2017 Pitt Football Media Day

PITTSBURGH—Following a morning practice, the seventh of camp, the Pitt football program held its annual media day on Tuesday afternoon at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

 

Opening statement:

“Hope everybody is having a great day. It’s obviously great to be here. I feel like I’m a little late, like five days late for today’s Media Day. Obviously as I’ve talked here I guess the last six practices, it’s a little different schedule based on the NCAA, and I think it’s important to note that usually this Media Day is after the second day is short, so we’re seven practices in, five contact days. Obviously not full live contact, but it’s a little bit later than I like to do. I’m not sure we’ll do it the same next year.

Again, the reason we backed it up five practices was because academically our kids were still in school, and really would rather give you all this information and let you have access to these kids a lot earlier than this. I think next year with academics it’s suited better for you to have this earlier at the beginning of preseason as opposed to almost seven practices, going on number eight. Number eight will be really a third of the way through our preseason camp. We’ll get 24 practices in before we get into game week, Youngstown State week. That’s it. After tomorrow, we’ll be a third of the way through the schedule.

But it’s great to have you all here today. Wish I got you here earlier. I want to really thank the guys that come every day. I see a lot of these friendly faces and appreciate the hard work you guys do every day to be here with us.

Kind of our slogan for this year has been “take it.” If you look up at our schedule and those potential bowl games that are ACC destinations for everyone in the ACC. You say, why is it “take it?” After two years here, I think the first year we were “earn a jersey.” Last year it was “the pursuit.” We were on the pursuit to be great, and this year it’s “take it.” We’ve need to take it to the next level. We’ve got to go take it is really where that comes from. Nobody is going to give us anything.

When you go beat two Power Five champions, when you beat the national champion, you’ll have target on your back at some point, and we need to go take it. There’s some close games we won a year ago, and we can’t let that happen, so if you want to win those close games, we’ve got to find a way to take it. So our attitude is every day to go out and take it, and I think with that schedule there, we’ve got an opportunity. It’s a one-game season, and I think there’s a lot of opportunities for our kids there.

After seven days of practice, we’re obviously very thrilled with where we are as a football team, technically and knowledge-wise. When I look at all the work that goes into it. We finished a bowl game and that started a long time ago. We talked back in the spring, but that fourth-quarter workouts, it’s all part of the process going into spring ball, and then our victor’s edge. Those are the three components. Now we’re into fall camp, which is the fourth stage, I guess, before we get to September 2nd, which is game time.

Obviously game time is the exciting thing. There’s a ton of hard work that goes into it. Coach Andrews and his staff brought our kids to camp seven days ago, I believe, seven, eight days ago, ready to go. They’re in shape. They’re stronger. They’re faster. Also you have to thank our staff, our coaching staff. Every one of them, from the coordinators all the way down to the graduate assistants with the preparation they did during the summer. Nobody knows the hours that they spend preparing practices throughout the summer for our kids to run while they’re not there, so it’s got to be more detailed. So I think our coaches have done a great job, and I couldn’t be more impressed with where they are.

When you look at our senior class, we’ve got a total of 15 seniors. Eleven of them are on scholarship, and three of those are graduate transfers that are going to play the first season. They’re still trying to figure out do we put the names on the back of the jerseys, script in the front, what color jerseys do we wear, the whole deal. I couldn’t be happier with those three grad transfers we have after seven days of practice, and obviously we had one of them here in the spring in Max [Browne], and two new guys there.

But overall when you look at it, we’ve got an exciting schedule. We’ve got a young football team when you look at the 15 seniors that we have. But we have a talented football team. We have a lot of skill. What wins football games? Is it the talent, or is it the experience? You guys can choose which one you like. But you’d like to have talent and experience. To me, I think we have talent and we have a lot of experience at a few different spots, but we have very eager kids that are working hard.

I think they get better every day, and we’re excited with where we are.”

On having the players stay at a local hotel near the facility during camp:
“Yes, that’s a great point. In the past, and again, you talk about a commitment from our university and athletic department. In the past, I hope you guys didn’t walk down the hallway last year, if you would have walked down our first-floor lobby during middle doubles, or fall camp, whatever you want to call it, we only had two doubles in the past, when you walked by the weight room you saw a bunch of blowup mattress, okay, in the weight room. Anybody ever see those?

Our kids would get through a practice, a grueling practice, get some therapy, do whatever they do, hydrate, eat, and then they’d go in there, and Coach Andrews would give them nap time there.

Really not what college football—big-time college football—is all about. Really, again, we just had a disconnect with being in the dorms and the travel and you’d waste 20 minutes over, 20 minutes back. We just thought it was important to get them here, close to us. They walk down just like the Steelers’ rookies do, so when you talk about being a first-class program, that’s where it is.

We’ve invested a little bit more. Obviously hotels aren’t cheap, so I thank Heather Lyke for getting that done and Chris LaSala for pushing it through, and it’s first-class. Our kids, if you ask them, ‘hey, how’s the hotel compared to the dorm?’ they’re going to be like, ‘way better.’ It’s not even close. So they’re getting their rest.

Rest and recovery is so, so important for our kids, and for them to be sleeping on a locker room floor or on a blowup mattress, and we don’t have any shades down there so the light is running through, you can’t get a real nap, and our kids needs naps. I remember when I was in college, those naps were precious. It’s important to those young minds. So we do have that.”

On the transfers on Pitt’s roster:
“Transfer happen. You’d have to ask those guys why they transferred. I mean, I can’t answer it. I think by the years sometimes they change. Dewayne [Hendrix] will be like, ‘I transferred?’ Dewayne is a Pitt man. Some of the new guys are new, and I think it’s always interesting to ask maybe why a guy makes a move. I saw yesterday in the news there was another guy grad transferred right in the middle of camp. It’s like, wow. But it happens. I won’t divulge personal information that I know that kids have said to me because that’s not my position to do that.

But I just know this: I think we have an attractive place here at the University of Pittsburgh, and I think it’s because of the people, and the interesting thing about great grad transfers, let me just tell you, we have three great ones, okay, that are going to play a lot for us. It’s not like you’re going to see a grad transfer come in and sit on the bench or watch and go, wow, he was a bust. We’ve got three great ones. We’ve done a great job at weeding through it, and it’s not hard to find out the health of a guy at a different place and we’ve seen some interesting pictures that you evaluate as coaches, and we’ve made some great decisions, and I couldn’t be happier. If I could get three more just like that, I would.

But I think the attractive thing about Pitt when you look at it is these grad transfers, let’s just stick with the grad transfers, I’m not going to talk about Dewayne or anybody else, but the grad transfers that we were able to get have been at other places. They’ve seen how other places are done, and I think when they come here and they visit and they watch how our process is done, they see and talk to our kids, you just for example, Brandon Hodges says, ‘this is a different place.’ It’s like,’ that’s great, you’ve been here a week. You’ve been here a week.’ He visited two weeks ago just about, maybe two and a half. I mean, so it’s different. Why is it different? I’m not going to speak for him, but I think the people and the way we coach them and the way we care about our kids is different, and that’s kind of how we want to run our program.”

On why players are transferring more today than they used to:
“Well, it’s happening because academically people are doing a great job of getting their degree. Back 20 years ago, a kid could be a junior taking an English 101 or taking some what they called basket weaving classes. No one was working towards graduation. Well, the NCAA has made after your sophomore year you have to declare a major, okay. 25 years ago, you didn’t have to declare a major, you could go through five years and never be going towards any major. You took general-ed courses and that’s all you did. You spent four years at a university and never got your degree. So the NCAA is doing a great job of getting you there.

Back in the day when I was a player, you’d go home for the summer. Now our guys aren’t going home for the summer. To have our players here in the summer working with Coach Andrews, getting therapy and doing all the things—they’re eating right, they’re here all the time. For us to pay for their housing, pay for them to eat and do all those things as a full scholarship student-athlete, we have to have them in school. If you didn’t want to go to school, well, we couldn’t pay for your housing. You’re on your own, so you’d better go get a summer job. So we’re paying for them to get here and they’re getting their degree, and I think they’re looking and saying, ‘hey, I got my degree here, let me go try something new.’”

On why players don’t stay at their original schools:
“I don’t know. How many grad transfers in the football program? We haven’t had any leave, and don’t expect to. I think if you treat them right, they stay and we keep them happy. I can’t tell you why, because we haven’t had anything.”

On if adding Brandon Hodges will significantly help the Pitt offensive line:
“Yeah. I love that guy so far. I mean I loved him in the recruiting process. You always look around and go, ‘what am I missing?’ It’s that iceberg, and you see the tip and you go, ‘man, this guy’s beautiful.’ He looks great. Puts a big smile on his face. You should see him eat—came on his official visit and ate this like big cheeseburger. I’m like, for breakfast? I mean, you just love everything about him. The guy’s a blue collar guy, and then you watch him practice and you’re like, ‘wow!’ I think he’s going to be a huge addition to our offensive line. It was a place we need an older guy to come in. We’re not just taking them—oh, there’s one there, we don’t need him. It’s a great spot, and I think he’s very talented.

On how Brandon Hodges ended up at Pitt:
“Kind of fell in our lap. I think that’s the kind of relationships you build. I mean, he reached out to Coach Watson. We don’t go out and—we don’t have a recruiting office like some places I think do, going out and reaching—this is a kid that reached out to us. I think Coach Watson, I believe—and I may be wrong, you may ask Coach Watson—but I believe, my records are straight, he kind of reached out to us and wanted to be back with Coach Watson. It’s never over after that, you know? He was courted by Florida State and visited there and Mississippi State as well, which is where he’s from. I think the people attracted him here.”

On the acclimation process for Pitt’s graduate transfers:
“It’s been really good. Both of them were smart. I think that’s where it starts. I’m watching Brandon out there today, and inside, he’s taking guys that are about the size of this podium and knocking them down in here, and I’m going, ‘whoa!’ He snaps on you. And Flanagan, he’s so smart, again, he’s graduated. We were kind of on Flanagan for a long time now. But he’s finishing up school and had some goals to do. But it’s been a lot faster than you would think. Because Flanagan’s obviously been here for a long time practicing, and they get along with the guys well. Our guys have done a great job because that’s who they are, of bringing those guys into our football family.”

On if there are more or less “or”s on the Pitt depth chart his season:
“I don’t know. I think when you’re a young football team, there might be a little less “or”s. Okay? Because when you have a young guys—I mean, when you have older guys, you would say that guy’s good, or we can go with that guy. If you’re a younger football team, there might be less “or”s. I haven’t seen a ton of “or”s. I don’t know we if we even put a depth chart out yet. I would say less “or”s this year just because you don’t have as many older guys that you feel. We’ll find out where they are. But there’s talented guys and there’s some talented guys that don’t know what they’re doing still like you want to going into the game. I guess I won’t know until we finish up the [remaining] two-thirds of this training camp to find out how many “or”s there will be. The more “or”s the better.”

On when a player missing several practices begins to hurt his chances of playing:
“For the most part, we got guys in place, and we’ve already addressed that issue. But I think anybody that’s not getting as many practices as we want—whether he’s injured or not at practice for a day, whether it’s academics or whatever—we’re catching them up. We’ve had some guys that that have had practices individually, where they’ve gone out with the drill coach in the evening and got their practices in. We obviously wouldn’t have you come back for a two-a-day; it wasn’t a two-a-day for those guys. So we’re able to do that and keep guys up to date. We have iPads and playbooks and mentally they got to be locked in. That’s a good question.”

On the importance of Max Browne joining the team in the spring to develop his leadership:
“If you got an offensive tackle, it’s not as important. I think if you get offensive tackle in August, it will be okay. But if you get a quarterback in August, it’s little bit more difficult. He’s been able to go through spring ball, Max has, go through spring ball and go through the entire summer, which the summer is a major thing. Obviously, the media is not sitting out there watching. Maybe next summer, E.J., we should go out there and watch a player run practice one day just to see how unbelievable, not only our coaches are as far as putting it together and making sure they know what they’re doing, because you got to coach them on how to do it without the coaches.

As I said after the first practice, we’re breaking a lot of bad habits. There’s some details that they don’t follow, but to go through it, for a quarterback draw back, hand it off to the right guy and watch the wraps go down the field, whether he throws to the right guy, whether he finishing the play or not, he’s out there doing it and the words are going through his mouth. So it’s critical for Max to have been here. Nathan [Peterman] didn’t have that. It took us really until Iowa to decide who our starting quarterback is. Hopefully we can decide on that prior to the season starting.

On filling the void that losing James Conner at running back left:
“We’re still trying to fill that void. Qadree Ollison is the lead guy right now. He’s the guy to beat. He’s got the target on his back. Darrin Hall has looked good. He’s playing with a little bit more leverage. Chawntez Moss has done some nice things. A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley, two young puppies, are guys that I think get better every day. I watched some of those guys make some moves today, make some plays and find some holes. So I think they get better every day.

And at tailback, we’re not looking for that one tailback. I’m looking at, ‘who are the top three?’ You need three or four of those guys. If you have one horse, that’s great. James was our horse a year ago. I hope we have two or three that we can rotate in there, keep them fresh and give people a different guy to tackle.”

On Dane Jackson:

“Dane’s had a great camp so far. So far—knock on some wood there. But Dane’s been really impressive, not only on special teams but in the secondary. It’s way too early, seven practices in, but I like the swagger I see out of our secondary right now. I mean, I see them celebrating together. I don’t know what it is; I couldn’t tell you what it is. Is it more confidence, more knowledge? Are they stronger, faster? I don’t know what it is. I think they’re more confident. Even if a ball goes over their head, I see them come back the next play and make another play. And that’s going to happen for a secondary. But I feel some little different swagger out of those guys that I didn’t really feel a year ago. So I like where Dane is right now.”

On injuries to players during camp:
“It’s still being evaluated right now. I’m not really going to comment on something that’s really not a fact yet. We’re still evaluating, looking at the process, and we’ll see where we are. It’s way too early.”

On when he will know how long injured players will be out for:
“Still too early. Still trying to figure it out. I mean, it’s part of football. And every day across the country, guys are getting banged up. And it takes time to figure out exactly what it is and where we go with it. So, when we know, if it’s significant, we’re going to approach it and let you guys know about it. I’m not going to put the cart first.”

On Pitt’s group of tight ends:
“In the spring, I didn’t feel so good. I’d like to hide under the podium here if you asked me in the spring. But right now, I mean, wow; it’s one of those “wow” positions right now. We brought three freshmen in in Charles Reeves and [Grant] Carrigan and [Tyler] Sear, and I don’t say those in any particular order. Probably needed to say it alphabetically; I probably should have said it alphabetically. All three of those guys are going to be great players here. You bring in a class, and you’re not sure. And there’s some other positions I’m not sure right now, but all three of those guys, right now as freshmen, those guys are going to be football players. And all three of them are getting reps and really getting better every day. They’re tough, they’re knowledgeable, really smart guys and picked up the offense really quickly. You look at those three, and Chris Clark has done a nice job in camp so far, still working on some little things there, and Matt Flanagan has been tremendous. I think you guys will be impressed when you see No. 88 get a chance to step out there and do some things. I’ve been impressed with what he’s done. And Devon Edwards has had a great camp so far. He’s a guy that’s a tight end, moved over to defense mid-season last year. I still think he can go over and do some things. He’s a big athlete running better than he has in the past. He’s done a great job in the pass game, and we’re continuing to work on his run game and doing things that he can complement his pass game.

So that tight end position, where it probably couldn’t be any weaker in the spring, has really [become] a strength right now, which is impressive, an impressive job by our coaches in bringing some guys in. It’s really four new guys, with Flanagan and three freshmen, it’s four new guys to that list.”

On the youth of the defensive line:
“I could see having some “or”s right there. That would be an “or” position, which means we have some depth there. I’ll start inside with the D-tackles with [Amir] Watts, [Keyshon] Camp and Kam Carter, who has been impressive. He’s steadily gotten better every day. He’s a super kid to coach, I might add, with all of the chaos out there and all of the conflict that reality TV shows will bring to it. There’s no truth to that. I’ll address that quickly, if that’s okay. But he’s done an unbelievable job, couldn’t be a classier kid to be honest with you.

He actually, I will even tell you, he got in a fight, the first fight in the practice. The first fight yesterday, it was a little one, but I was looking for it maybe it getting bigger, but it was small. And he’s like, ‘I’m sorry, Coach.’ What else can you ask for? Not too many guys say they’re sorry. Watts, Camp… Rashad Wheeler has been impressive, Central Catholic product. He’s been impressive. Shane Roy. There are five, six guys in there that can be “or”s inside, with Folston, Hendrix. Allen Edwards is playing the best football he has right now. He’s at the top of his game. I’ve been really impressed what he’s done on the field so far. Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones are some guys, I mean, I would say if there’s a position, there might be more “or”s than ever. So don’t get mad at me during the season when there are “or”s on there. Those are some “or”s.

At that position, it’s going to be who has the best week of practice. So they’re going to be battling each other every week. If one guy gets better, it’s not someone loafing. If someone got better that week, or maybe fits that offensive style better, or can play the zone play better than the power, those guys will play. So I’ll tell you, that’s an “or” position.”

On if he watched Kam Carter on the Netflix show “Last Chance U”:
“I’ll tell you two stories now. My kids laugh at me because I call it Netflex. Netflex, I guess. I didn’t know it was Netflix. I couldn’t get on it. So I wouldn’t waste my time. But one Sunday, my kids said, dad, I can get it out for you, so I said, let me check this out. So I watched episode 1, and I couldn’t understand what everybody was talking about. I said, you know, if I got to read the bottom there, I am not really enjoying this show. So I watched probably most of that show and saw Kam.

Everybody wants to be in the media. TV shows, reality shows, sometimes it gets blown up. In recruiting him—this is a funny story—you know how they have that NFL show “Hard Knocks?” Isn’t it current? So, I’m thinking it’s “Hard Knocks,” junior college football, so I’m thinking it’s over with. And he told me about some things that happened in the show and I’m thinking it’s over with. And then, you know, probably E.J. told me, hey, that thing’s on this weekend. I said, ‘what?’ I thought that thing was over. I didn’t know it was still going on, so I don’t get to watch much TV or Netflex. I don’t get to watch that stuff too often. So that’s how much I know.”

On if he spoke with Kam about his portrayal on the show:
“No, not really. It hasn’t been an issue. If I had saw issues from that show… but, again, he told me about everything I needed to know prior to. Like I said, he’s a great kid. He was as up front and honest as you could be. He said, ‘Coach, I snapped on a coach one time.’ He called it “snapped.” He told us everything. I mean, it didn’t shock me. I think it’s all for the show.”

On how he handles suspensions:

“Whether I’ve been the head coach for the last two, going on three seasons, or assistant coach, assistant head coach and D coordinator, it’s not just a head coach’s deal. You talk to your whole staff: ‘Hey, what are we going to do here?’ We’ve got to set the standard what we want to be as a program. If you don’t put your foot down, you lose it all, really. You lose all respect.”

On his impressions of Pitt’s offense under new coordinator Shawn Watson:
“It’s still a work in progress. It’s so hard. I wish we had preseason game like the NFL does, so you can really find out. But when you go against each other the whole day, every day, and the defense kind of knows what you’re doing and the offense kind of knows the defense, there’s some advantages there. I’d love to get Youngstown down here and get to play against them every day. On September 2nd, we’d be a little better prepared. So it’s hard to see because of the style defense we are and how we meld into a different offense. Same thing, vice versa, our offense knows our defense so well. It’s so hard to tell. But right now, I like what I see. And there are some changes that I think needed to be done that have made things a little bit easier on our offensive guys, and we’ll find out September 2nd.”

www.pittsburghpanthers.com

ACCEPTANCE

I remember watching an old Chris Rock interview where he stated as a black man; he need always to be on guard and in fact expect that a white person will drop the “N-word” at any time. That in fact, the blame was not to be placed on the white person for saying it, but on Rock for not anticipating it. While I will not dare to make myself the spokesperson for all black people, I’m sure many can commiserate that the danger of both overt and covert racism is a constant threat. The recent announcement that the man currently vacationing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is looking to “redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants” reminded me of a particularly hurtful experience.

 

I was at my friend’s house when my mother called to tell me I had been accepted to Penn State, University Park (i.e., “Main” campus). I got off the phone a little shaken – it was my first college acceptance so far, and I was happy, but it was not my first choice. It was the one in-state school to which I applied to appease my parents, and I was anxious that they would coerce me to attend before finding out what the other schools I applied you had to say. Still heady, I went back into the living room (yes, cell phones did exist at this time, but not everyone had one yet) and told my friend and her family the good news.  I don’t remember if there was ever an actual congratulation offered, but what I will never forget is the conversation that happened next. With stunned faces, my friend and her family chose to focus on a family friend’s white child who was rejected from the same university and that my admission was indeed evidence that affirmative action was at play because according to their presumed nonbiased opinion, this girl ran academic and extracurricular circles me. While I was never privy to this girl’s curriculum vitae, I was just under the top 10 in my class (and I know for a fact that several in the top 10 cheated regularly, but that’s another story), was an officer of the National Honor Society, a two-year varsity sport letter earner, Key Club Officer, etcetera, etcetera, but that didn’t matter in the face of this clear travesty of justice.

 

I will never forget sitting in the middle crevice of their sunken V-shaped couch as their words faded in the background, my heart beating wildly in my ears. I didn’t speak up. By this time, I had lived in this predominately white community for almost the entirety of my elementary and secondary education. While I was never comfortable with these microaggressions, I was used to them, and like Chris Rock said, it was my fault for relaxing in the face of the constant threat. But it’s still upsetting after all these years because I am much more aware of the insidiousness of white supremacy and its confusion with overt racism and racial intimidation. White supremacy allowed my personhood to be conveniently erased by these people who knew me and seemed to care about me as they reduced me and my hard work to an erroneous stereotype without an iota of self-awareness or compunction on my behalf. This is a perfect illustration of why the justification of having “black friends” means nothing. Not only is it patronizing but having black or other non-white friends does not exempt white people from maintaining racist beliefs towards those friends and their race as a whole.

 

The false narrative of meritocracy in college admissions helps no one. In fact, it often carries the stink of white supremacy precisely because of many white people’s insistence that their spots are being “taken.” The presumption is that students of color couldn’t possibly meet admission criteria and that the persistent education gap that exists between students of color (with the exception of Asian students) and their white peers is the unfortunate reality of generally lower levels of intelligence rather than the result of systematic educational disenfranchisement. We tell all kids regardless of their background that if they work hard enough to excel inside and outside the classroom, they can get into pretty much any school they want. But that’s simply not true. Guidance counselors and admissions officers try as best they can to temper prospective students expectations, but it’s mostly too late.  Adrienne K., a Native American college grad whose college acceptance was met  by her white peers with the same cries of affirmative action, highlights the factors that actually give students a leg up , including legacy admissions, student athletes, students from underrepresented states (I was told by an admissions officer that getting students from the Dakotas to attend a school in the northeast was a crowning achievement!), students with disabilities, women interested in STEM majors, general diversity of student majors, etc. And those factors alone don’t even begin to consider things like necessary admissions caps. Like any good 80’s movie, you need ALL the cliques (jocks, nerds, etc.) represented to make a well-rounded class and create the vibrant, diverse campus with cool, cultural classes and the black and brown tokens white students can’t wait to claim as their “friends.”

Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.

~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here, 1967

 

Fifty years later, Dr. King’s words remain achingly relevant. Casual racism, combined with willful ignorance and a dash of conservative media propaganda ensures that the myth of affirmative action overwhelmingly benefiting “unqualified” racial minorities will continue despite evidence to the contrary. In fact, not only do people of color need to dispute the idea that they have an unfair advantage when it comes to admission, but also tuition and aid. And over 15 years later, despite having graduated from Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College with an award winning undergraduate thesis and eventually earning a Master of Arts degree, the prejudiced beliefs of my former friend and her family and their ilk continue to antagonize not only me but the next generation.

Shanna K Houser Contributor

editor@urbanmediatoday.com

 

Steelers Weekend Practices a Hit With the Fans

 

Have you ever heard the quote “If you build it, they will come?” Of course, you have. That famous quote was from the 1989 Baseball film ‘Field of Dreams.’ The main actor Kevin Costner played an Iowa farmer who heard a mysterious voice which whispered that quote and inspired him to build a baseball diamond out of his cornfield and as a result, the ghost of great baseball players emerged from the corn to play ball.

 

Well, the Pittsburgh Steelers may not have heard any ‘mysterious voices’ when they decided to add to the fan experience during training camp, but they were sure inspired to do so and it proved to be a success. For 2 days this weekend, the Steelers chose to leave the friendly confined of Saint Vincent College and as a Rock Star Band, take their ‘show’ on the road.

 

On Friday, they held what has become a popular event during their time in Latrobe and have their annual night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. Dubbed ‘Friday Night Lights,’ it’s been a favorite for the fans who not only travel there from Pittsburgh and Latrobe, but also from several states around the country and even internationally.

 

In addition to the fans coming to see the players practice, they can also participate in several activities and games. They also got a chance to get autographs from the players at the appointed time.

 

But this year’s edition of Friday Night Lights faced some opposition: Rain as it poured down twice during the team’s practice. The first rainstorm delayed the practice for almost an hour as players and fans left the stadium. But then the skies cleared up and then the practice resumed for an hour before the storms returned, which eventually ended the practice. A total number of 10,635 persons attended the Friday Night Lights.

 

And then on Sunday, the Steelers tried something different by moving one of their practices to Heinz Field and created an event called Family Fest, which fans can experience all that Saint Vincent’s had to offer, but a little closer to downtown. It was full of fun and games which were titled The Steelers Experience on Art Rooney Ave, and they also had a chance to watch the annual Regatta and also hear the crowds from the Pirates game in nearby PNC Park (The Pirates won in 12 innings 5-4)

 

And then around 5 pm, the stadium gates opened and allowed fans to enter to take their seats and watch their team go through drills and small scrimmages from 6:30-9:00. Fans also had a chance to experience a Meet and Greet with Steelers Super Bowl greats Frenchy Fuqua and Franco Harris (Super Bowl IX and X)), John Kolb and Rocky Bleier (Super Bowl XIII and XIV) and Chris Hoke and Santonio Holmes (Super Bowl XL and XLIII). Each player was very friendly and accommodating to the fans.

 

Highlights of the practice: 39-year old LB James Harrison returning a kick to the delight of the fans, and also to Harrison himself.

 

Fans also had a chance to tour the Great Hall in Heinz Field and take pics by the team’s 6 Vince Lombardi trophies, given to the Super Bowl Champion. When the practice ended, several fans had a chance to run on the field and get autographs from players, which were also available for interviews.

 

CB Ross Cockrell had this to say: “Our communication’s indeed been elevated and I think that’s really part of the continuity for us to get that 7th ring.

Veteran WR Darius Heyward-Bey: “My thought process is to win the Super Bowl. Ready to defend the

AFC North Champs, get out there and get a home playoff game and win the Super Bowl.”

Rookie WR JuJu Smith-Shuster: “The Fans are amazing, it’s the first time in the stadium, so it’s been good.”

 

A total of 17,119 persons attended the inaugural Family Fest, and you can guarantee that many are already looking forward to next year’s and beyond. Now the team will head back to Saint Vincent’s to resume their practices there before playing their first Pr-Season game Friday night vs. the NY Giants at Heinz Field.

 

It was a successful weekend for the Steelers who really embraced the fans with these two events. They decided to ‘build it, ‘ and the fans indeed came.

 

Notes: To no surprise, RB Le’Veon Bell wasn’t at either practice because he still hasn’t signed his Franchise Tag tender of $12 million. WR Martavis Bryant didn’t practice because he’s still not fully reinstated by the NFL. LB Ryan Shazier, backup QB Landry Jones and rookie RB James Conner didn’t practice because of injuries and other undisclosed matters. On Friday, the Steelers inked Head Coach Mike Tomlin to a new contract extension through 2020.

 

Please email Ray at ray@urbanmedaitoday.com

Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter

 

Ray Jr. on Sports

  1. Penn State ranked #6, Pitt receives votes in Preseason CFB Poll-College Football is only a few weeks away and the USA Today Coaches released their Preseason Top 25 Poll, and it has Penn State ranked at #6, and the Pitt Panthers receiving votes and officially ranked 32nd.
  2. Is Penn State worth the #6 ranking? They’re coming off an awesome 2016 which saw them beat Ohio State and Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship and almost made the College Football Playoff. They have most of their starters back which includes RB Saquon Barkley who rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. Yeah, I think they’ve earned it.
  3. Pitt received votes?? Yep, and I’m pretty surprised. They are a good team, but the departures of RB James Conner, QB Nate Peterman, OL Adam Bisnowaty, Dorian Johnson and DE Ejuan Price creates some concerns for this Panthers team, but the national media feels that it’s still talented enough to fight for a Top 25 bid. I can’t imagine them receiving votes in the Associated Press Poll, but it remains to be seen as that poll hasn’t been released yet.
  4. Other Preseason Top 25 notables-Even though they lost the National Championship, I’m not surprised that Alabama is once again ranked #1. They’re still the talented team in the sport and Ohio State is right behind them at #2. The ACC’s Florida State is #3, USC is #4 and reigning National Champion Clemson is #5.
  5. Why is Clemson #5? Because of the departures of QB Deshaun Watson, WR Mike Williams among others, this team will truly be less talented than the team that beat Alabama, but they’re still good enough to contend for another championship, especially in the ACC.
  6. Other ACC Ranked Teams-In addition to Florida State and Clemson, and three other ACC teams were also ranked in the Preseason Poll: Louisville at No. 17, Miami at No. 18 and Virginia Tech at No. 22.
  7. Pitt faces 2 Top 25 teams early-The Panthers won’t have to worry about facing co-called weak non-conference teams as they face 2 of the nation’s best in #6 Penn State and #11 Oklahoma State in Weeks 2 and three respectively. If the Panthers can pull off those upsets, they will have earned a spot in the Top 25.
  8. Pitt’s suspensions-As their Training Camp opened Tuesday, Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi had to discipline several players for their off the field actions: Senior defensive end Rori Blair has been dismissed from the program for “conduct detrimental to the program.” Junior offensive tackle Alex Bookser will be suspended for the season opener for his involvement in an offseason legal situation involving a motor vehicle and Senior linebacker Quintin Wirginis, and junior safety Jordan Whitehead will both be suspended for the opening three games of the season for the violation of team policy.
  9. Were the suspensions justified? Narduzzi did what was best for the integrity of the team. I’m disappointed that Blair was kicked off the team. I wanted to see what he could do this year. And Whitehead certainly needs to be grateful that he hasn’t kicked off the team. He’s the team’s best defensive player right now, and he can’t even suit up to play Penn State. Shame.
  10. Pitt Day 3 Training Camp Recap-Narduzzi had this to say about Camp: Running backs-”I’ve got three veterans that know how to function and can play winning football. It’s just a matter of getting reps and getting better. We don’t have guys listed as one or two”…WR Aaron Mathews-“I expect Aaron. He’s a guy who has some personal obligations to take care of right now, like some other guys I mentioned earlier. He has some things going on that he needs to take care of.
  11. Narduzzi on the status of RB Quadree Ollison: “He was a redshirt freshman, and that was two years ago. I think he can. That’s the bar. We’re trying to raise the bar. He rushed for 1,100 yards, but he’s a little bit wiser. “ I still think the starting RB job’s Ollison’s to lose.
  12. Steelers Training Camp-On July 27th the Pittsburgh Steelers began their training camp, and they’ve done so without All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bell who is unofficially holding out because of his contract. He still hasn’t signed his $12 million Franchise Tag tender, which means he can’t practice because he doesn’t have a contract.
  13. Is Bell Wrong? In my opinion, he’s proving nothing by holding out. He has to play for that $12 million, so why not take it for this season and work out a new contract with the Steelers next season. Makes sense to me.
  14. Bryant isn’t cleared to practice..yet-I believe we missed the fact that the NFL reinstated Steelers WR Martavis Bryant on a conditional basis, and no one realized what those conditions meant, until training camp where Bryant is not able to join the team at practice until the NFL deems him free to do so. Just another lesson for Bryant to learn about getting his life together.
  15. Steelers will have new Hall of Honor-The Pittsburgh Steelers announced their new Hall of Honor which will induct former players, coaches and front office personnel who were important to the franchise that was founded in 1933. I think this is pretty awesome and long overdue.
  16. Why is a Hall of Honor necessary? Because it’s obvious that everyone won’t make the Hall of Fame so this is a way of honoring those who may not have been good enough to be enshrined in Canton but are good enough for their respective teams.
  17. Who should be the Steelers inaugural Hall Class: Here’s my picks: Art Rooney Sr, Chuck Noll, Dan Rooney, Ernie Stautner, Joe Greene, Dan Rooney, Bert Bell and Johnny ‘Blood’ Mcnally. They will officially announce their picks at halftime vs. the Green Bay Packers November 26th.
  18. Pirates-One minute they’re two games put of first place, now they’re almost six games out because they continue to lose to sub .500 teams and it’s a shame that the Pittsburgh Pirates just can’t see to get out of their way in a very weak NL Central Division.
  19. Why didn’t the Pirates make a move at the trade deadline? Because they’re the Pirates and that is what they do. Yes, their losing to teams like the SF Giants and Cincinnati Reds is bad enough, but I feel that they could’ve at least addressed the 3B issues (in the absence of Jung Ho Kang) and OF (with the injuries of Gregory Polanco) Once again I point my finger at the Pirates Front Office, who still doesn’t seem to get it.
  20. NBA Approves Pistons move to downtown- With the NBA’s approval, the Detroit Pistons announced that they would move downtown-after after 29 seasons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. They will play at the new Little Caesar’s arena whom they will share with the NHL’s Red Wings. They both will now join the NFL’s Lions and MLB’s Tigers as all four professional teams that will play in downtown Detroit. 

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

Follow him @urbanmedaiRay on twitter

Get Back Your Security Deposit: Tips and Reasons for End of Lease Cleaning

Plenty of services specializes in end-of-lease cleaning, and for some tenants, they provide a viable option. Many others opt to do the job themselves. End-of-lease cleaning can be beneficial to you, and it’s not rocket science. You can do it.

 

A Good Reason to Take Back What’s Yours

 

Retrieving your security deposit or cleaning fee isn’t the sole reason to thoroughly clean your rented apartment or house when your lease has expired. In addition to receiving the money, your landlord likely will give you a glowing reference, which can be invaluable when you again rent or even purchase a home.

 

Before You Begin

 

Refer to any documents or photos that record the condition of the space, and any appliances, before your residency. Also, remember any conversations you may have had with the landlord. It’s ideal to have a friendly relationship with your landlord, though that’s not always how things turn out. Whatever the case, your job is easier when you know what the owner expects of you as a tenant.

 

Make a Custom Checklist

 

If you live in a small apartment, you might not be eager to wade through an end-of-lease cleaning checklist geared toward those who rent a larger home. On the other hand, a list that’s reasonable for the renter of a small apartment may not prove adequate for others. So it’s best to create a checklist based on your rental space. This may take only a few seconds of thought, but any project goes more smoothly if you have a plan. Don’t forget:

 

.   Dust as needed, paying attention to cobwebs and dead bugs; remember the ceiling fixtures.

.   Clean the windows, including the sills; wash any stains on the walls, paying attention to light switches and outlets.

.   Scrub the sinks and toilet.

.   Clean inside and behind the refrigerator, and any large appliances.

.   Remove nails or screws from the walls and ceiling; properly fill the holes with putty

.   Sweep or vacuum the floor; remove any stains.

 

An Ounce of Prevention

 

Now that your lease is up, it’s time to move into another apartment or house. Seize this opportunity to make a fresh start. Schedule a walk-through with your new landlord. Discuss their expectations of you, and document them in writing. A simple digital camera is perfect for recording any actual damages. Finally, resolve to take care of messes as they happen and immediately report needed repairs to your landlord. editor@urbanmediatoday.com

2017 Pitt Football Camp, Day 1 Recap Panthers Held First Practice of Camp on Tuesday Morning

Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi

Opening statement:
“Great to have you guys out here today, that’s for sure. First day of camp, obviously an exciting 2017 season. It’s a little different camp, as you guys know, from the NCAA standpoint. We’re really out here a full week earlier than what we normally are, so there’s a lot of things going on with our kids. It’s kind of a modified week. Obviously, academics and things that they have to take care of from a university standpoint are No. 1. We backed up our next team meeting all the way to 9 p.m. So they’ll be busy all day with things they need to do, so, like I said, it’s a little odd. We’re missing some guys. I don’t know if we have any former professors here or not, so that’s kind of where we are there. As far as practice No. 1, it was a really good day. Lot of details and finishing, things that we need to do. The kids are out there all by themselves during the summer with our strength coaches that coach the weight room and drills and attitude and moral. But it comes down to fundamentals, you see a lot of details that we need to clean up. But the effort was good, the attitude was great and I’m happy with where we are.”

On if there is any update on Paris Ford’s status:
“Not at this point. We’re obviously in constant contact with him. He’s doing well. He’s doing better than expected at this point, and we’ll just wait for a decision to be made. I am hopeful with him and so is he.”

On the status of Jordan Whitehead:
“His status is status-quo. He’s got some things that he needs to take care of from a university standpoint, and he’ll be in-and-out basically this week and the next.”

On his message to the suspended players:
“It’s personal. It’s all personal stuff. First thing, this is going to be a disciplined program. We’re going to go by details inside too. I was a coach’s kid growing up and if I was one minute late, I’m not going out for the next month. That’s just the way it is. We’re going to be disciplined. And as soon as you lose your discipline, you lose your credibility as a football coach and as a program. And we’re going to have discipline. It’s going to be little things and it’s going to vary from time to time, but that’s all in the accumulation of pride. Three months of stuff comes out in one day, but those are all personal things that are talked about in that office. You got my statement and keep it right at that.”

On if he was disappointed by what occurred:
“I think I used the word ‘disappointed’ in my statement. Of course we are. Where our kids are, what they’re doing, who they are hanging out with and what choices they make are so important. We preach it all the time. It’s just like at home with my four kids. If there’s something I’m not happy with, I’m disappointed there and I get disappointed here; except I have 105 kids here. I have a lot of children and there’s going to be issues at times. You guys don’t hear about them all. There’s other ones. You don’t see guys out here pushing the plate for whatever they did. Discipline is what we do. We are going to be a disciplined program.”

On keeping “credibility” when it comes to discipline:
“I think it’s just being consistent. I think you have to be consistent with what you are doing. Surely we don’t want to do what we don’t need to do. I’d like to see everybody play; but you know what, if that happens, what’s going to happen now? So it’s a consistency with discipline that’s very, very important. It’s consistent to what we have done in the past. Those are older guys and we hope they make smarter decisions than some of the other guys.”

On if he thinks the rest of the team is getting the message as far as violations:
“I hope so. I mean, usually it’s three percent of the football team that you worry about, and then there’s that 97 percent that we aren’t even talking about—all the good stuff that’s done out there. A lot of guys already had the message.”

On the circumstances of the suspension and if it was a first occurrence or repeated:
“A little bit of both. Maybe one of them is a one-time deal and one is a few different things. It is what it is.”

On the talent and amount of options at the running back position this year:
“We’re obviously excited. We have a great backfield replacing James Conner. We’re looking forward, whether it’s Darrin Hall or Chawntez [Moss]. [Qadree] Ollison right now is leading the way I believe, at least after today. We’ll see what he did after today from the video, but I’m excited with what they are doing.”

On the challenge of getting other players ready while getting Jordan Whitehead reps:
“It’s important for all of the safeties. You look at ‘T’ [Terrish] Webb leaving and Reggie Mitchell. We’ve been looking. And we had a good spring with all of those guys back, so it’s no different than what it was. We need other guys back there to step up and make plays, and they will.”

On who is taking the most snaps at middle linebacker:
“It will be Saleem Brightwell, who had a great spring. We looked at the depth in the spring. He came out really playing well. He’s athletic, he can run, he’s very locked in and focused. He’ll be the guy. Chase Pine will be another guy, but he’ll have to grow up. Elijah [Zeise] will be another guy, so we have plenty of guys.”

On how much they’ll get out of Damar Hamlin in camp:
“I think that we’re going get a lot out of him. Damar [Hamlin] feels as good as he has ever felt. We’re being very cautious. The NCAA talks a lot about player welfare and keeping them healthy; we don’t need them to tell us how important it is to keep them healthy. I don’t want to be back where we were. Damar said, ‘Coach, I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.’ And I’m talking back to his sophomore year of high school, so he was injured through high school. He had a nagging issue and he feels great right now, so I’m excited. But I don’t want to get so excited that I throw him out there and say, ‘let’s go.’”

On if Damar Hamlin will play more safety or cornerback:
“He’s played a little of both. He ran a lot of the stuff with the corners in the summer. I didn’t get to see much of it. He’s going to meetings with the safeties, but he’s getting the mental load back there. I think that there is more mental in the safety area, but he can line up and play corner. So we expect him to play both. We want him to be a utility guy depending on how healthy he really gets, but we’ll decide that when it comes.”

On if there will be an addition to the offensive line in camp:
“Yes, but I can’t really talk about it. Hopefully tomorrow.”

On working with players having finals during the first week of camp:
“Everything is sped up here with our kids going to classes and writing papers. Avonte [Maddox] was up until midnight worrying about a poetry class. The issues that we are dealing with here are not just football. It’s university-related, which is great, but we are a week early, so it’s like spring ball. We’re practicing in the morning and have the afternoon off.”

On Avonte Maddox’s leadership:
“Avonte was a great leader in the spring. He’s continued to be a leader so far. We voted for our leadership council last night in our team meetings. I haven’t gotten the tally yet. We’ll see who after the summer, who our kids thought were the top dozen leaders, and we’ll do it again after camp and go from there.”

On if Zack Gilbert is still with the team:
“Yeah, he is. Zack is, and so is George Hill. But obviously, they’re [medically disqualified], so there’s no sense in bringing them back here yet to stand around and play music. They’ll be back and join us when school starts. We’re allowed to bring 105 in, so we are going to bring guys who can play.”

On what Ben DiNucci has proven to compete for the starting quarterback job:
“Well he’s showed me the past year, and he showed me some good stuff today. Just composure in the pocket—I told him to scramble today out of the pocket, and he doesn’t go throw the ball to the wrong guy. Those decision-making things that Ben has done, I think he has come a long way. The bowl game has done a lot for his confidence; that’s probably where it started. As much as I didn’t want to see him go in the game and Nathan be out—because I think we win that game if that doesn’t happen—I wanted to get him in for that other reason. He did a nice job in that bowl game. He made some nice plays and he kind of said, “Hey I can do this.” It’s hard until you get thrown in that fire. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance all year to get a backup quarterback really in there. Manny Stocker got in there at the end of a game at home I believe down in the end zone, had a couple runs. It will be interesting, and this will be a great camp for [Ben], Max, Kenny and Thomas.”

On Brian O’Neill’s participation in camp:
“We’re going to be cautious; we’re not going to be crazy. We know that guy can play. It’s just like Damar [Hamlin] or anybody else. He will be a little limited, especially early. If you saw some of the craziness that happens out there. Some of them can’t control themselves. You throw a crazy guy out there during what we call Wiz tempo, where there’s no contact and they’re not supposed to be bull rushing, and someone bull rushes. We need to be careful out there.”

On Max Browne’s gained confidence with his new team:
“I think every day, you see him walk down the hallways. He’s gotten so much stronger since he’s been here. Coach [Dave] Andrews and the strength staff has done an incredible job with his body. They’ve got him bigger and stronger. He’s put on 14 pounds of muscle, lost a little bit of baby fat. For an old guy, that’s a lot. Usually from your freshman to sophomore year you make that stride, not from your senior to grad year. Just watching his face and confidence on the field as far as knowing the offense. You can imagine having 15 days of spring ball, and all of a sudden now a lot of things are thrown at you—a blitz, a stunt, a different coverage you haven’t seen. I think his confidence and his look and demeanor have improved every day.”

On having former players next door with the Steelers:
“I wish they were next door, but they are out in Latrobe. I wish I could just peek out the window. That’s impressive what those guys are doing over there—James [Conner}, Matt Galambos, [Scott] Orndoff. It’s impressive they’re over there, and I think they are doing well from talking with Coach Tomlin.”

On if he expects the former Panthers with the Steelers to be at any Pitt practices:
“They’ll be really busy. They better be focusing on their new job, because if they don’t focus on their new job, pretty soon they won’t have a job. They’ll be there. I’m sure they’ll come in some days to say hello or shoot a text. But they have bigger and better things to worry about.”

On if he has been in contact with James Conner about his recent injury:
“Nope, I’m focused on my job. You know, if I worry about his job or what the trainers are doing over there, I’ll have some problems. I watch the news; I was talking to my wife the other day and I said, “God it’s weird, I have to watch the news to figure out what’s going on. Maybe I should text Jerry [DiPaola] to see what’s going on and get an injury report.”

On if James Conner changing body types was a concern going into the NFL:
“Not really, it’s not a concern for the Steelers. I think they know what they are doing. You’re talking about one of the best NFL teams in the United States. I think they’ll get him where he needs to be. I don’t make those types of decisions.”

On if more internal leadership is necessary to prevent future disciplinary concerns:
“No, I think it’s the same thing. It’s a different age we live in. Every year is a different culture that we are raising our children in. Who remembers growing up and wondering, “What is it going to be like when my kids are growing up?” It’s a crazy world out there. Every year things get crazier.”

On upperclassman leadership on this year’s Pitt football team:
“It’s a smaller class than we had last year. It’s obviously a smaller class. We had 21 last year, now we have 10 and a couple transfers; Matt Flanagan and Max [Browne] haven’t been around. I’m talking about Pitt guys who have been here for the long haul and have seen this thing built from the Paul Chryst era to what we’ve done the last two years. Every year, you’ve got a different group of leaders. We’ve lost not only good football players but great leaders. I mean Bisnowaty is about as great of a leader as you’re going to have. I was telling the guys last night, I’ll never forget Biz in my first year was up in the dorm, sitting Indian style on the floor with a little grease board teaching the freshman up. That’s leadership. It’s not trying to be a leader on the field; it’s the stuff you don’t see that makes good leaders. It’s something you try to teach these guys as a coach. We’ll see where we are, and it’s something we will try to develop through this camp. We’ll get closer as a team and the chemistry will be important.”

On the chemistry with the new coaches:
“It’s going great. Starting with Coach Watson, he’s done a great job. I think the guys are buying into to all the new stuff we’re doing and what we’re doing offensively. And Coach Partridge has those guys working on the D-line. Those are our two new guys, besides two quality control coaches in James Patton and Tim Cooper. It hasn’t slowed down a bit; it’s been going smooth and straight forward.”