Minor surgery to clean up some damage in his back following the 2010 season led to Steinbach’s sideline status in 2011. The rehabilitation process is a lengthy one so even though he felt like he possibly could have played late last fall he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Now he feels 100 percent and thinks the time off might have actually helped.
“Hey, you go eight years hard missing only three games and you take that year off, I look at that as a positive,” said Steinbach, who made 15 starts as a rookie for the Bengals. “That’s like hitting the refresh button, so I’m going to come back hungry and ready to get back at it.”
Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin was familiar with Steinbach from his days as Iowa’s offensive line coach, where wide receivers coach Ken O’Keefe also was on the staff. Once he became available it was a natural fit for Steinbach to head south to Miami and reunite with Philbin and O’Keefe.
Steinbach knew he had to prove that he was fully recovered from the back surgery before the Dolphins would sign him and he is confidant that he did that. He also knows he’s not being promised anything other than a chance to compete for a spot on the offensive line, but Philbin is intrigued by what his former pupil brings to the team.
“We’re looking at a guy that has started 120-something games, and he has been a productive player in the league,” Philbin said. “He’s an athletic guy and we feel like he still has the ability to run. We think he is a good fit schematically and he’s a good locker room guy. He is a high character individual and he’s hungry. I think that many guys who sit out for a year can add a little bit of perspective to a room. Sometimes we get caught on a windmill and we just keep spinning around year after year and take things for granted.”
Those 12 months of rehabbing and sitting idle certainly reminded Steinbach not to take anything for granted. He worked out for the Baltimore Ravens first and thinks they might have been scared off by the back surgery so when the Dolphins worked him out and then signed him he wanted to hit the ground running.
Tomorrow will be the first day Philbin has the team in full pads and Steinbach is not worried about testing his back with that first hit or first taste of full contact. He tested out his spine in the weight room with heavy loads of lifting and he feels ready to take on whatever role Philbin and the staff wants him to take on.
“I think my role is to come in as a veteran and be a leader and help the offense as much as I can,” Steinbach said. “I don’t care what position it is. You play the best five up front and as long as I’m healthy and getting the system down I feel confident that I’m one of the best five. It’s wherever the coaches see fit or put the group of guys. I’ve played left guard my whole career but if that’s not the case here then that’s not the case. I’m open and I’m going to let the coaches decide because as coaches they’re the ones that fit the pieces of the puzzle.”
FIRST DAY IN FULL PADS HIGHLIGHTS SUNDAY: For the first time under his watch, Philbin will have his players in full pads tomorrow. That means even more excitement for the fans, as they will see some full contact.
“Portions of the practice we’re going to have the pads on and we could have a three-hour practice if we wanted to but we just don’t think it’s smart for us to go out there for three hours,” Philbin said. “I doubt you’ll see us in pads for a straight three-hour practice so we’re going to pick our spots.”
This will be the first time the rookies will be in full pads for an NFL practice and the first time for the veterans since the end of last season. Philbin and his staff have their methods regarding evaluation but he is well aware of how the first full-pad practice affects everyone.
“There’s a little bit of a letdown typically the first day you got to pads because the guys need a little bit of tie to get used to it,” Philbin said. “They’re not moving as quick because they’re a little bogged down a bit so you’ve got to temper your evaluations a little bit.”
That’s not something the players tend to accept as a given, so there will be some intensity out there on the field.
LEADERSHIP ROLE IN SECONDARY UP FOR GRABS: With the departures of strong safety Yeremiah Bell and cornerback Will Allen in free agency, there is a void in the secondary when it comes to leadership. Some worthy candidates abound, including fourth-year cornerbacks
“You have to be strong down the middle, so one of your inside linebackers has to be a good communicator and your safeties typically are in charge of the coverage checks and the adjustments,” he said. “The fronts and the coverage obviously have to be tied together at all times, so we’d like to see the safeties be great communicators.”
Both Smith and Davis won’t shy away from the role of being a leader in the secondary either, perhaps more from a motivational perspective than the guy barking out signals. They both carry an air of confidence and have a lot of energy on the field, so if that trickles down to the other young defensive backs it can’t be anything but a positive.
“I’ve played a lot of football going on my fourth year and my biggest thing is getting better as a player,” said Davis, Miami’s first-round pick of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Illinois. “If I can get better as a player and push everybody else to get better I think we’ll be okay.”
DOLPHINS TIDBITS: Left guard