That’s what I learned these past few days, when I took my 5-year-old son Solomon to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp in Latrobe, Pa. Watching a pro football team in camp is awesome in a very different way than watching a game live, even if you watch a game from the sidelines, as I’ve done a few times. A live game moves so fast that you barely have the time and perspective to appreciate how good these athletes are. In camp, we got to stand about 10 feet away from All Pro offensive lineman Alan Faneca and a dozen of his gigantic colleagues as they did agility drills, hit blocking dummies, etc. It is unbelievable that they can be so huge and so athletic at the same time. Of course, they have to be these days to keep up with the defensive linemen. In last night’s Hall of Fame game (Raiders vs. Eagles), John Madden noted that the reason you don’t see so many screen passes these days is that defensive linemen have gotten so much faster over the years that even if you fool them a little bit on a screen, they’re still fast enough to thwart the play.
While the offensive linemen were the most amazing spectacle in Steelers camp, there were lots of other treats:
— Jeff Reed blasted 50-yard field goals, one after the next, with a motion so smooth it barely looked like he was trying (it could be argued that Reed is the most underrated kicker in the NFL)
— Ben Roethlisberger looked just fine after his motorcycle accident — and, having lost about 15 pounds, seemed to be moving even better.
— A pair of male Steelers fans, one of them wearing a Roethlisberger No. 7 jersey, rode motorcycles past the training camp, neither of them wearing helmets — just like Ben when he crashed. Talk about hero-worship.
— Joey Porter, who isn’t even suited up yet because of injury, still managed to get into a fight with an offensive player.
— Willie Parker, the Steelers’ surprise breakout running back last year (he was an undrafted free agent) looks even better this year, and may well become a star.
— The Steelers’ No. 1 draft pick, Santonio Holmes, looked fantastic in camp. On the other hand, who doesn’t look good in camp? Everyone’s undefeated, and optimistic, and relatively healthy. It’s too bad we don’t all get a chance to start our careers over every summer with a blank slate.