Now that’s more like it. No more bitterly cold wind or overcast sky — just a little briskness, a breeze, and clear autumn sunshine.
- Nice to be able to list a bunch of guys BACK in practice, rather than a bunch of guys missing practice. Back at work (although sometimes limited) were Chris Samuels, Chris Horton, Pete Kendall, Carlos Rogers, and Rock Cartwright. Clinton Portis and Santana Moss were on the sidelines, clearly paying attention, and Coach Zorn said he hopes that they’ll both play. Shawn Springs, Malcolm Kelly, and Jason Taylor were out, of course, and LaRon Landry sat out again.
- This was the most energetic practice I’ve seen in weeks, probably since before the Philadelphia game. The coaches were yelling — lots of stuff about how to defend Roethlisberger and what the defensive line needs to focus on — and the players were really getting after it. There was no point where I thought the team was visibly overlooking an opponent or NOT taking things seriously, but today was a reminder of what it looks like when the coaches have been telling them (as Greg Blache said today) that this is one of the most important games they’ll play in.
- Fred Davis keeps making notable practice plays, today finding a hole in the defense on one occasion, and making a nice adjustment to catch a lame duck underthrow on a second. I keep talking about how strong he looks in practice, and it’s not just me. Coach Zorn was asked about the rookie class after practice today, and after praising Chris Horton, he said “Fred is doing just as well. He just hasn’t had the opportunities — he’s got Chris Cooley in front of him.” And, later, “he has not said a word, just worked hard and looked great on the show team.” At some point, albeit maybe not this year, Fred Davis will impress.
- Jason Campbell got to uncork a few long passes today, hitting Devin Thomas on one and underthrowing him on another. Thomas, bizarrely, was playing with a hooded sweatshirt underneath his jersey and the hood flapping in the wind as he ran. It looked uncomfortable to me, but he seemed to be moving around fine. “Devin Thomas is starting to play faster as well,” Zorn said, also praising Thomas for his effort after the catch on his one catch in the Detroit game.
- Santana Moss looked like he was literally straining to get into the game, playing catch on the sidelines with the equipment guys, with Todd Collins, with just about anyone who would throw the ball back to him. Moss even looks fast standing still, which sounds like dumb marketing talk but is actually true in this case: his hands as he goes to catch a ball seem to move with remarkable speed.
- Coach Zorn likes to talk. I don’t mean that he rambles on aimlessly, boring people to death, but that he literally seems to enjoy engaging people in conversation. He spoke to the assembled group of reporters for almost thirty full minutes after practice and stuck around to answer some individual questions for twelve or so more, leaving only when he absolutely had to get to a quarterbacks meeting. Some choice highlights from his post-practice talk:
- Asked how many times he’s had to watch Antwaan Randle El’s touchdown pass in the Super Bowl for the Steelers (when Zorn was coaching against them on the Seahawks), Zorn laughed and said “I thought it was cheating. I’ve seen it too many times.”
- He described Roethlisberger as the “same size as John Elway. John moved a bit better, but they’ve got the same size.” Which seems to me like a heck of a compliment for Roethlisberger.
- Trying to run against the Steelers 3-4 defense “looks like a big pile of mush sometimes,” he said. “They don’t sit back and let you have your way. It’s active, it’s attacking. Any one of those linebackers can come, or any combination of them can come.”
- “It’s not over for Malcolm,” he said, of injured receiver Malcolm Kelly. “We’re just trying to get him well.”
- Asked about the pre-election night timing of the game, Zorn smiled. “Roger Goodell set it up very well, to say the least.” The reporters tried to get him to comment on the trend of the Redskins game deciding the the election, but Zorn wouldn’t bite. “One is definitely bigger than the other, I’ll tell you that.”
- Zorn, himself no slouch for a memorable quote, was asked about defensive coordinator Greg Blache’s turns of phrase. “He’s got that hunter mentality,” Zorn said. “He understands about critters and big game. He’s trying to paint a word picture, and I like word pictures.”
- He praised Shaun Suisham’s equanimity, but talked about initially wanting him to express himself a bit more. “I don’t want anything mystical or psychological or anything like that,” he hastened to clarify — just that the players feel comfortable speaking to him.
- And he clarified what he means when he says “suddenly”: “As soon as the ball is snapped, everybody knows so well what they’re doing that they can go there fast,” and, “Pow! Everybody’s explosive.”