Craig Wolfley, Steelers offensive Lineman, 1980-1989
Where can fans find you on the air and online?
My blog is http://craigwolfley.com/ and on 970am ESPN Pittsburgh – we moved to 12-2 with our In the Locker Room show with Tunch Ilkin.
What would surprise fans most about this team?
No surprises at this point. Biggest thing about this team is its tremendous belief in one another. Its about their belief that it’s about what WE do – not about the other team. They honestly believe that it’s not about their opponent – that if they do what they need to do as a player and team they will win. The other team doesn’t matter. Its as simple as that.
They don’t believe in emotion as much as enthusiasm. Emotion is too fleeting – this goes back to Chuck Noll days. If you take pride in what you do and have passion for the game, you will win. Emotion only goes so far and is an up and down thing.
We heard Tomlin speak out recently about media members revealing “in house” information. How do you draw the line between what you report on and what you decide not to report on?
For me it’s simple due to having been a player. You understand what is and what’s not acceptable. Being a player you know what is ok to tell the public and what isn’t.
It goes to the interests at stake – team business versus the public’s need to know. It’s team business versus the public consumption need.
Who have been the most engaging/interesting Steelers players or coaches you’ve encountered?
The one I look back on is Joe Greene – he was such a legendary character – remarkable in so many aspects and the foundation of the team
I remember when we lost to Oakland my rookie year in 1980 – it was a Monday night game and we played terrible. We’re all talking and taking off our pads in the locker room and we hear a loud BOOM and see a helmet banging on the floor.
The name on the helmet was Greene’s. He gets up and says “It’s a little too much damn noise in this place!”
I’ll never forget that – it got as quiet as a church in there.
When I came to the Steelers in 1980- there was a definite pecking order. Coach Rollie Dotsch told me and Tunch that as rookies we were the whipping boys – and he was true to his word.
A good example. Tunch was the backup center – and remember, in practices there were no names on the back of the jerseys. Well we’re in film study and Dotsch is going on and on about how horrible Ilkin looked playing center – hand was too slow, etc. He’s just tearing in to him and Webster’s giggling as Ilkin’s sweating bullets.
It’s because it wasn’t Tunch – it was Webster on film. But Dotsch couldn’t tell. Ilkin creeps up to Webster and asks him to tell the coach it was him. Webster finally does and Dotsch just stops and moves on to the next player. Doesn’t say anything further about Webster.
That’s the kind of respect the coaches had and have fore the great players.
There were just so many legendary players
Another example of the team and the respect issue is again in my rookie year. As a rookie offensive lineman you run plays as the other team’s defense as well as take snaps for your own offense. It’s a really hot day, Pinney the starter was hurt so I am running the entire practice from the defensive reps to the starter reps. I’m worn out and hot at the end of practice and am slow getting back to the offensive huddle.
Bradshaw calls out to all of us to “hustle up” and I reply that I’m coming but use Webster’s nickname for Bradshaw – “Turdshaw”.
Well, Bradshaw’s on one knee in the huddle, looking down, sweat dripping from his face. Then he looks up at me and glares at me and says “Boy – you ain’t earned that right yet.”
I remember that – and I’d never say that again.
A recent ESPN report says LeBeau could go to AZ next season when his contract expires – any accuracy there?
I don’t know much about this yet. But I would be shocked to see LeBeau go – he’s revered by this city, organization And in the locker room. Remember this is the guy who quotes the 540 plus the Night Before Christmas every Christmas to the defense. I’ll never be able to let that go – I kid him every year on that.
Has “violent football” taken a back seat to the passing game as an offensive philosophy?
You have to look at the whole body of work. The Steelers are still third in the NFL in run-pass ratio this season. They have emphasized the run more than people think.
The new offensive line coach Kugler lost his best player in Colon right away then his left tackle. He’s done a magnificent job of keeping this offensive line playing well – if they had a game ball for the season Kugler should get one. The first Jets game was the game where I really think they found their mojo.
What are your thoughts on Pittsburgh’s newest football team – the Pittsburgh Power?
I think it’s great that guys have a job opportunity and for the city to have something new. It’s the same as the Steelers – if you love your job you play it with passion and that’s what matters.
It’ll be nice to have football to fill in the gaps between Steelers seasons.
How does it look for Pouncey versus Green Bay?
Too early to tell yet if he’ll play but I can tell you that if there’s anyone with a chance to do it its that kid. The kid is a competitive dude.
I was on the sidelines with the hogs where I like to hang out most – reliving my glory days – at the end of the Jets game. Everyone could tell the seriousness of the moment – get a couple of first downs and the game is over. We’re standing doing a cheer for the team when who do I see in the middle of the group – Pouncey, balancing on two crutches and hopping on one leg.
I didn’t even know he was there. I found that engaging – that’s what he’s about – the love for the game and the passion to play. Colon was there too. You have to respect that.
What happened in the Second Half versus the Jets?
It’s natural to pull in the reins – to try not to expose yourself to big plays. You want to put the pedal to the medal but want to be careful.
In the 2nd half the Jets defense just played better. They missed so many tackles in the first half. I really think the defense was unenthusiastic in the first half – it goes full circle to the emotions versus passion issue. I think they were worn out after the Colts and Patriots games. That high intensity is an emotional ride and at times it becomes old – It’s hard to always play on an emotional edge like that. After a while players tune that stuff out. The Steelers played with passion but kept emotions in check.
Ben was also not at the top of his game. But when they needed him they knew they could count on him. That’s what number 7 is about – he’s a football player. He makes winning plays. When the game is on the line no matter how good or bad he’s played they know they can believe in him.
He’s got that magic – the players look at him in the huddle – they just know he’ll get it done.