Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

Some NFL teams will begin reporting for their respective training camps later this week, meaning the silliness of the offseason will finally be over.

Silliness?

Sure. What else can you call the preening and kabitzing that gets done in the offseason, when every team is headed to the Super Bowl, no matter how talented or talentless its roster might be?

In terms of the preening, look no farther than our friends up north, where the Cleveland Browns seem to have already been declared not only AFC North champions, but Super Bowl champs as well.

Remember this beauty from earlier this year? “I know one thing – that the Browns are going to the Super Bowl this year,” rookie cornerback Greedy Williams declared on a conference call with reporters soon after he was selected in the second round of the draft. “That’s a fact.”

This before Williams, a second-round draft pick, has even played an NFL game.

Here’s a little history lesson for Williams and the others crowning the Browns: Cleveland is one of four franchises – Detroit, Jacksonville and Houston are the others – that has never appeared in a Super Bowl. The Jaguars and Texans have an excuse. They have both been around for less than 30 years, though that’s plenty of time to get to a Super Bowl. The Browns and Lions? They’ve been equally inept for a long, long time.

That’s the second lesson for young Williams and those who are anointing the Browns. Cleveland last won a division title in 1989 during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Chuck Noll was still the head coach of the Steelers at the time. The Steelers, who rarely change head coaches, have had three since then, including Noll for his final few seasons.

The Browns in that period have had 15 head coaches, including newcomer Freddie Kitchens. What’s even more remarkable is that Cleveland didn’t have a franchise for three of those seasons – from 1996 through 1998 – and one of the coaches who was fired just happens to be named Bill Belichick. Even he couldn’t consistently win in Cleveland.

Finally, there’s this: Of the players currently on Cleveland’s roster, only two have taken part in a win over the Steelers in a Browns uniform.

Think about that. Guard Joel Bitonio and linebacker Christian Kirksey are the only Browns on the roster from the last time Cleveland defeated Pittsburgh, back in 2014. Both were rookies that year.

Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who was part of that 2014 Cleveland team after being drafted by the in the first round in 2010, has as many wins over the Steelers while with the Browns, having also beaten them in 2012.

Since coming back into the league in 1999 after a three-year layoff, the Browns have beaten the Steelers just six times and tied them once in that period. The Steelers have beaten the Browns 34 times.

Yes, Cleveland is better than it has been, at least on paper. But the game isn’t played on paper. All the talk in the world doesn’t change that.

  • I couldn’t help but note while reading Luke Campbell’s fascinating column about high school coaching in the Observer-Reporter earlier this week how interesting it is that many of the coaches who wind up getting fired from high school jobs wind up as position coaches at local colleges.

And every time I see one of those guys, they always have a big smile on their face. They are finally getting to just coach the sport they love and not have to deal with parents.

There might not be a tougher – or more demanding – job than being a high school coach in any sport. Every parent thinks their child is going to get a college scholarship. If they don’t, then blame the coach. If the kid doesn’t play, then blame the coach. Worse yet, go to the school board and get the coach fired. It’s extreme foolishness.

Nobody ever wants to face the fact that maybe, just maybe, Junior isn’t as good as they think he is.

  • Nothing the Steelers do in training camp, when it begins July 25, will matter at all if Chris Boswell isn’t fixed.

And nobody will know for sure if Boswell’s kicking is fixed until the regular season begins.

“You’ll know it when I know it. We’ll see that (stuff) together,” Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith said. “You’re not going to have to ask me. You’re going to know and I’m going to know. When he hits that first game-winner like he did and he’s banging balls, you ain’t going to come looking for me. Once that (thing) goes wide right and we’re off that field 19-17, you’ll come looking for me. We’ll see that together. We’ll find out really quick.”

The Steelers are confident Boswell will bounce back from a horrendous 2018 season. He better. Boswell counts $4.2 million against the team’s salary cap if he’s on the roster. If he’s not, then he counts $6.8 million.

Boswell will be the kicker this season.

  • A thing for parents to remember when watching high school athletics: It’s not the Xs and the Os that always wins, it’s all about the Jimmys and the Joes.

Coaching can put Jimmy and Joe in the right position to make plays. But the kids have to make them.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for DKPittsburghSports.com and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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