If you ever questioned Mike Tomlin’s thoughts concerning the value of Aaron Smith’s contribution to the Steelers and what Aaron’s mere presence, though not able to contribute on the field, but by being there daily means to his teammates, then have a gander at Coach Mike’s words when questioned about keeping a roster spot open for Aaron;
“Absolutely. That’s just a level of respect that we have for what he’s capable of as a player, and probably equally as important what he is as a man or member of this team. I think there is intrinsic value in that, there’s an element of it you can’t measure. If I had to do it over I would do it again.”
Yeah. There’s an intrinsic value in having a great player attempting the nearly impossible, coming back from an injury that is overwhelming. But to see the fight in the man to overcome all odds is something that inspires…and pushes other players to reach for stuff that can’t be measured. That’s the intrinsic stuff Mike is referring to.
Trust me when i say this, Ziggy Hood would not be the player on the upward swing that he is save for the great coaching he gets day in and day out from Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell, and the presence of Aaron Smith not withstanding his personal coaching on the side. Just the fact of Aaron being there creates great pressure to step up when you fill the shoes of a great player.
In my most humble career, i stepped into the shoes of Steelers guard Sam Davis. During his 14-year, 4 Super Bowl ring career, some called him “Tight man” because he kept everybody together and had leadership capabilities like James Farrior. Some lovingly called him “Riggy,” short for rigor mortis bcause of his double-digit years of service.
Me, i called him “Hero” because of his dedication while he was injured and on the IR to making me a better player though i was obviously being groomed to take over his position. Sam gave of himself to me to the detriment of himself. He spent long hours tutoring me, teaching me how to walk, talk and become all that it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. It’s the natural progression of life in the NFL. Natural, that is, if you’re a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Prepping your under-study to take your job so the team moves forward is something that isn’t written on your contract. Nor is spending extra time with that individual to encourage them even during the inevitable down moments that are sure to occur on the way to being a complete player. It’s simply the “Steeler way” of doing things.
The Chief, Art Rooney Sr. set the tone oh so many years ago. An attitude of “Servi-tude” towards your fellow man (including the man that might replace you), was the Steeler way. It is unique to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And that way has produced six Lombardi’s. Show me someone with a better way.
By the way though, if you think Aaron Smith is done, i’m betting here and now you are wrong.
By a long shot.