|Steelers not focusing on ownership struggle|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 27 July 2008 13:27|
Except that it's anything but normal these days for the family-run business. Not with control of the team currently being negotiated by Rooney and his four brothers during a struggle in which a majority share of one of the NFL's legacy franchises may switch to someone not named Rooney.
No Steelers team in the club's 76-season history has gone to training camp with ownership in such turmoil, and coach Mike Tomlin said it's his job to prevent a ``potential'' distraction from affecting what occurs on the field.
Several of his most experienced players are certain it won't, including one who grew up in Pittsburgh watching the Steelers play and admiring how their owners conduct business.
``We've got to go out and focus on what we came here to do: play ball,'' said backup quarterback Charlie Batch, a former Pittsburgh-area high school star. ``All the other stuff, I think it's going to play itself out. We really can't speak about it from a players' standpoint.''
To Batch, the chance that the Rooneys might lose control of the Steelers is an all-too-visible reminder that the NFL is a very, very big business in which many owners now must have billions, not just millions, to buy a team.
``It's really hard (to know what's going on),'' Batch said. ``It's all speculation and I'd rather not speculate now on that.''
Wide receiver Hines Ward, one of the Steelers' most tenured players, was among those who shared the Super Bowl trophy with Rooney and team president Art Rooney II, Dan's son, in Detroit 2 1/2 years ago. Ward understands the potential for distraction but, like Batch, doesn't see it occurring with one of the league's most experienced teams.
The Steelers have won 10 or more games and reached the playoffs in all but two seasons since 2001.
``As a player, we're worrying about trying to win a Super Bowl. You can talk to Mr. Rooney (about ownership),'' Ward said.
Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton also isn't concerned about any possible ownership change, saying, ``It will work itself out. You can't worry about nothing you have no control over.''
It had nothing to do with the ongoing ownership negotiations, but media members weren't allowed to join the Rooneys on the practice field for Sunday's camp-opening running test for the first time. Tomlin considers the test to be part of each player's camp ``registration'' and not a regular practice.
As Year 2 of Tomlin's tenure as only the third Steelers coach since 1969 began, several players revealed that there were a few more bumps in the transition from the Bill Cowher to the Tomlin era than surfaced last season.
Seven-time Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca, whose departure was unusually messy following failed contract extension talks, fought some changes that new offensive line coach Larry Zierlein attempted to make, the players said.
If Faneca was unhappy with any attempted adjustments, it wasn't visible in his play as he made the All-Pro team.
Still, that reluctance to change carried over to some other veteran linemen, several players said.
``You can't teach an old dog new tricks,'' right tackle Willie Colon said.
Ward said there was a reluctance to embrace change at other positions, including his own.
The Steelers went 10-6 and won the AFC Central last season, but lost four of their final five, including a wild-card playoff game at home to Jacksonville. The Jaguars also beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh during a December regular season game.
``You've done something so many ways for so many years and it helped you win a Super Bowl,'' Ward said. ``So when somebody comes in and tweaks it, the trust is hard to (gain) because you've done it before.
``And we won a Super Bowl without that coaching staff. ... For the younger guys who are breaking in, it's like, who do you listen to? Do you go with the veteran guy who's been doing it for so many years? Or do you go out and really try to do what the coach is trying to tell you to do?''