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The Steelers completed their first week of OTA practices on Thursday and one of the key points that were addressed was the aggressive coaching philosophy that new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm brings to the table.
"I feel like there is a little more intensity, Steelers guard Kevin Dotson said of Klemm. "There is more aggression even the way we come off the blocks. Even the verbiage he uses in meetings is way more aggressive. Not just saying 'get the blocks,' but 'run through his face.' He is using more aggressive terms and I feel like that pushes our mindset in that way."
Klemm has talked about becoming more physical on the offensive line throughout the offseason, which fits Dotson and offensive tackle Zach Banner perfectly, as they are both road graders.
"I want to be more of that aggressive guy. I am kind of aggressive already. I want to be that guy that they just know he is going to do extra; you better make sure you are ready for this game type of guy for the defensive line," Dotson said. "I am trying to improve upon that. I want to be conditioned enough to be able to go the whole game, going 100 percent."
Klemm is a blue-collar, no-nonsense type of coach and knows what it takes to build a winning culture. Klemm was a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams when he was with the Patriots from 2000-2004. He was also coached by Dante Scarnecchia in New England, who's considered as one of the best offensive line coaches in the history of the game.
“We call it necessary violence,” Banner said about Klemm’s coaching style via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. “There is that, not to hurt somebody on purpose, but that thug mentality that we have when we put our helmets on. It is still professional, still structured … when I look at my guys going out of the tunnel, I am looking at them and saying let’s f-ing go and we have that as a coach.”
Klemm is even instructing the offensive line to play in a three-point stance with their hand in the dirt more often, instead of a two-point stance like in the last few years, which should help the run game that finished dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4) and yards per carry (3.6) in 2020.
“It’s a culture that was recruited and put together by ‘Coach T’ this offseason, and it really shows,” Banner said via Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In saying that ‘thug mentality,’ the last thing I want people to think is we’re walking around Pittsburgh beating people up or doing dumb stuff. But at the same time, what else would you want as an offensive line unit? That’s my question. You’ve got to come off the ball and kill people, and that’s the type of mentality we need to have.”
Banner, who is projected to be the starting right tackle this year, is the vocal leader for a Steelers' offensive line that is going through a transition with having three new starters on the line this year with the departure of Maurkice Pouncey due to retirement and Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva via free agency.
“You’ll never be able to fill a gap that 53 left,” Banner said of Pouncey. "No one will. … But at the same time, it’s not like creating a new environment, it’s taking all the great things from [him] being here."
In April before the draft, Klemm said he was looking forward to working with the young group and establishing a culture that embraces physical play up front.
"It's a new group and it's a fresh start. The offense is going to change in some ways. And it's an opportunity for us to put a fingerprint on it," Klemm said.
"The players are a reflection of us. In terms of coaches in each room. You know, Chris Morgan, the other offensive line coach, we have the same mindset. We want to build a culture that's based on physical play. And that's what this organization has been based on, whether it's offense or defense.
"I remember being a player, you knew going into the week (when) it was Monday or Tuesday, that it's going to be a hell of a week of practice," Klemm said. "We're wearing pads all week and all that because we're getting down on Sunday. And I want to get back to that for our group, that when we put on the film we're not talking about how physical we're going to be. No one's asking us questions of if we can run the ball and all that. Like our film will speak for itself. I'd like to get to that point sooner than later. And I think we can with the type of guys that we have here now and hopefully the guys that we'll bring to it. But more than anything the culture that we have here. Getting back to the roots of that. And just putting the emphasis on that in terms of physical play and finish, and just a nasty disposition every single play."