Jeff Fisher apparently can’t help himself.
It was no more than a half hour following last Sunday’s victory over the Oakland Raiders that used the term “Steeler Week” during his post-game remarks. In fact, it capped off his opening comments.
Yet in an exclusive interview with The City Paper early in training camp regarding his ability to get his team to rebound from defeat, Fisher noted the need to treat all 16 regular-season games equally.
“It would not be fair of me to stand up in front of the team and say – hypothetically – ‘Hey guys, we’re playing Team A this week, and they’re banged up, they’re not very good. So let’s just have a good week’ and break the meeting. Then come back the next week and say, ‘Hey, we’re playing Team B and kiss the wives and girlfriends goodbye, … this is Team B Week.’ I’m not naming Team B,” he said at the time. “So how do they respond when you’re one way one week and another way the next?”
It’s time to find out.
At the time, the statement was a presumed poke at former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who always spent most of “Steelers Week” in an obvious lather.
Apparently, though, it masked a lingering sentiment for the man who has been in his current position longer than any of the NFL’s other 31 head coaches.
When the franchise relocated from Houston, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the Titans’ primary division rivals. Those days ended in 2002 (Fisher’s eighth full season on the job) when the NFL realigned into its current eight-division format and placed Tennessee in the AFC South with Indianapolis, Houston and Jacksonville.
Since then, the teams still have met five times during the regular season, including each of the last two years, and once more in the playoffs. The most recent meeting was Pittsburgh’s 13-10 overtime victory to open the 2009 season.
Every time the phrase has been evoked once again.
In his regular Monday press briefing, Fisher (who is 11-8 all-time in the series) did not use the term exactly but did say that the current players could expect a lesson on the significance of playing Pittsburgh.
“We just talk about the tradition and the rivalry, and we obviously didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing in the opener and certainly not good enough to win last year,” he said. “I think by the end of the week the players will understand the significance of it. We’ve got some former Steelers on the roster that it’s going to be a big week for, and we’ll get our point across.”
Veteran Steelers’ wide receiver Hines Ward, in a conference call with Middle Tennessee media Wednesday, said few – if any – coaching theatrics actually make a difference in the NFL and said it’s doubtful Fisher goes too far with any of that sort of stuff, whether it’s “Steelers Week” or any other.
“When you buy into a system and stuff—there are only so many motivational speeches you can do,” Ward said. “It’s all about preparation. (Pittsburgh) coach (Mike) Tomlin did it the same way, when he first got here he gave us all these speeches and now he’s kind of backed off from them now that he’s been here for a while and knows his team and what not. You have to adjust to your team.
“I think coach Fisher knows the type of team, knows the type of players that he brings into the organization. So he doesn’t really have to give a lot of motivational speeches because he knows the type of guys he brings onto this team.”
Seems he decided they’re guys who needed to know it’s “Steeler Week.”
• Vince Young said he was joking when he told ESPN on Monday that he really wanted the 2005 Heisman Trophy. Not long after, the Heisman Trust announced the 2005 award would be vacated after Reggie Bush relinquished it.
“He’s the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, and that’s basically it,” Young said. He added that ESPN “took it in the wrong way” when he said he wanted the award.
• Tennessee only had three players listed on the official league injury report – defensive tackle Tony Brown (non-injury related), defensive end William Hayes (knee) and tackle Mike Otto (knee). None practiced.
Ten Steelers were listed, including Ward, defensive tackle Casey Hampton (hamstring), tackle Max Starks (ankle) and quarterback Byron Leftwich (knee).