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Lee Flowers, Steelers Safety, 1995-2003

December 20, 2011
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Lee Flowers:

First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days?

I have a residential construction company – I’ve been doing that for six years. I parternered with my dad who’s really the mastermind behind it. I more just help fund it.

You were a fifth-round pick in ’95. What did you do to help prove yourself to the team and make the roster, and how did you deal with the stress/pressure of doing so?

I really didn’t feel that much pressure. I think there’s more pressure really with the first round picks. They have to prove they are worthy of the pick and that kind of money. There was no pressure for me – no one expected anything of me anyway.

How did you make the team?

I had a knack for special teams. It was a great way of making a living. Running up and down the field five-to-six times a game! What other job could you work two hours a day and make that kind of money?

Who helped take you under their wing that rookie season – on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples you can share that helped you most?

I took bits and pieces from different veterans. No one really took me under their wing but I learned about aggression and passion for the game from Greg Lloyd.

From Carnell Lake, Rod Woodson and Darren Perry I learned to study the game. They were always studying film – you can see why those guys are all coaches now. As a rookie you just don’t know what to expect when you get to the NFL…

You made it to the Super Bowl your rookie season. What was that like for you and what was the team’s mindset going into that game?

It was a great opportunity for me. My last three years of Georgie Tech we didn’t win a damn thing – we were terrible. In Pittsburgh I was shell-shocked.

I didn’t understand the magnitude of the Steelers and the city when I was drafted – not until I got there. It’s all Black and Gold – it was great. The fans would literally die for you.

Cowher did a great job of getting us prepared. We felt like we would win every time we stepped on the field. Two weeks before the game you stay in the city where the game is played and you have to handle the media and try to stay out of trouble. The logistics of getting the family to the Super Bowl and all of that were the biggest things to deal with.

It was a great experience. Unfortunately I never got to go back again.

But you have to look at guys like Takeo Spikes, right? Who never even got to go to the playoffs?

Exactly. You know Takeo’s a good friend of mine. I joke with him all the time about it. Whenever he leaves a place they start winning and whenever he gets on a team they start struggling (laughing). He’s a great guy – I hope he makes it to the Super Bowl one year. Just not this year – that would mean he’d have to beat Pittsburgh.

You became one of the more vocal players on the team. What was the reason for that willingness to speak out more than others – and did Coach Cowher or other teammates ever discuss that with you? if so, what did they say to you?

Sometimes I got carried away – especially after games. I felt I had the pulse of the locker room – and Cowher usually embraced it. Dan Rooney definitely embraced it – he told me I spoke for him too.

They never really had a problem with it. It put a bullseye on our back but we were Pittsburgh, we had a bullseye regardless. I thought that if that made us play better, then great. There are eighteen games in a season and it’s hard to stay focused. I was just trying to keep the passion to win.

All I said and did –  those guys I knew would still fight for me though if I took them into a dark alley with me.

Did the team ever speak to you about it?

Cowher pulled me aside a couple of times, but he never yelled at me. He just told me I may have gone too far.

One game I remember was when we were about to play Cleveland. We were on a two game losing streak and I promised we would not go 0-3. That meant I partly promised we would win – I said I’d bet my house we wouldn’t go 0-3.

Cowher was upset about that one. He said I didn’t show Cleveland any respect. Well, I’m not going to lie – I didn’t have any for Cleveland – that was the year they came back into the league. Cowher just pulled me aside and told me I need to be careful because the media can twist my words. But they didn’t have to – that’s just what I said.

Any examples of when you think your words helped the team?

On the good side – the paper champions comment when we played Tampa Bay. It lit a fire under us. No one gave us a chance and we manhandled them that game. That was a successful season for us – though we didn’t get to the Super Bowl.

Really, anything less than a Super Bowl is not a success in Pittsburgh. We made the playoffs consistently and you can’t take that for granted.

I remember too we played Tampa Bay again the next season on Monday Night. And we manhandled them again. The guys in the locker room all supported me because they knew the media was on me about last year’s comments.

How did you finally earn a starting spot on the team?

Chad Scott got hurt that Summer. They were looking to move Carnell Lake to corner but Cowher didn’t believe in me at first. He heard stories about me going out late at night and thought I was  a wild guy. He didn’t have confidence in me yet.

Donohoe was the GM then and I guess they were looking for another corner in free agency but couldn’t find one. Cowher called me the Summer before camp and told me I’d get the opportunity to win the starting job. The first preseason game was the Hall of Fame game and I had the best game of my career. After that Cowher said  I did it. He had respect for me then and after that I began to study more. I wouldn’t repeat mistakes.

One misfortune was my fortune in the end.

Who were the other leaders on those Steelers teams?

There were multiple leaders. Jason Gildon was a quiet leader. If things went down he wouldn’t go to the media. His locker was next to mine and he and I talked about a lot of stuff.

Llloyd was a leader. Jerome Bettis ironically enough was a good leader. He was passionate about winning and led by example. If you saw him Mondays after a game – he could barely walk. When other guys complained about not feeling good enough to practice they just had to look at Jerome and the work he put in. It made you play and practice better.

How hard was it for you to leave and play in Denver after that 2003 season?

Oh man. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. The situation was about money really. I was getting older and they drafted Troy {Polamalu} that year. It’s part of the business – you can’t play forever.

Denver had Shanahan at the time. They were more offensively geared – where Pittsburgh was more about defense. It wasn’t like Pittsburgh. It was a great organization, don’t get me wrong. But my blue-collar mentality was perfect for Pittsburgh. In Denver we practiced at most one hour a day. You sit on the field with the view of the Rocky Mountains and it was like a country club.

It was just different. I missed the camaraderie with the guys I pretty much grew up with. We had a stable team for those eight years – a lot of the guys I was drafted with left or retired when I did. It was like leaving your family and I was just a stepchild in Denver.

I’d tell all the guys if I could now that in free agency, if you are contemplating leaving, it’s not going to get any better than Pittsburgh.

What do you think about the new NFL and new rules on hitting players?

It baffles me that the players’ union doesn’t step up more. It’s unfair to be the judge and jury. How can you be fined for the things you were taught all throughout your life?  The game’s not going to change in ten years – not until the guys in Pee Wee football are taught to play differently first.

You look at guys passing for 400 and 500 yards. Cam Newton threw for over 400 yards his first game – are you kidding me? The game has changed to put more points on the board and it’s lost it’s integrity.  When we played it was us versus Cleveland, Now it’s about which guys are fined and suspended. It’s too much. The players union needs to step up. The refs are so scared not to throw flags because of Goodell’s rules – it’s a tough position for them.

Don’t  get me wrong – I understand about protecting players from concussions. But there has to be a better way.

Any last thoughts for readers?

For me, being a former Pittsburgh player – I got to play for the greatest fans in the world. Looking back on it, I didn’t understand it as much when I was playing.  When you sit back and watch the fans on tv – when you go on Facebook today and see how many fans get ticked off  when they lose…

If there were more teams that had fans as passionate as Steelers fans the league would be different. Some good teams can’t even fill their stadiums. I had the honor of playing for the Steelers. We have the best owner of any company in the world – GE, any company, not just football.

It was a pleasure for me to be a part of Steeler Nation.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. steelcity permalink
    July 21, 2013 9:53 am

    Mr.flowers, all I can say is thank you, players like you make us the die heart , bleed black and glod fans we are and always will be, great interview

  2. September 30, 2013 9:09 pm

    Hello Lethon, this is your Trainer. It is great to see that you are doing well. It was pleasure being your trainer and the other guys as well. You were always dedicated in staying in shape and was my best NFL player I ever trained. You know you made the all NFL strength teams several times.

    ROY JAMES CARR, II

Trackbacks

  1. Former Steeler Lee Flowers Urged Steelers to Stay in Pittsburgh » Black & Gold Forever

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