Steelers linebacker Kendrell Bell is learning the tricks of a new position
The essence of training camp—the time when good players work to become great ones—was on display one sleepy morning last week as the Steelers practiced in near seclusion next to a cornfield in Latrobe, Pa. Because the team's new practice field isn't equipped to handle fans, only staffers and a few media types were present as Pittsburgh's players toiled.
It was there that Jason Gildon and Joey Porter, the Steelers' two Pro Bowl linebackers, took third-year prot�g� Kendrell Bell aside to teach him the finer points of pass rushing. Bell was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 (the first Pittsburgh player to earn that honor since Jack Lambert in 1974), and for most of his first two seasons he has been primarily a stay-at-home inside linebacker. This year, however, coach Bill Cowher plans to move the cat-quick Bell to right end in the Steelers' dime defense, a scheme that features six defensive backs. That means Bell may be rushing over the offensive left tackle on as many as 20 plays a game.
As special teams practice droned on behind them, Porter and Gildon stood across from Bell and showed him several moves. After a while defensive coordinator Tim Lewis came over to observe. "With your speed and power," Gildon said to the 6'1", 254-pound Bell, "the tackle has to respect you. So he might be moving back to wait for you to make your move, and then you've got to just...." In slow motion Gildon, pretending that Bell was the tackle, stutter-stepped toward Bell's right shoulder, then pivoted in the opposite direction—his back suddenly to Bell's belly—and charged through the space to Bell's left. "See?" Gildon said. "They aren't stopping that move every time."
Bell's first obstacle when the regular season starts will be 6'9", 340-pound Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens' All-Pro left tackle, on Sept. 7 in Baltimore. "Even the good ones like JO [ Ogden], they get tired," Porter told Bell. "They can't keep up with you. But you've got to show him one thing, sell that move a few times, and throw something else at him."
"Right," Lewis said. "Jason's best move is a shake-and-bull. But after two or three of those, shoooom!, he takes his guy outside. Fools 'em."
Gildon, who in nine seasons has piled up 71� sacks, spread his arms. "JO, he's not going to move much. Why should he? He's this wide! So you have to find a way around him." The three worked on chopping arms and shoulders. But leverage and speed were the key points of this 20-minute class. Bell will give away at least 70 pounds in most games to the behemoths at left tackle.
Later Bell said he was grateful for the session. "I'm an inside 'backer, so if you put me outside, there are a lot of different movements. Outside you can't think. If you think too much, you won't get the sack. It's something I have to get a feel for."
"This was done for me when I came in," said Porter, a fifth-year veteran who has 30� career sacks. "Jason and Carlos Emmons [now an Eagle] took me aside and taught me all the rush moves I needed. They told me they were taught when they came in. It's what we do. We like that part of the job."
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