Share This Page

Steelers, Bills play nice during joint practice

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 7:51 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon battles with Bills center Eric Wood on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, at St. Vincent College near Latrobe.

When push came to shove, the Steelers and Buffalo Bills didn't go any further than that.

Unlike other NFL joint practices this month that have been disrupted by fighting — including a full-scale brawl Tuesday involving the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders — the Bills and Steelers managed to avoid throwing punches during a 2 12-hour practice Wednesday.

The format — seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 passing with minimal contact, plus some pass rushing and tight ends/backs vs. linebackers drills — was meant to encourage work and discourage extracurricular activities. And it largely succeeded.

There were a couple of brief shoving incidents that didn't percolate into anything else, and for that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin credited the teams' “professionalism.” He used that term four different times during a 2 12-minute, post-practice news conference.

“I thought it was great practice and great etiquette. … It doesn't get reported enough. We like to turn on the TV and see gory, unfortunate incidents like what happened between Dallas and Oakland,” Tomlin said. “We're here to prove that teams are capable of coming together and doing it in a productive and professional manner, and I compliment both teams for how they did it today.”

As Bills and Steelers team leaders gathered at midfield before the practice, Tomlin could be heard saying, “Let's do this the right way.”

NFL teams only recently revived the two-team practice concept. The Steelers and Washington Redskins scrimmaged almost annually for a decade until 1999.

But multiple fights have disrupted multiple practices this month, with Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith ejecting one of his own players during a practice with the Tennessee Titans in which one player threw a helmet at another.

The Cowboys-Raiders brawl was full scale and spilled over into an area where fans were watching. One spectator threw punches at a Cowboys player. Last year, Cary Williams of the Philadelphia Eagles was tossed out for fighting during a practice against the New England Patriots.

Many more such fights, and the NFL might rethink the idea of allowing two teams to share a practice field before a season.

Avoiding a headline-creating ruckus seemed to be on Tomlin's mind. At one point, he walked by a group of reporters watching a blocking drill and referred to them as “ambulance chasers” and questioned if they were there only to see a fight.

“I think we've got an obligation to show our professionalism,” he said.

The Bills and Steelers practice again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday before playing a preseason game Saturday night at Heinz Field. Whether they'll still be friendly “dance partners,” as Tomlin referred to them, is yet to be determined.

Ben Roethlisberger seemed to enjoy his work, though it wasn't substantial, against a Bills defense that plays a 4-3 scheme rather than the Steelers' 3-4.

“Going against new guys is good because going against the same guy every day, you learn how that guy is,” he said.

However, it was about as vanilla as it gets strategy-wise. Roethlisberger went with a single snap count and didn't employ hand signals or audibles.

“One time I changed the count and got them to jump, but we kept it very, very basic, and we will tomorrow, too,” he said.

Of the lack of hostility, he said, “There was a little bit, but nothing crazy.”

No doubt Tomlin and Bills coach Doug Marrone are hoping the dance partners decorum of Day 1 carries over into Thursday.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.