Steelers return to practice while grieving loss of coach

Ruben Hill
August 14, 2019

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gathered his team for what he called the "most important film session of the year".

On one knee and embracing each other just before the start of practice, the entire group of wide receivers, as well as Ben Roethlisberger and assistants Blaine Stewart and Ray Sherman, lowered their heads in remembrance of Drake, who died peacefully inside his dorm room at Rooney Hall early Sunday morning.

"We're all devastated", Tomlin said.

"Professionally, the loss is significant. Personally it's even bigger", Tomlin said. "Those of us that knew and had personal relationships with coach Drake all feel that way. We realize we don't have a lot of answers".

The team canceled Sunday's practice and bumped up a scheduled day off to Monday to allow extra time for players, coaches and staff to absorb the loss. The Steelers will return to the practice field Tuesday afternoon, the first time that they will do so without Drake on the sidelines. "It's been said that consoling is not for the weak but the wise, so we seek people who have expertise in helping to deal with such circumstances".

"We are in the process of developing a plan there", he said.

It apparently includes former Steelers offensive coordinator and longtime National Football League assistant coach Ray Sherman. Sherman, 67, was Bill Cowher's play-caller in 1998.

Sherman last worked for the Rams, leaving there after the 2015 season.

Tomlin admitted it would be hard for the Steelers to focus on football so soon after Drake's passing.

Tomlin, who said that the team is now in the process of filling Drake's position on the coaching staff, expanded on the impact that Drake had on his coaching career.

While the Steelers have made no formal announcement regarding the hiring of Sherman to replace Drake, it would seem something of a natural fit. "But we got professional obligations ..." "We intend to march".

Although Tomlin didn't hire Drake until after Richard Mann retired after the 2017 season, his association with Drake spanned more than two decades.

"I was young wide receivers coach at Arkansas State, and he was viewed as one of the top wide receivers coaches in the college game", Tomlin said, his face lighting up for a rare moment during a 15-minute session with media.

"It's in place, I just don't wish to discuss the intimate details", Tomlin said. "He probably didn't have a choice". I was too persistent. That's why we talk about him the way we do. He sent me drill tape and things of that nature, we developed a rapport.

Drake was hired by the Steelers as their wide receivers coach in 2018 with 14 years of coaching experience in the NFL.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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