Ed Bouchette checks in ...
Hoge earned this ride
Merrill Hoge and Trey Wingo of ESPN took some lighthearted jabs when they were offered and accepted a ride in a cart from the Steelers offices down the hill to the practice field this morning.
I remember when Hoge played for the Steelers from 1987 through 1993, he always walked wherever he had to go at Saint Vincent College. Even when Bill Cowher became the first coach to order carts on campus to haul players around, Hoge refused to take one.
But if I wore a longsleeve shirt with a tie and a suit as those two did, I would want a ride too. It doesn’t take much to break a sweat down in the bowl of fields at Saint Vincent College on the first of August. And it’s just not appetizing to watch a TV host sweat through the armpits of his suitcoat, now is it?
I chatted with Hoge – I covered his entire, unlikely seven-year career as a Steelers running back -- while Mike Tomlin ran a morning special teams drill. Hoge was a 10th-round draft choice in 1987 from Idaho State.
“That’s how you made it, right?” I asked him. “By first playing on special teams.’’
No, he answered. He said he made it by becoming a good third-down back. Hmmmm, I didn’t remember that, so I looked up his rookie stats. He carried the ball three times that season marred by a players’ strike, and caught no passes.
He must have remembered his second season, because in 1988 he led the team with 705 yards rushing and tied Louis Lipps for the team lead with 50 receptions.
Hoge got the most out of what he had and would go on to lead the team in rushing two more times before concussions ended his playing career.
He’s also gotten everything out of what Chuck Noll would call his “life’s work” as a broadcaster on ESPN.
One more thing – he’s reached the 5 ½-year mark as a cancer survivor and doctors told him with the type he had, that means he has a 99 percent chance of no recurrence.
Merrill Hoge deserved that ride in the cart today.
Stop! They're killing him!
Here’s something I don’t understand. Santonio Holmes, who did a good job returning punts as a rookie in 2006, was prevented from doing so last season because coach Mike Tomlin wanted him to concentrate on his full time job at split end.
It looks as though Tomlin will follow that philosophy again this year because after the Steelers signed veteran return man Eddie Drummond on Thursday, Holmes was removed from the rotation at punt return in practice.
Fine. Here’s another coach who apparently does not believe in using many starters on special teams. Hey, that’s his philosophy, as it was with Bill Cowher.
But why’s he trying to kill James Harrison? Harrison, you might remember, was the team’s MVP last season and made his first Pro Bowl after replacing Joey Porter at right outside linebacker.
He turned 30 in May and never comes off the field on defense. That’s OK too. But why try to kill him by running him down the field on kickoffs and punts? He’s also on the kickoff return team once in a while.
He’s good at it, yes, but let’s give this guy a break. He led the Steelers with 8.5 sacks in his first year as a starter; think how many more he might have had if he weren’t running 70 yards down the field to cover a kick and then having to line up on defense right away!
I’d rather see Harrison concentrate on playing linebacker and not playing on special teams than I’d worry about Holmes doing both at wide receiver and returning punts.
James Harrison lights up Ed Reed on punt coverage last season: