Rodney Bailey, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 2001-2003, 2006
First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself since the NFL and how you got started in your post-NFL career?
I’m the regional director for Visalus. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been out of the NFL. Before that I was on tv – the New Network’s Average Joe and the Wall to Wall Sports Show, a local show in Columbus, Ohio.
Can you let readers know more about Visalus?
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How hard was it for you to adjust to life after the NFL and what was your biggest adjustment?
It was trial and error. It’s definitely not easy. You go from something you love and have a passion for and you look for something that mirrors that. Basically though what you accomplish in the NFL is second to none. And there’s no exit plan from the NFL. You have to be creative. Anything I can say from those leaving the NFL is to know what you want to try to do early on and try for that.
You were a very highly touted player coming out of high school in Cleveland – named the Cleveland Touchdown Club player of the year and one of the top 40 high school recruits. What made you decide to play for Ohio State and ans what was your high school position?
I was a defensive end in high school. I set a goal and committed to Ohio State right before my senior year. It was the only place I wanted to go. It was my favorite school and a no brainer for me. I had no other visits – it was Ohio State or bust and I’m thankful for the decision.
You were drafted by the Steelers in the 6th round in 2001. How hard was it for you to make the team as a later round pick and how did you manage to do so?
You are definitely right – it’s not easy. You need to take a business approach to it – to be a professional. Come in in shape and work hard. Most rookies come in with a big learning curve so you have to be sharp – in practices and in games. You have to be on every single day.
Who helped you most to adjust to the NFL as a rookie – both on and off the field – and how so?
Coach Mitchell. He was a big inspiration for me – still is. He worked me very hard because he was potential. He told me I needed to grow up fast – that this wasn’t college. And he was right.
He was more than a coach. He kept it light. He was a friend. You talk to any other lineman – any other player – and they’d say the same thing.
Was it frustrating having to adapt to a 3-4 defense – especially with so many high quality linemen like Hampton, Smith and Von Oelhoffen there?
Casey and I came in together in the same draft class. I watched the defense growing up – how hard it worked. I saw that the defensive lineman in the 3-4 were different. I was thankful to have Aaron and Kimo there to serve as great examples to mirror. They worked extra after practice with us to have us prepared. They made sure that the rookies were as polished as they were. It was a big inspiration for me. We wanted to care for the older guys like they cared for us and it made us work harder for the unit.
It wasn’t that hard to adjust. There were so many blitz concepts – but you’re still a defensive lineman. The principles are no different – get off the blocks, use your hands and make tackles. It’s a team defense. You’re not counting tackles. You’re playing a team concept.
Some say the scheme is too complicated and young guys don’t get a chance to play because of that. Is that true?
That’s just an excuse. It’s not true at all. The defense can simplify your job. If you know exactly what’s asked of you and what you are supposed to do…. When things go right, you know why. It’s a team defense that makes you want to play for those linebackers behind you.
Who were some of the biggest characters on those teams and what made them so? Any funny stories to share of your time with the team?
Oh, countless guys! Keisel – he and I had a lot of laughs together. Every guy was a character on the team, it seemed.
Cowher let the craziness go – he embraced it. Hampton was one of the funniest guys in the world – he always had a smile on his face. My roommate was Kendrell Bell – he and Haggans were some of the funniest guys. They all had their personalities, but we all came together. We were a tight unit.
Oh -and Jerome Bettis. What an awesome personality. He personified what a great teammate was.
You left Pittsburgh after the 2003 season to play for New England and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. What made you decide to sign with New England and how hard of a decision was that for you?
I was a restricted free agent at the time. I had the offer sheet and it paid me considerably more than what I would have made otherwise. I was difficult to leave behind a family and go to a new team. Many don’t realize how difficult it is.
We won a Super Bowl, which was one of the coolest things. Then the following year I lost the Super Bowl after I signed with Seattle and we played the Steelers!
I came back to afterwards to where my career began – in Pittsburgh. I am a Steeler. Black and Gold is what I bleed. What you are is where you come from.
Did you get a good amount of ribbing from your teammates and what made you decide to come back?
Oh we had a lot of fun with it. I left then got a Super Bowl win then lost to the Steelers in the Super Bowl. They told me “You got one but we got you back!” So we were even (laughing)…
How were the Steelers different from those other teams you played for?
The greatest thing about the Steelers is that it is a family. You’re treated well – if you were a first round pick or a free agent, you’re a family member. No matter if you played for one year or twelve years, you’re a Steeler for life. That’s unique to most NFL teams. My time in New England, Seattle, Arizona…I’m still remembered as a Steeler. That’s due to a great fanbase and locker room.
What are some of your favorite memories now looking back on your time in Pittsburgh, and what makes them so?
I was born and raised on the West Side of Cleveland. Our rival was the Browns. For me, the epic battles in those games – and getting the better fo Cleveland was something great to be a part of. My family were Browns fans!
One of the most electrifying moments was in my second season – the 2002 wild card game versus Cleveland. We came back from over three touchdowns to beat the, It was an awesome, defining win for us. Many family members didn’t speak to me for three-to-four weeks (laughing).
Just remembering the bus rides to Cleveland – I was very thankful to be a part of that.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I love the city of Pittsburgh – it’s one of my favorite places in the United States. The food and enthusiasm…and all of the time. In the offseason and in-season. I’m glad to see the tradition keeping on as new players come in.
I’m proud of my seven-year career. I got the chance to play with great friends and for great coaches. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t know what the NFL life would be like but I’m very, very, very happy to have worn the black and gold helmet for four years of my career.