Oliver Ross, Steelers Offensive Lineman, 2000-2004
First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career – how you get started and why?
My second year in Pittsburgh I started thinking about my future after my NFL career, you always hear veterans players say, “football doesn’t last forever so take advantage of it while you can”. I took note to their advice and started buying real estate. My second year is when I bought my first rental property in California . I didn’t own a house because I would spend very little time there. So one lead to two then three so I ended up with 8 properties between California and Arizona ranging from single family homes duplexes and four-plex units.
I also received my Certification as an Emergency Medical Technician two years ago while volunteering for the Glendale and Phoenix fire departments in Arizona. Currently, I volunteer as a coach at a local junior college and high school in Los Angeles.
What lessons from your time in the NFL helped you in this role- and did the NFL provide any post-NFL career services to help you adjust?
My lesson learned from my time in the NFL was to “never taking anything for granted, and take advantage of every opportunity as it were your last”. The NFL offers several post NFL career services, which I have yet to take advantage of at the moment.
You transferred to Iowa State as a Junior from community college and were moved from defensive to offensive tackle. How did you feel about that transition so late in your college career and how did that impact you development?
My senior year at Iowa State I switched from the Defensive Line to the Offensive Line. I was against the transition to the position of an offensive lineman. What was important to me at that time was stats, making tackles and obtaining sacks. This is what I was accustomed to in high school and junior college. After further consideration, either I wasn’t at the top of my skill or we really needed help on the offensive side of the ball. At that time, I didn’t realize the coaches saw potential in my ability to make the transition.
I used my first year at Iowa to red shirt. This allowed me ample time to put on weight, learn offensive line techniques and build strength. Do to myself being a great athlete; I was able to get away with technique flaws because I could make it up with quick recovery if I got into trouble.
In ’98, you were drafted by Dallas in the fifth round as a left tackle despite just one year as an offensive tackle in college. How did that affect your development and how did Dallas work with you?
After being drafted in 1998, with just one year of experience in the Offensive line position, it was in the best interest of the team not to throw me into the game my first year due to my lack of experience. There wasn’t a lot of pressure or need for me to play that year in Dallas. I was second string to an offensive line that was composed of all elite players which included Larry Allen, Eric Williams, Nate Newton and Mark Stepnoski. I was able to take my time and learn the game and develop myself with hopes of achieving the success.
After a year in Dallas then Philadelphia, you were signed by the Steelers in 2000 in free agency. What made you decide to sign with Pittsburgh and hat did they tell you about your role with the team?
When I decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000, there were three teams that I was in negotiating with. Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Kanas City. After analyzing the roster, observing which players I would back-up as well as compete with and where would I have the best chance to play, my decision was Pittsburgh. If I recall correctly there wasn’t any discussion on my role as I joined the team late in the season.
Who on the Steelers team helped you adjust to the new team/culture the most, and how so?
When I arrived in Pittsburgh, Dermontti Dawson helped me get accustomed to the team culture. He assisted me with traveling around the city, provided me with short versions to learn the play-book and went the extra mile and invited me to spend dinner and holiday’s at his house with him and his family.
You developed and became a starter in Pittsburgh then signed a restricted free agent offer with Cleveland in 2002. What made you decide to sign that offer and how did you feel when the Steelers matched it?
In 2002, the Steelers had a few players that were injured, i.e.; Marvel Smith, Wayne Gandy and Kendall Simmons. As I wasn’t a full time starter, I started more than half the season while playing 3-4 different positions (Right Tackle, Left Tackle, Right Guard and Left Guard). I signed my offer with Cleveland since I was offered the opportunity become a full time starter at right tackle. This is the goal of any player in the NFL. I was elated when Pittsburgh matched my offer as I was already settled in Pittsburgh and Russ Grimm, my offensive line coach helped me elevate my game to the next level. The Steeler’s organization is second to none.
You read a lot about the loss of leadership 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?
During my years in Pittsburgh we had a several leaders such as Dermontti Dawson, Alan Faneca, Jerome Bettis and Jeff Hartings. They were leaders by example with an attitude that was reserved and modest.
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? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities?
Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter and Hines Ward were the big personalities of the group. We were all so competitive! There was always some kind of bet before practice, that the defensive line would stop the offense during 3dr down period and the offense would win goal-line drill. The offense would win more seven on seven plays.
You left the team after the 2004 season and signed with Arizona. What made you decide to do so and how difficult was that for you?
Well to be honest it was more of a business decision as I would have preferred to stay with the Steelers as they won the Super Bowl that year, meanwhile, Arizona Cardinals presented me with an offer. The challenge of leaving a winning organization to an organization that was struggling was more difficult to transition into.
You played for six teams over your eleven-season career. How difficult was that for you and do you think fans understand the toll that takes on players?
My career was definitely a well-traveled one! I had to earn and prove myself as nothing was given to me. My work ethic was countless, focus was determined and dedication was foremost while learning the offensive line position. Relocation of different teams defiantly takes a toll on you as you must adapt to the new city, teammates, different playing styles, and different offences. You are constantly adapting to a different way of life.
What are your favorite memories as a Steeler?
My favorite memory as a Steeler was when I was named Opening Day as a starter. It fell like all the hard work and dedication, long traveled and advice from the veteran players paid off.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I would like to thank the Readers and Steeler Fans for letting me share my NFL career story with them and for sharing the winning tradition with me in the city of Pittsburgh. An experience that will never be forgotten!