UNITY TWP., Pa. — “We intend to march.”
That was the message from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin as the team moves forward with its training camp on Tuesday, just two days after the sudden passing of beloved wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on Sunday.
Tomlin spoke with the media late on Tuesday morning and the team is scheduled for a 2:55 p.m. practice on Tuesday afternoon, though there is rain in the forecast.
It will begin the process of a return to normalcy for the still-grieving players and staff at St. Vincent College. Tomlin said the team has been “devastated.”
“I can’t really think of any other appropriate words,” he added. “Our time and attention in recent days has been spent in support of the Drake family — Miss Shiela and Darryl’s daughters and extended family. Many of us have had an opportunity to spend time with them through this. They have been amazing in just making arrangements and adjusting and so forth. We’ve tried to be as supportive organizationally as we can be to them in what is a very difficult time.”
Drake was not just a position coach for the Steelers, but a longtime friend and mentor to Tomlin, making the loss particularly tough.
“Professionally, obviously, the loss is significant, but personally, it’s even bigger,” Tomlin said Those of us that knew and had personal relationships with Coach Drake all feel that way.”
The Steelers coach retold how he and Drake first connected, over two decades ago.
“In ’97, I was a young wide receiver coach at Arkansas State. He was viewed as one of the top wide receivers coaches in the college game. I was politely aggressive in building a relationship with him. He probably didn’t have a choice, or that’s how he’d described it, in being my friend. I was too persistent.
“He extended courtesies to me like he does to a lot of young guys like myself in the profession and that’s why we talked about him the way we do. He sent me drill tape and things of that nature. We developed a rapport and things went from there.
“Coaching was Coach Drake’s platform for ministry. He wore many hats. Coaching was his vocation, but he was a father, a mentor, a brother, an advisor, like we all are in a lot of ways, to the men that he worked with, not only now, but over the course of his career, which spanned decades.”
#Steelers fans have created a makeshift memorial for coach Darryl Drake near the entrance to St. Vincent College.
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) August 13, 2019
In order to help the team move forward from the loss of Drake, the team brought in grief counselors.
“We realize that we don’t have all the answers and with that being said, we brought some professional grief counselors in to assist us through this tough time,” Tomlin said. “It’s been said that counseling is not for the weak, but the wise, so we seek people who have expertise in dealing such circumstances.”
Tomlin also said that he has a plan in place for who will succeed Drake, but declined to elaborate on details.
“We’re in the process of developing a plan there,” he said. “It’s in place. I just don’t wish to discuss the intimate details. I just don’t believe that’s appropriate at this time.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/18/20
James Conner tested out his injured ankle and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Chase Claypool during practice on Friday, September 18, 2020.
This practice was in preparation for the Steelers week 2 game on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Cam Heyward Named NFLPA Community MVP for Week 1
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward has been named NFLPA Community MVP for Week 1.
Heyward was honored for installing his first Little Free Library, a book-sharing box placed in underserved communities around the Pittsburgh area.
Congrats to @camheyward on being named Week 1 #CommunityMVP for installing his first Little Free Library. The book-sharing boxes provide 24-7 access to literacy for underserved Pittsburgh communities while honoring the legacy in education of his late grandfather. pic.twitter.com/uKwbnz28A1— NFLPA (@NFLPA) September 18, 2020
Little Free Library is a non-profit organization that “inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”
The installation of the book-sharing boxes marks the launch of the Rufus and Judy Jordan Literacy Project, a new initiative of the Cameron Heyward Foundation that will work to promote children’s literacy and honor his late grandparents, both of whom were lifelong educators in Pittsburgh.
Drafted in first round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Heyward has spend his entire career in Pittsburgh. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, and has twice received First-Team All-Pro honors.
Heyward and the Steelers agreed to a four-year, $71.4 million contract extension on Sept. 6 that will allow him to retire in Pittsburgh and make him the highest-paid defense player over the age of 30 in NFL history.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/17/20
The Steelers finally experienced a practice with almost everyone on the roster able to take the field. Only two players did not take part in practice before their week 2 game against Denver.
Alex Highsmith and Minkah Fitzpatrick stood out from the rest on Thursday, September 17, 2020.