Former Steelers linebacker Craig Bingham shared what training camp was like when he played for the Steelers from 1982-84 and 1987 under Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Noll.
What was training camp like when you played under Chuck Noll?
“Back then it was the stone age. Now guys get on mini-carts that take them from the locker room to the dorms, which are air conditioned, which we didn’t have. They have many options on food. I remember coming into camp and you had to bring your fan. You had pay phones on either end of each floor. Now people have the luxury of cell phones. And air conditioned rooms.
“Chuck was known for right after you went through the two days of testing it was two-a-days and it’s boom. Now it’s shorts, and t-shirt and helmets. You are in the lap of luxury.”
What were two-a-days like?
“Very intense. I remember coming in and we got weighed in and I weighed in at 227 and a week later I was 204. If that gives you any indication of what we were going through at the time. I remember Jack Lambert getting upset with Mike Merriweather and I because at the end of a couple of practices we would just go out and run. He thought, well I can’t repeat what he thought. You know Jack.”
“He was very intense. He didn’t speak much to the rookies. You had Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, David Little, Loren Toews, Robin Cole to name a very. David Little was really great. He made it a point to talk to the younger guys. At that time we had a lot of young backers coming in. I remember Woody Widenhofer at the time was the defensive coordinator and we were having a meeting and Woody said okay guys we have ‘x’ amount of linebackers in here and we are only going to keep eight. I think we had 19 linebackers in camp. And we were going to drop down to eight. Everyone except for the veterans looked at each other and said, okay, most of us aren’t going to be here when all is said and done. I consider myself very fortunate and thankful to have made the squad then.”
What were the Oklahoma drills like?
“That was fun. We had heard about the Oklahoma drills. Some of the vets were prepping saying this is what we are going to do. They would set up how they would go through it. But the younger guys we were battling for a spot. I remember watching Chuck and he was enjoying it as much as anyone else. Guys would go at it after the whistle and he would enjoy it. He would say that’s enough, but the fire was already lit.
“I went against Chris Kolodziejski, the receiving tight end. The first time we went I said I don’t mind you grabbing and holding but if you keep doing that, I am going to snap you. We went at it again and it was battle royale. I wasn’t trying to hurt someone, but I was highly upset.”
What were some of the most intense battles you witnessed?
“Keith Willis. I can’t recall who he went against but he had a thing that he would chirp the whole time. You would hear stuff coming out of Keith. Terry Long was super intense no matter who he went against. Craig Wolfley too. You would watch and whoever they went against you knew it would be a battle.”
What are some of the memories you have of Chuck Noll from camp?
“There were many, but the one that sticks out in my mind, it was indicative of the game. I remember in college it happened but here it was magnified. Someone would get injured on the field, Coach Noll would come over and look and the trainers would be looking, and you would hear okay move it up 15. It shows life goes on. Things will happen, but it goes on. You are just a small spoke in the wheel so it kept rolling along.”