Myron Bell, Steelers Safety, 1994-1997, 2000-2001
First, can you let readers know about Youth Empowerment Sports – what your role is in the organization and what sets it apart from other sports training?
Y.E.S. is an organization whose mission is to engage and equip young people with the necessary tools to reach their life’s goals. Sports is a reflection of life, and as such, is used to show youth how to navigate life’s challenges and to help youth understand their purpose, as well as cultivate good character.
What aspect of coaching/training athletes do you most enjoy, and why?
Mentoring/coaching students/athletes is very important to me because I have a part in modeling the total package. The athletic part is enjoyable, but shaping and cultivating character is also important for a productive life beyond football.
Playing for the Steelers, you had the opportunity to learn under Dick LeBeau, Bill Cowher and Dom Capers.
What coaching lessons from these and other coaches do you find yourself falling back on today as you coach/train players yourself?
It was an honor and a privilege to have been coached by such great men and legends during my career. Being a professional and being held accountable for your actions on and off the field. Coach LeBeau’s teaching has had the most influence on my approach to mentoring/coaching young people. His ability to show compassion for people and appreciate the unique talents of each individual are what I strive to convey to the youth.
You were a fifth round pick of the Steelers in ’94. What were your thoughts on being drafted by a team with a deep secondary, especially at safety with Lake, Perry and Jones there?
I have been a Steelers fan since I was seven years old. However, on draft day I cried at being taken in the fifth round; though I quickly realized I was being ungrateful for the tremendous opportunity God had blessed me with. My mother reminded me of my childhood dream to play for the Steelers. I didn’t really focus on who was currently on the roster; I just set out to prove I was much better than all the safety’s taken before me.
As a fifth round pick, your roster spot was no guarantee. What about your play caught the coaches eyes, do you think, and enabled you to make the team that rookie season?
Growing up in Toledo, OH, I never had an opportunity to attend an NFL game. The first game I attended, I was playing for the Steelers against the Dolphins at Joe Robbie Stadium. Although I was primarily playing on special teams, I caused three fumbles in that game. My attitude was positive and I understood my role and what I needed to show on and off the field to make the team.
Who helped take you under their wing as a rookie and helped you adjust to life as a Steeler – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
Eric Greene, Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Dion Figures, Darren Perry and Carlton Hasslerig all played a part in setting the foundation for me as a professional football player. I was always struck at how Rod, Carnell and Darren would come to work every day wearing Dockers and carrying a briefcase; they treated what they did as a business and carried themselves like business men.
For three years during away games, I was assigned a seat in the same row as Rod’s. During that time he shared a lot of knowledge and wisdom. There were no limits to where the conversation would go about life’s experiences.
You got a number of starts as a Steeler safety but were never declared “the starter”. How frustrating was it for you to be in a constant battle for playing time, and how close were you with those you competed for playing time with?
It got to be very frustrating during my third and fourth year. I was the thirdd safety to go in behind Lake and Perry. Both of them were All-Pro Players and well established in the organization. In my mind there wasn’t any battle for a starting position, it was just waiting for my turn and always trying to improve on all of the special teams. These are two players that I owe my career to from the stand point of learning technique of the defensive package.
What did the coaches tell as you battled for the starting spot? What advice and constructive critiques did they offer you?
Coach Tim Lewis would always push me to go hard in practice against the first team to better my skill set. Going against Ernie Mills, Andre Hasting, Yancey Thigpen Charles Johnson and Courtney Hawkins in practice was competitive. I would always work on man/zone coverage, also working at the nickel, dime and cornerback position. Coach Lewis stayed on me the most about my open field tackling. I always wanted to take the kill shot in open space.
Who were some of the biggest characters on the Steelers teams you played for and what made them so? Any examples?
We had a team full of characters during my years with the Steelers. During the 94-97 seasons you had Brentson Buckner, LeVon Kirkland, Fred McAffe, Bam Morris, Lee Flowers, Greg Lloyd, Eric Pegram, Fred Foggie and Earl Holmes to name a few.
Buck was a guy who didn’t hold anything back during any given situation. Before games he was the motivator for the team, before and after practice, he was the snap (jokester) king against anyone who dared to challenge him.
You left the team in ’98 – and ended up playing for division rival Cincinnati. How hard was that for you to leave and what brought that decision on?
It was hard to leave the Steelers, but I had gone through the process of becoming a starter in the NFL. I had to go where I thought I had the best opportunity to play. The Steelers were set at the safety position. Things didn’t go the way that I had planned for them to go career wise or financially as a free agent. At this time in my life, I really had to do some soul-searching personally.
What were the biggest difference you found between the Bengals teams you played for and the Steelers?
The Rooney’s were all the difference between the two organizations. The Rooney family’s love and respect for the game, the coaches, the players, the fans and the community are why the Steelers continue to be so successful.
You returned to the Steelers again for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Who approached who to return and how did the players receive you? Did you get any grief for playing with a division rival by the Steelers players when you faced the Steelers and when you returned (how, if so)?
My agent stayed in contact with a player personnel guy during the 2000 season. Doug Whaley brought my name up to Coach Cowher and they agreed to sign me back. Coming back to the Steelers was a breath of fresh air and I was welcomed back by everyone. First of all, the Steelers didn’t see the Bengals as a rival. The Bengals were the team that viewed the Steelers as their rival team.
What are some of your best memories as a Steeler – what experiences stand out to you most, and why?
The experience of going to work every day at Three Rivers Stadium. The experience of walking past the four Super Bowl trophies and walking through a locker room where legends graced the grounds. And of course, the experience of playing in Super Bowl XXX.