Tom Bradley already paying dividends, Steelers rookie safeties say
In one of his first formal position meeting sessions as a professional, Steelers rookie first-round-pick Terrell Edmunds was struck by something about his new position coach.
"He has a lot written down on his board," Edmunds said of first-year defensive backs coach Tom Bradley. "He's the type of guy who has a lot written down on the board."
For the Steelers' two highest-drafted defensive rookies, that detail-oriented style has been a good thing.
A Johnstown native and longtime resident of the Pittsburgh area, Bradley — like Edmunds and fifth-round pick Marcus Allen — is an NFL rookie. Bradley, though, spent 31⁄2 decades as a major-college assistant, most of them at Penn State.
The Steelers acted quickly to hire a new defensive backs coach, bringing former Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley back to Western Pennsylvania. https://t.co/Iz1a3Zhh1G— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) February 8, 2018
For a long time, many believed Bradley, 61, was going to be the successor to Joe Paterno as coach of the Nittany Lions. In fact, Bradley was — albeit for only four games and on an interim basis. Bradley was put in charge Nov. 9, 2011, after Paterno was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky indictment.
But for a decade at the end of his tenure at Penn State, Bradley was the program's lead recruiter, especially in Western Pennsylvania. Virtually to a man, his former players speak with affection of a bond they share with the coach known as "Scrap."
Allen just missed being coached by Bradley in college. He committed to Penn State 16 months after Bradley's tenure at the school ended. But he said he's already developed a rapport.
"It feels great having him, feels good," Allen said. "He's a Penn State guy. The way he teaches and explains things is incredible. So it's like I am blessed to have him as a coach."
Steelers secondary coach Tom Bradley talks about new safety Marcus Allen of Penn State https://t.co/D82dW2UIgq— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) April 28, 2018
Bradley long has had ties to the Steelers. Most notably, he is the younger brother of team orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Bradley. During the two seasons he was out of coaching (2012-13), Bradley was a regular around the team at training camp and during the season while he worked in broadcasting.
Hired to replace Carnell Lake after he'd spent the previous three seasons as the defensive coordinator at UCLA , Bradley arguably has the most important — and potentially daunting — job of any Steelers assistant. The team has revamped its secondary by jettisoning a handful of veterans, adding plenty of new players and even tweaking their scheme.
The defensive backfield — in personnel and in the way it is deployed — could undergo as dramatic a change as it has in decades. And Bradley will be tasked with pulling it off.
"It's good for learning underneath him because he's new to it, too, and he's going to explain it the best way possible because of how he learned it," Allen said. "So it's great."
Edmunds expressed similar sentiments about Bradley, a former defensive back himself.
"He's very detailed in his teaching," Edmunds said. "I am thankful for that, because a lot of coaches don't teach us everything like that. He's told us a whole lot, and I've retained a lot."
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.