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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Chad Spann, Steelers Running Back, 2012

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First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself now and how you got started?

Well this winter I finished my first season in the CFL. I played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and really enjoyed myself. There is some really good football being played north of the border.

In 2010, you led the nation in college in touchdowns and rushed for over 1,300 yards for Northern Illinois. What about your running style led to such success?

I think I have a pretty balanced running style. There were times where I was called upon in short yardage early in my career which really helped me become a tough down hill runner. Combining that with my natural one cut running style I think led to a lot of yards and a lot of touch downs. I also like to contribute a lot of success to just knowledge of the game. When you understand your schemes and become familiar with your teammates blocking for you, the game slows down so much.

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Donovan Woods, Steelers Linebacker, 2008-2009

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

I am currently working back at my alma mater Oklahoma State University as the Associate Director of Development. I also am the defensive coordinator of the OKC John Marshall Bears where my brother Rashaun is the Head Coach and my other brother Gary is the Secondary Coach. I also do some radio for OSU as well on 107.7 The Franchise.

What was the most difficult part of the transition from the NFL to “regular life” for you, and how did you make that adjustment?

Coming to the realization that you won’t be able to play a game that you have played all your life. Football is different from every other sport in that, once you finish playing, that is really the end. Nobody gets together to play pick-up games or anything like that. It really is the end and it is tough. I struggled with it like most players do, but eventually accepted things and though still tough at times, I have moved on to the next stage of my life and career.

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Chukky Okobi, Steelers Center, 2001-2006

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First, can you let readers know what you’ve been doing with yourself since the NFL and about The Mansion at Maple Heights bed and breakfast in Pittsburgh?

I’ve been running my B&B in my hometown, Pittsburgh, Pa.! We’ve won awards for wedding planning and general hospitality from publications like The Knot, TripAdvisor, and bedandbreakfast.com, and we’ve been featured in the New York Times and Forbes Magazine as one of the most unique B&B’s in the world.

In addition, I have been acting a lot. I’ve been featured in seven commercials for the Pennsylvania Lottery, Nickelodeon TV shows, as well as the pilot for the FX series “Justified”.  I was in a few feature films including “Out of The Furnace” with Christian Bale and Casey Affleck and “American Pastoral” featuring Ewan McGregor and Dakota Fanning.

I started a T Shirt Line, “BucTown, Pa.”, designs inspired by Pittsburgh sports teams and Music culture.

I also write music for female vocalists and I started a music publishing company called “No More Genres”

Just staying busy following my passions.

What made you decide to stay in Pittsburgh and get into the B&B business – and how has it been so far?

I’m from Pittsburgh. I was born in Shadyside Hospital, play little league baseball at Mellon Park, Attended Sacred Heart Elementary School.  Most players go home when their playing days are over, so that’s what I did!

The B&B give me an opportunity to be an ambassador, creating a new Pittsburgh experience that’s unique to this city: Stay in a Steeler’s house when visiting the Steel City

You’ve also been involved in the music business = tell us how so and how that’s been going too?

Musically I’m going through an evolution. I’ve been blessed to have such great mentors in the industry like Pittsburgh Slim, Jonathan Daniels (crushmusic.com, manager for Keisza, Gym Class Heroes, Train), DJ Adam 12 (President Obama’s resident DJ). I am now working with my cousin from London, Bayoz Muzik.

Getting to football…You were actually a good baseball player and track and field athlete growing up as well. What made you decide to take up football in college?

I decided when I was seven that I wanted to be a pro athlete. I always wanted to be baseball player…still do actually!

But football just came easy to me. I was a running back the first day I went out my Freshman year. Being a first Generation American of Nigerian descent, I just wanted to be like Christian Okoye, the Nigerian Nightmare.   Didn’t even know the rules.  But after one practice, literally one practice….the course changed.  First carry I had, I went 60 yards for a touchdown after running over three upper classmen.  I thought to myself “This is football?  It looks so much harder on TV!” At age 13, I switched my focus and the rest is history.

You were moved to center in your senior season at Purdue – centering for Drew Brees there. How did your time under center for Drew Brees and the move to the position help or hurt your transition to the NFL?

I was an All-Big Ten player at guard, so moving to center wasn’t something I was the least bit excited about. The NFL draft is like buying livestock. They are grading you on your size, strength, and potential productivity, just like a prized steer or pig.  Because I’m only 6’1″, moving to the middle was a testament to my intellect as a football player and my versatility along the O-Line. Lord knows my short ass wasn’t playing tackle at the pro level, so the ability to play all three interior positions, I believe, made picking me a lot more attractive.

You were drafted by the Steelers in the 5th round in 2001. Were you surprised to be drafted by the Steelers? How did you find out the drafted you – who called to let you know and what did they tell you?

I got the call from Mike Miller, an assistant offense coach at the time. He was making small talk trying to tie up my phone line so nobody else would draft me in that round. It felt like destiny to me more than anything else.  I felt like I had been a part of his team whole life anyway, just like every other Steelers fan out there!

Who helped mentor you most an NFL rookie both on and off the field and how did they do so? Any examples?

Being in the same room as Wayne Gandy, Alan Faneca, and having Russ Grimm as your coach…It was really more of a “watch and learn” kinda situation. Roger Duffy was in his 12th year my rookie year, I gained a lot of wisdom from working with him, too.

With so much experience and talent all around me, there was an unspoken standard, a level of expectation that was to be met at all costs when you play for Pittsburgh, especially when you are playing center for Pittsburgh!

After six seasons in Pittsburgh you were the heir apparent to Jeff Hartings, then the Steelers brought in center Sean Mahan. Afterwards, you were released and moved on to Arizona. How hard was that for you and do you think you were given a fair shot to win the starting spot – and what brought on the move, do you think?

You, know…I really don’t like thinking about that situation…but I’ll say this…. clearly, Coach Tomlin and Kevin Colbert know what they are doing, that’s why the Steelers are competitive and give the team a chance to be champs year after year…but if you look at the facts, that was a mistake; just proves that they are human and have lapses in judgment. Sean is a really good guy, no disrespect to him as a man or player. But he wasn’t better than me. He lasted one season with the Steelers, I was there for six.  In every game that I started for Pittsburgh or played the majority of (like if Jeff was injured during a game), the offense gained over or close to 200 yards rushing.  I’ll let you come to your own conclusion on that one!

During your time in Pittsburgh, what were some of the more humorous moments you remember – both on and off the field?

If Jerome Bettis wasn’t a Hall of Fame footballer, he would have been a world famous comedian. He is one of the top five funniest people I ever met in my life.

Looking at the NFL today – how has the game changed for offensive lineman – and do you like the changes to the game in general? Why/why not?

Honestly, I don’t watch enough football these days to give any real feedback. I spent so much time dedicating my entire existence to the game, once I finished I felt an eager desire to explore other passions like music and business. I would have to say that I follow the Pirates and Premier League Soccer more than anything else these days

Any last thoughts for readers?

Remember that sports is just entertainment, a TV program and event for us to enjoy. When opposing fans come to your city, make sure you welcome them as a citizen of this town. No fights, no need to be negative, just enjoy the game.

And be sure to make sure that you prioritize and value your families and important relationships more than anything else. Use football and sports as an opportunity to bond with loved ones.  Whether your teams wins or loses, make sure that the time you spent together watching it is what is remembered in the long term, not some silly score.

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With Steel Nation Association, Exclusive Podcast with Former Steeler Ed Bradley on Injuries, SB IX and more

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Click here for our exclusive podcast with LB Ed Bradley on Burfict, players speaking up for one another, playing hurt, SB IX and much more.

Bradley played four seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers and played big role on the defensive shut down of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX, the Steelers first Super Bowl.  In this two part interview (Below), listen to some great stories from the past, with references to Chuck Noll, Joe Greene and Jack Lambert as well as Bradley’s input on injuries and how players and teams play through them as well as overcome them.

Take A Listen:  Steel Nation Radio Episode 1 Part 1

Part 2:  Steel Nation Radio Ed Bradley Part 2

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Derek Moye, Steelers Wide Receiver, 2012-2014

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First, can you let readers know what you are ding with yourself now?

Right now – we just had a baby. We have an eight-month year old so I’m busy there. I also am working with my brother in his recruiting company. I haven’t given up completely on the NFL – I’m still working out and keeping everything in order in case things come up on the horizon.

Is it hard being out of the game – especially after you had success working your way on the roster?

It’s pretty tough, I haven’t played this year – sitting back and watching other guys play is hard, especially if you see someone and think you can do it better than they could but I’m at home… I’ve been involved in sports my whole life – it’s an adjustment – life after the NFL. But I am pretty busy with my baby and have been tied up …

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Players as people

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So I sent out an innocuous happy birthday Tweet out to Kordell Stewart wishing him a happy birthday. A fan promptly responded back with what a negative comment about Kordell – to both me and Kordell.

And it got me thinking.

This is why I wrote the book. People often don’t see and treat players as people. They don’t seem to want to or do so without realizing it. They dehumanize them – they are figures in a fantasy football pool. Images on a screen. And social media makes it easier than ever to reach out and treat players  with little thought – as less than people.

And that’s why I wrote the book. To show the players as more than images and fantasy football statistics. That they have families – personal lives and issues. Health concerns. Career adjustments and transitions. Racial and religious concerns. Concerns staying employed.

You know. Like people.

Personally, I got a lot out of the game. Excitement. Good times and feelings when times were not as bright. Hope and positivity. An understanding of what it takes to win.

Our lives would certainly carry on without football. But they are a little better off for it. The book is just a small thank you and appreciation for that. And I chose to say thank you by trying to humanize these players again. They deserve that at least. To be treated with respect and some understanding No amount of money warrants them being treated poorly. They deserve to be treated decently.

You know, Like people.

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Highlights from the Steelers Takeaways Weekend Book Signing Tour

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Craig Bingham and Marv Kellum couldn’t have been greater people for coming out and being so terrific to all those that attended – and to my family. As you can tell, my son had a “terrible” time 🙂

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Gregg Garrity, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1983-1984

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First, can you let readers know what you’ve been doing with yourself since your retirement from the NFL?

I own my own construction business – I do additions and renovations – kitchens and baths, that sort of thing. I’ve been building stuff since I was in seventh grade – I always got into it. It progressed over the years. I guess I like taking a pile of sticks and making something out of it!

How hard was it for you, adjusting to life after the NFL? Did the NFL help in your post-career?

It was a big adjustment. You go from having everything done for you to having to do it yourself.  I bought a house in my hometown outside of Pittsburgh though so it was easier being in my hometown.

The NFL offered zero help then. It’s basically, “We don’t want you anymore so goodbye!”

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Jim O’Brien: Station Square scene for Steelers’ games has to be seen in order to be believed

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O’Brien column:

Station Square scene for Steelers’ games has to be seen in order to be believed

A man came toward me, smiling, and said, “How do I get in touch with Jack Lambert?”  I had to smile, too.

“Why would you want to do that?” I asked.

“I’m a big fan and I’d like him to sign this,” he said, pointing to a multi-colored likeness of Jack Lambert on the man’s left calf.  This is about the fourth time in my journalism career that someone has shown me a similar tattoo. It’s one of the perks of my job.

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Upcoming Steelers Takeaways Book signings – Meet Former Steelers!

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September 30:

Wheeling WV Books a Million 6 pm

October 1st:

Penguin Bookshop in Sewickly w/ Steelers Linebacker CRAIG BINGHAM  – 1:00 pm

October 1st:

Barnes & Noble in Monroeville w/ Two-Time Super Bowl winner Linebacker MARV KELLUM – 6:00 pm

October 1st:

Hudson Books in Pittsburgh Airport – 9:00 am

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