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Craig Veasey, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 1990-1992

February 29, 2012
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Craig Veasey:

First, can you let readers know what you’ve bene doing with yourself since the NFL?

I’m back in school now, at the University of Houston. I’m getting my B.S. in Construction Management. I worked at a remodelling company for a time, then became a superintendent and project manager for a home building company.

I left that company to become the vice-president elsewhere, then went on to own my own custom home building company. But after my mother died, and with the recession, I just got tired of it.

But you are getting your construction management degree?

I promised my mother I’d get my degree. She never cared if I played football – she wanted me to get my degree. Plus, I have four kids. I can’t preach to them to get their degree if I don’t get mine.

Have you taken advantage of any of the NFL’s career-services programs? Why/why now?

I never have – I really didn’t need to. I’ve done well. I grew up in construction and know the business. The University of Houston offers a degree in Construction Management – that’s why I am going there – but I could probably teach some of those classes. Growing up and knowing people in the business, I had more opportunities than most after the NFL I guess.

You were drafted in the third round by the Steelers in 1990. How excited were you to go to the Steelers ?

I’ll tell you what, it was a culture shock. Growing up in Houston, I had never been in cold weather. But I’d never trade my experiences playing for Noll and Joe Greene.

Growing up in Houston, the Steelers were my favorite team, believe it or not. The local papers took pictures of me with my Steelers memorabilia when I got drafted. I was happy to be there. Once I left Pittsburgh, I missed it. Nowhere else has fans like Pittsburgh – you kind of take it for granted until you leave.

Who on that team helped mentor you as a rookie – and helped you adjust to the NFL both on and off the field?

Three people. Dermontti Dawson first. I didn’t even know he made the Hall of Fame until just recently.  I learned a lot from him. Every day, going up against someone like that, you can’t help but get better.

Gerald Williams was closer to my age and helped me with technique. And Joe Greene – you always trusted him. he had done it, so when  he told you to do something you didn’t question it. You knew it could be done because he did it.

Joe taught you toughness too. There are no whiners around Joe – that’s the bottom line. I remember (laughing) he always had a saying – “Are you hurt or are you injured? You can play hurt, but you can’t play injured.” He taught you to be tough and pushed you mentally. You needed to be mentally tough as a defensive lineman – it’s the hardest position I think in football.

You played both nosetackle and defensive tackle. Which position did you like more, and why?

I moved from defensive end to the inside in Pittsburgh. From glory to the inside. My first year was really rough because I never played inside and it was more than justa learning curve for me.

That first year I played against a lot of Hall of Fame guys too – Matthews, Munoz, Dawson, Munchak, Slater…it was rough.  I remember after my first Monday Night Game against Los Angeles I went hom questioning myself .

Were you at all upset at having been moved inside?

You didn’t whine. I was just happy to be there.

I tore ligaments in my left wrist and found out right before the combine. I thought my career was over. In fact it was the Steelers’ doctor that told me. Well, Delton Hall had that same surgery that offseason so they knew it would be ok and that’s why they drafted me.

After my first preseason game, in pregame, Tunch Ilkin poked me in the eye and I had to go on IR. I thought it was all over for me – that after I was off IR they’d let me go. So, after all of that, I was just happy to be there.

As for which I liked more….I liked being a 4-3 tackle, though in the 3-4 as a nosetackle you know you earned your money!

The 4-3 was what I always played besides Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was always the 3-4, except when we played Houston. We always played the 4-3 versus Houston.

Why?

Versus passing teams we got a better pass rush with the 4-3. We had the personnel to go back and forth and the 4-3 gives you a better pass rush. Most teams don;t have that flexibility, but we did.

You were  there for Noll’s last season.. How did you and the rest of the players take Noll’s departure and what was done for him that final season?

I found out by seeing it on the news. I was in shock. “Are you for real?” I called the Steelers office and asked.  I asked them who they were looking at and no one knew until they hired Cowher, and no one knew anything about him. I found out everything by watching the news.

How was Coach Cowher in your short time playing for him?

I played for him in that preseason only. He was a completely different coach. People say Chuck Noll was a different coach in his final few years in Pittsburgh – not as fiery. Well, Cowher was.

He drafted Steed that year. The first preseason game they told me they wanted to start Steed to see what he had, and I never saw the field. When he started the second game I  saw the writing on the wall. I asked Tom Donohoe what was going on, and he said they had tried to trade me. I asked for my release and got it.

Two days later I was in Houston with my former college head coach, Jack Pardee, who brought me in.

Who were the biggest characters on those Steelers teams – any examples of how so?

Delton Hall and Thomas Everett – both were laid back guys. Every team has lighter-hearted guys and the serious ones/ Lloyd was serious business (laughing) all the time.

I remember that it was a standing thing,  that if your college team played a teammate’s college team, it was  an automatic bet. Well, my rookie season Houston played Miami, and of course everyone on the team was from Miami! We got beat to death by Miami and I owed everyone money.

So, I went to the bank and took out $200 in pennies and clipped the ties so they had to recount them all (laughing). it didn’t go over too well – that’s not the popular thing to do as a rookie!

You played under many incredible coaches in the NFL, including Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, Don Shula, Jack Pardee and Jeff Fisher. What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from those coaches?

I was in too much awe I think. I was starstruck meeting guys like Joe Greene, Shula and Noll. Being around those people – you learn a lot from the gameplan but you don’t talk to them a lot. If they talk to you it’s probably because something’s wrong – you made a mistake or they’re about to let you go. You don’t want to talk to them!

Fisher was more talkative though – he talked to everyone. He was so younng…he played with Bruce Matthews who he coached.

What are your best memories as a Steeler?

One memory sticks in my head. I was at the Giant Eagle grocery shopping. I never thought of myself as anything special – I just played football is all. That people see you and know you was  a shock to me.

Well, I’m standing in line talking to the cashier and I asked her if she was going to the game. She asked if I as kidding – the game was sold out and there was no way to get tickets, she said. So, I told her I’d get her two tickets – and it was like she won the lottery. Her reaction to the tickets – you couldn’t measure it. It was great.

I didn’t realize until then how important the Steelers were to the city.

Last thoughts for readers?

I look at my time playing football like it was another life. I have to tell myself that was me. It tickles my kids pink. My girl…when all the boys learned her dad played football, well, what can I say (laughing).

I didn’t see myself as anything special, but it’s amazing to see how people react to it. I never considered it a big deal. There are plenty of more important jobs – like fighter pilots. And personally, I would rather have been a fighter pilot!

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