Pete Rozell wanted to talk to us, and that we should bring our playbooks. That was never a good thing. Turns out the Steelers traded for us.

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Former Steelers Discuss Why Alan Faneca Should Make the Hall of Fame

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Why should Alan Faneca make the Hall of Fame? Let these former Steelers tell you:

Trai Essex: ” Watching film on Red was like watching art in motion.  I never knew o-linemen could have moves until I saw him spin of a d-linemen en route to cutting a linebacker in order to open up a screen pass that went to the house.  A great player and an even better leader.  He absolutely changed and elevated the ceiling of the impact a guard can have on the game.  #GOAT”

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Exclusive with Ross Ventrone, Steelers Safety, 2013-2015, 2015-2016

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First, can you let readers know what you’re doing with yourself since your time in the NFL?

Me and my buddy, I’ve been working with him. We’re doing training stuff – working as professional trainers for high school kids. We want to give them better training than what’s out there. Prepare them for college.

Coming from a small college like Villanova, you know how hard it is to make it in the NFL. What was the hardest adjustment for you?

It was very different for me as an undrafted free agent. I signed with New England first and I realized how much of a faster game it was and how much I needed to learn and the knowledge I needed to play faster. You think you know a lot about football then you get to the next level. I  learned a lot  but it seemed like so much information I needed to know. It was overwhelming. Studying a lot and learning the game like that – it felt new to me. I wasn’t playing as good football as I wanted really until I got to Pittsburgh. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to play fast. The speed of the game is an issue because you need to know the playbook – you need to know that stuff to play faster. Otherwise you’re a step behind.

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Exclusive with Steelers Tight End Mitch Lyons, 1997-1999

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First – can you let us know what you’re doing with yourself now since your time in the NFL?’

I’m in Rockford, Michigan, north of Grand Rapids. I own a financial services company. I’ve been in financial services since I got out of football in 2000 and I started my own company in 2010.

I have a blended family – six kids, all out of K-12 except my youngest, who’s six years old.

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Exclusive with Steelers WR/KR Andre Coleman, 1997-1998

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First, tell me a bit about your coaching work at Kansas State. How did you get started there?

Yeah I’m coaching at Kansas State – I’m the Passing Game Coordinator. A former teammate of mine became the head coach there and gave me an opportunity to coach there. I wanted to be able to help change lives. I wanted to be an inspiration to young guys – to help them avoid the mistakes I made as a young man.

What coaches helped influence your coaching style and approach?

I was blessed to have had some great coaches. My high school coach was a great coach. Bill Snyder is a Hall of Fame coach – a legendary coach. Bill Cowher was awesome – he knew how to motivate guys and get the best out of guys. Bob Stoop – he won a national championship.

So, I took pieces from all of those guys, Bobby Ross in San Diego too. I took bits and pieces from all of them to help create my own identity.

What’s the biggest difference you found in college versus NFL players in terms of how they approach the game?

The biggest difference is that NFL players are professionals. If you don’t do your job, you’re fired plain and simple. In college, with scholarships, they feel more comfortable. I think with this younger generation, there is a lot of entitlement. It’s the information age with Twitter, Instagram…they are always told how great they are. It’s amazing how serious some of these guys take it. It really has softened up guys now.

A lot of discussion these days on how the college game has changed the way the NFL has played and the quality of play, when in the past it was seen as more the other way around. What’s your approach to how you prepare college players foe the NFL?

I try to coach guys to be pro-ready. They need to learn coverages and defenses. The fundamentals and techniques. Learn to watch film.

I am surprised at how many players don’t know how to do those things. I have a player who just made the Atlanta practice squad. He told me he took for granted what I taught him, but that he realized it gave him an advantage. So many guys can’t read coverages. Some colleges, they have their players run one route, regardless of the coverage. Here you have to think and process information and run the right routes depending on coverages.

As a guy most known as a return guy, you still were a good receiver as well. Did it frustrate you being “typecast” as a return guy?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Smaller receivers weren’t accepted then – teams wanted the bigger 6’4″ type guys. If I played today, the spread offenses that weren’t popular back then – in today’s age I’d have had a greater opportunity.  I could play in the slot. But that’s just part of the game. It evolves. I was blessed to play for five years.

What made you such a good kick returner?

Vision. Courage. Trust  in the guys blocking for you, You can’t do it by yourself – they have to be there to make blocks. You have to hit it at full speed. I did it and enjoyed it, I think I was good at it because I was a competitor. I also had a little man complex. It gave me a little edge – a chip on my shoulder.

What brought you to Pittsburgh in n’97?

I was out in Seattle. I left San Diego to go to Seattle but it was not a good fit. I was waived by Seattle and Pittsburgh picked me up right away. I was mainly a return guy. I didn’t know the system but I could do that right away. I also got a little success as a wide receiver there.

Any good stories of your time in Pittsburgh?

The Steelers fans are awesome. I remember when we had bad snowstorms, when the neighbors realized I was a Steeler, my driveway was always shoveled when I got outside!

Pittsburgh was a great organization. great guys, I used to go bowling with Jerome Bettis. I thought I was a good bowler until I played him. It was a great locker room. Thats the part I miss most about playing.

Any advice you’d give young guys entering the NFL today?

Take the profession seriously. Put in the time. In the NFL no one holds your hand like they do in college. There’s no structured schedule for you. You have to take it upon yourself to maintain your body and study film. You may meet for an hour and then practice and work eight hour days and be an average player and leave and go home. But to be a pro – you need to put the extra hours in.

And save your money. In the NFL you already have the spotlight and the celebrity. You don’t need the most expensive car and house and jewelry. A lot of guys put value in these things. But I would advise them to save for the future and live a certain way. Not just for the short term.

Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades To order, just click on the book:

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Exclusive with Steelers S/Coach Tony Dungy, 1977-1978, 1981-1983,

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First, tell me a bit about how you got into broadcasting – was that something you always had an interest in as a post-NFL career?

It wasn’t something I was thinking about at all really. When I coached I didn’t have a TV or radio show. I was just looking at the team and helping the team. I had no thoughts about broadcasting.

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Exclusive with Former Steelers Safety Chris Hope, 2002-2005

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First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself since your time in the NFL?

Oh I’ve been a full-time dad now since the NFL. It’s been more difficult than being a full-time athlete! There’s always something to do.

I also stay involved with the Titans, doing alumni appearances. And I stay connected to the business world through my relationships I made in the NFL. Really, I’m just enjoying life.

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Exclusive with Larry Griffin, Steelers Safety, 1987-1993

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First, tell us how you got to become the Director of HR for the Carolina Panthers – what drove you in that direction?

When I left the Steelers I went to work for Duke Energy in Charlotte, North Carolina. I wanted to be in corporate. I started in government affairs and then moved to the services department. Something then hit me – why not HR? I had my degree in Labor Relations. I told my boss – the VP of Government Affairs that. He talked with the head of the department and I moved there and had been at Duke for seventeen years.

I was ready for a change though when I got an email from the NFLPA about a job opening at the Panthers. I submitted my resume and got selected for the job.

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Exclusive with Steelers Punter Josh Miller, 1996-2003

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First, can you let readers know about how you got started in your broadcasting career?

During my kicking days in Pittsburgh I would do a radio show. When I went to New England they had me do a radio show there too. I thought, outside of times like when you have your hand on a Bible in the courtroom, how many times do you get where people have to listen you!

I fell in love with sports in general. Hockey, everything. There was a common thread across all sports in the people’s stories that play them. I learned not to say “I know because I played.” I did it once and hated how it sounded. After a while I was able to forget that I played.

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Exclusive with Former Steelers OT Tony Hills., 2008-2010

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First, you recently retired from the NFL. What are you doing with yourself now?

I’ve started a non-profit – Above the Hills.  I’m providing young children of color history and education about life outside the United States. I’m trying to help them make the right choices. They come from tough backgrounds and I’m trying to show them that they don’t have to be a product of the environment they are raised in. They can be the product of the choices they make, Not their environment.

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