Brian St. Pierre, Steelers Quarterback, 2003-2004, 2006-2007
First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career and coaching experience – what caused you to follow your post-NFL career and how has it gone so far?
My last year playing was 2010-11 with the Panthers. From there I was home raising my two sons with my wife and doing radio for Boston College Football. This past season (2013) was my first in coaching. Although I could have pursued coaching jobs at the NFL level it was my choice to coach high school.
Coaching is a very strenuous and time consuming career, and I wanted my family to have security. I always knew I wanted to coach when I was done, it was just a question of making it work family-wise. When my alma mater St. John’s Prep asked me to become head coach it was an opportunity that just seemed right for me.
What coaches and coaching lessons have helped you most and stuck with you now as a coach- how and why?
I had the opportunity to play for a bunch of different head coaches in my career. Each coach has his own methods and style. I have my own, but its intertwined with bits from each of them I think. The thing about being a head coach is you have a tremendous amount of responsibility and you need to surround yourself with capable people to be successful.
You were an accomplished baseball and basketball as well as football player in high school. Why did you choose football over those other two sports?
Growing up I was a three-sport athlete (Football, Baseball, Basketball). I loved all three, but football was always my passion. I grew up on the sidelines watching high school ball, because my dad was the team doctor for two high school teams. The intensity of the game was a big draw for me. I was a football junkie from as young as I can remember.
You were drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round in 2003. Where you excited to be drafted by the Steelers and were you concerned knowing they had Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch on the roster already?
I was extremely excited to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003. It was the fulfillment of a dream of mine. Being a football addict I knew all about the history and tradition of the Steelers. Bill Cowher was a very well know coach and the Rooney Family was, as it still is, very well thought of. I was honored and still am to this day.
My career there certainly didn’t go the way I had hoped, but I have no regrets. I worked extremely hard to earn my place on those rosters. When you get drafted in the 5th round nothing is given. Then when they draft a franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger the following year, its really an uphill fight. I was grateful for my four seasons in Black n Gold. The Steelers are a model franchise and the Rooney family, Dan and Art Jr.,are tremendous owners. Pittsburgh is a great city with great fans. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed living there.
Who were the guys that really helped mentor you and acclimate you to the NFL and the team? How did they do so – any examples?
Jerome Bettis’ locker was right next to mine in the facility. For me to be able to show up to work everyday with a Hall of Famer sitting right next to me was an honor. He was very friendly and answered any questions I ever had. He really helped me transition from college to my rookie year with Pittsburgh.
Clint Kriewaldt was another guy who really made it easier for me. He was a regular guy, like myself. He had been with the Detroit Lions and signed with the Steelers in 2003. So he and I were both new to the team. We kind of gravitated towards each other early on and just became good friends pretty quickly. Alan Faneca was another guy who was always willing to help. We had a good locker room.
You read a lot about the loss of leadership on the current Steelers team as it looks to transition from veterans to younger players. Who were the leaders on the Steelers teams you played for and how did they assert themselves as leaders?
We had tremendous leaders on the Steeler teams I played on. Alan Faneca, Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter, Hines Ward, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, Aaron Smith, Jeff Hartings, Marvel Smith…I mean that’s a pretty good list right there. They all had their own style. Joey was loud and brash, but we loved him for it.
By comparison Marvel Smith said very little, but he demanded your respect because of how hard and well he played. All those guys were ultimate professionals.
You were there as a rookie, and a few years later, you returned as more of an experienced veteran player. How did those two experiences differ for you? And especially in a strong mentoring culture like Pittsburgh, how did you handle working with younger players to help get them acclimated to the NFL, knowing some of those guys were out to take your playing time and roster spot?
My first two years in Pittsburgh were a whirlwind. We under achieved in 2003 (6-10). I was a rookie, that got a little pre-season time, but not much due to the fact Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch were veterans.
The following April they draft Ben and that made the situation very difficult on me. I found a way to make the 2004 roster, but my long-term prospects were cloudy at best in Pittsburgh. But what can you do? Ben, as we all know, is a tremendous quarterback. He’s elite. Enough said.
When I returned in 2006 its was still a very similar team and I had gained some perspective by then on this whole NFL thing. I was a veteran now, and felt like I had earned a certain amount of respect from Coach Cowher and the front office.
Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so?
We had a great locker room. Loud guys, quiet guys. Funny guys and serious guys. That’s what made us close. We had a little of everything in there. Joey was very loud. Then you had Troy Polamalu who, you guys know, is very soft spoken. I don’t remember any one guy being a comedian, maybe Antwaan Randle El. El was pretty funny actually…
You played for Baltimore in 2005 then returned to Pittsburgh in 2006-2007. How difficult and frustrating was it leaving the Steelers in that Super Bowl season, and did the players give you grief for having signed with a division rival when you returned?
When the Steelers cut me in 2005 I was angry. I felt I had earned the right to make that team and was actually told I did two days prior to being cut. I still, to this day, don’t know what happened, but when Coach Whipple asked Bill if he was going to put me in for the fourth quarter versus Carolina (fourth preseason game) and the answer was no, I knew my fate was sealed.
Baltimore picked me up and I was ready to move on. When Ben got injured mid-season vs. San Diego, Kevin Colbert called to try and sign me off of Baltimore’s practice squad, but I declined because I wanted to play and Baltimore said they would pull me up to the roster and they did. I wanted to be in a situation where I at least may have a chance to play. I knew that wasn’t going to happen in Pittsburgh. I still had dreams and aspirations. I wasn’t one of those guys just happy to be there. I played with a lot of those guys and it always rubbed me the wrong way, still does.
Obviously, the Steelers went onto win a Super Bowl, but there was no guarantee the Steelers would have kept me on the roster when Ben returned. Going back the following year was surreal, but it was if I never left.
You changed teams five times over your eight-year NFL career. Looking back, do you think fans appreciate the toll the game takes on players – not just physically – but emotionally as players play for different teams/cities across their careers?
I played eight years in the NFL for four franchises (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Arizona and Carolina). I lasted a lot longer than most and I’m proud of that fact. I only started one game (for Carolina) but I busted my ass for everything I ever got in the NFL. I chased my dream.
I made my wife and newborn son move across country to Arizona for the 2008-09 seasons. I lived apart from them in Carolina during the 2010 season. It was hard. Lots of ups and downs, but no regrets. I got to be on a team that went to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the team that drafted me (Super Bowl XLIII). I threw my first TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald. I threw my last interception to Ray Lewis. I tied a Panthers record for longest touchdown pass (88 yards). That was my career in a nutshell. Ups and downs. But through all of it I never lost my love and passion for the game. Football was very good to me.