Steelers training camp whispers will proceed to roar

What begins as a whisper can slowly and steadily build to a crescendo.

It’s one of my favorite things about Pittsburgh Steelers training camp every year: the whisper phenomenon.

Like anyone without press passes or the means to spend daily viewing sessions in Latrobe, I rely on daily tweets and reports from the local sports media tasked with the task. I ingest every tantalizing treat and every morsel of information made available by knowledgeable people whom I deem knowledgeable and trustworthy.

I tend to lean towards those who resist hyperbole, choosing instead to simply share their own observations. Honest, positive reporting tinged with hope from people with a vested interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’ve learned over the years that three people can watch the same workout and then describe said workout very differently. Therefore, I learned to accumulate as much information as possible from these trusted people before trying to decipher the data before forming a consensus.

Social media has definitely changed the boot camp whisper phenomenon over the years. Before social media, news of the camp’s extraordinary performances traveled by word of mouth.

Believe it or not, young people, us old people, used to talk verbally about sports and other things. This is how we learned and shared information. Sometimes we even rushed to a phone booth to share the exciting news. If you don’t know what a phone booth is, google it.

I vividly remember receiving calls from friends and acquaintances in Pittsburgh about unknown players who had surprisingly strong camp performances. Sometimes those first whispers were a precursor to things to come, but more often they were an overreaction and overreaction.

Although the means and methods of sharing information have changed tremendously over the decades, the unquenchable thirst for daily updates remains the same. Fortunately, we now hold the solution in the palm of our hand. But beware, not all information is created equal. In other words, some situations are not as clear cut or cut-and-dried as they first appear.

Take former Steelers wide receiver James Washington, for example.

Washington was a second-round selection from Oklahoma State for the Steelers in 2018. There were a lot of whispers about his camp exploits at Latrobe early on. Washington was a big playing machine in college with the Cowboys, showing an impressive knack for getting behind the defense and making long touchdown takes, and knocking down contested takes, though he wasn’t particularly tall or quickly, according to the pre-draft tests.

Sure enough, in the early part of training camp, there was a lot of whispering about Washington’s highlight captures. Like many in the BTSC community, I was intrigued.

However, there was the slightest murmur that was audible among the deafening chaos.

A trusted member of the BTSC community has shared his own whispers he’s heard that go against the consensus. He heard that Washington had been forced to make many of these highlight-challenged catches because it lacked the short-court speed to achieve the consistent separation necessary for enduring NFL success.

Granted, that wasn’t the information I wanted to hear, so I chose to focus on the positive. It was my mistake. Four years into Washington’s career, that one serious voice that went against the norm has proven right. Washington will attempt to prove otherwise again in 2022, only now as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

I hope I have learned from past transgressions. At least to consider and contemplate the whispers that can go against the grain. Otherwise, shame on me.

I like to focus on the positive successes of training camp surprises that become sensations. Two guys that immediately come to mind are former Steelers stars Ramon Foster and Nate Washington.

I had a work acquaintance who was a delivery truck driver with whom I had the privilege of talking football every week. He was very familiar with the Tennessee Volunteers football program. He advised me early on to keep an eye out for undrafted rookie offensive lineman Ramon Foster. He admitted that Foster was not particularly athletic, but was incredibly smart and strong as a bull. Therefore, it was no surprise when whispers confirming the same began to emanate from the camp’s “Big Ragu”.

A few years earlier, I had struck up a friendship with an inside sales rep whose son was playing football at Tiffin University with the aforementioned Nate Washington. He was thrilled when the Steelers signed Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He was a reliable source of inside information. He praised Washington’s incredible athleticism and jumping ability, as well as surprisingly strong hands. His son recounted watching Washington successfully compete in a high school dunk contest against high-profile basketball rookies. While I recognize that level of athletic ability doesn’t always equate to success, it definitely piques your interest.

Both of these situations proved to be the calm before the storm, with each man becoming solid professionals. The ember that started hell; the slightest murmur if you will.

Who will generate the most whispers from the first half of 2022 training camp for the Steelers? Could it be perceived in the seventh round LB Mark Robinson, my first favorite for the coveted Isaac Redman Award. Or UDFA OL Chris Owen, a versatile offensive lineman in the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

These are just two possibilities, one on both sides of the ball, among a plethora of options imaginable this pre-season.

At BTSC, we’ll be sure to remain forever vigilant, listening to every whisper in the wind, and ever-faithful in sharing our insights with our valued community through every podcast, article, and thread.

After all, it’s our job.

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