Steel Valley coach pleased with team's 'physicality'
Most teams set up scrimmages a couple of years in advance, so it was fortuitous for Steel Valley to have had the opportunity to take the field against West Mifflin on Saturday.
Not only does West Mifflin play up a classification, but the Titans are a returning conference champion — the perfect team for the Century Conference playoff-hopeful Ironmen to use as a barometer for the second week of preseason drills.
“Obviously we're still in training camp and trying to get to the foundation of our team as far as identifying who our players are,” Steel Valley coach Rod Steele said. “West Mifflin is a good football team. It's always a good thing to come out after that first week of camp and go against a good football team, and I was pleased with the physicality of our team.”
Like every program at this time of the year, though, Steel Valley is reviewing tape and trying to work out some of the glitches from its first intersquad clash. No team is anywhere near perfect right now, so the Ironmen are just looking for improvement as they ready themselves for the coming week and their scrimmage with visiting Trinity on Friday night.
And don't expect the team to dip too deeply into the playbook this week. Not with the very real possibility that Keystone Oaks, its Week 1 opponent, will be scouting trends for the conference opener.
“We're very vanilla, but you have to be when you have a young group of guys out there for the very first time,” Steele said. “You have to be able to throw them into the fire and run the base stuff that we do. We've got to be able to do that before we start branching off into other places.”
Though Steel Valley has tried to keep to a milquetoast offensive scheme in the preseason, the team can't hide the fact it's hoping for breakout performances from running back D'Andre Pickens. Who is replacing 1,500-yard rusher Dontez Williams.
“He's only like 5-9 and like 170 pounds,” Steele said of Pickens, “but he has a cutback style like Williams and he's not afraid to put his head up in there. He made some terrific runs and cutback runs and made some things happen on his own. I was pleased with him on the first time out. He really took the bull by the horns and got after it.”
Patrick O'Malley is the returning quarterback. Big things are expected from junior lineman Corey Pinkerton, who was dominating at times up front against West Mifflin on both sides of the ball.
“He's a bad dude,” Steele said. “He's a 280-pounder that likes to hit people and (West Mifflin coach Ray) Braszo pointed him out and, when the opposing coach praises him, you know he's playing football.”
Still, there remains some work for Steel Valley despite cautious optimism after the first week. The Ironmen remain a relatively young team even though several players saw considerable playing time because of injuries last season.
“We just have to keep identifying the mistakes that we made and correct those,” Steele said. “We have to make sure that the linemen up front are understanding their blocks and their assignments. We're going to start with our run game and we have to work a little bit on our pass game…because our run game is going to open things up for our pass game.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.