Rossi: Blount brings back Steelers' swagger
Way back in Mike Tomlin's first season, he received a text message from a player after a particularly convincing victory. It was from Joey Porter, whom Tomlin had cut in one of his first big moves as coach. Tomlin could not help but smile when reading that Porter approved of the “Steeler Football” he had watched on television.
A part of Porter would never leave this organization.
Something has been missing from the Steelers, though. It's something that Porter provided as a player, something that can't be coached and something all the Super Steelers squads have shared.
Think Joe Greene. Think Jack Lambert. Think Porter. Think James Harrison.
Think LeGarrette Blount.
Yeah, he's a runner not a tackler. In fact, he's the secondary runner for the Steelers, who clearly view Le'Veon Bell as the stud among backs in only his second season. Coaches want the ball in his hands a lot, whether it is handed off or thrown by Ben Roethlisberger. They want it in his hands early and late.
The Steelers seem to see Bell as a breakout star.
Blount, though, might be The Man for this team.
“One thing I saw from LeGarrette on the very first day was you know when he enters and leaves a room,” running backs coach James Saxon said.
“He's got that type of personality.”
These Steelers need a lot to go right for them to reach the playoffs. That list includes a healthy Roethlisberger, a receiver to complement Antonio Brown, an offensive line that transitions from promising to imposing, a defensive line that can hold its ground, fast linebackers to play big and — most of all — the cornerbacks to cover at an NFL-caliber level.
Get all of that to go their way and the Steelers still will need to develop what they always had in abundance when Porter was playing: swagger.
Porter would punch you.
Blount will, too. Already has.
A team looking to get over an 8-8 hump needs to start swinging again.
Porter was famous for it.
Jerramy Stevens' Super Bowl XL was sabotaged by Porter, who seemed to verbally sack Seattle's then-tight end before the big game as often as he had Peyton Manning during the Steelers' divisional playoff win over Indianapolis that magical postseason.
Of course, by the winter of 2006 Porter's bravado was a big part of the Steelers' success. The more he talked trash, the better they played.
The thing about Porter was that he wasn't putting on an act when he played for the Steelers. He was an unapologetic Big Bad in an NFL full of players he believed were simply pretending to be tough.
Blount, a bruising back who joined the Steelers from New England, might not be all of that, but he seems to have graduated from the Porter School for Self Confidence. That was evident Saturday night.
After an exhibition victory over Buffalo, the Steelers' locker room was opened to a visitor. Only, this guy was no guest.
Thomas Tull, billionaire CEO of Legendary Pictures, stood out. It wasn't his throwback Jack Lambert jersey, but rather the comfort with which he moved from player to player, shaking hands and sharing laughs. With the Steelers, he is a minority owner, but really he was the biggest deal in that room — a lifelong fan with a lot of cash and clout.
He knows Batman. Literally.
A lot of people in that room appeared to act differently with Tull around, probably to his dismay. Equipment staffers carefully stayed out of his way. Players stopped undressing and rose from their chairs to chat. Tomlin made a point to greet him and talk shop.
From opposite viewing points, two Steelers observed this scene.
Passing by, a first-year assistant coach named Joey Porter walked toward the exit still wearing a serious scowl. From across the room, Blount shrugged his shoulders, slipped on his black n'gold Air Jordan sneakers and also headed out.
The Steelers still have some work to do, but something about Steelers Football looks like it is back.