Making the Grade

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- When Mike Logan actually does hang it up, the Pittsburgh Steelers media might actually miss him as much as the team.

It's not that Logan's absence won't be felt in the Steelers secondary on the field. It certainly was last year after a season-ending hamstring injury in the fifth game. However, his loquacious interview style was missed in the locker room as well.

Now don't get the wrong idea. Logan is far from ready to be put out to pasture, even though this is his ninth NFL season, but the West Virginia grad is having so much fun playing for his hometown team -- he is from the McKeesport, Pa. (suburban Pittsburgh) area -- that he hopes to get a new contract after this one runs out and retire with the Steelers.

"This is my ninth training camp, and I'm looking forward to another good one," Logan said. "I felt like I had a good camp last year and was going to play a pivotal role in this team being successful, but I missed out on that. It was tough, but I'm just elated to be here right now.

"I can't wait to get this season started and for me to make a big contribution. If I can do that, then I'll feel a lot better about my position. But I can't look to far ahead. I have a contract for this season and the next one, and I would like to end my career with the Steelers.

"That would be great," Logan added. "It would be the ultimate for me, but I really don't want to get ahead of myself. It'll be more of a decision time for me to see what I want to do. I'll be a 10-year guy, and not too many people do that. It might be a perfect way to end up."

But Logan doesn't have time to reflect or look ahead too far, either. He is too busy right now. Logan is battling other young safeties for playing time in the Steelers secondary. Troy Polamalu (strong) and Chris Hope (free) were first-year starters last season in their second and third NFL years, respectively. Special teams ace Russell Stuvaints (third year), Tyrone Carter (sixth) and Janssen Patten (first) are behind Logan and the starters.

"I think this is a time in my career that I need to come in and prove that I can still be on this football team,'' Logan said. "But I take the same approach that I took into the last eight training camps, just like my first camp, too, and that's to do the little things that veterans can do.

"A big part of that is for me to stay healthy. That's been difficult for me to do on occasion in the past, but when I have been healthy I been able to get onto the field and compete. And if I can get that opportunity this year, I'm confident that I can go out there and handle my business."

There's no reason to believe that Logan won't be successful, but there's always the questions about his health. Logan has been injured at least for a short time in five of eight NFL seasons.

"It's hard to deal with because injuries really are something that you can't control," Logan said. "I can tell you that I worked as hard as I ever did last year, but to have that taken away from you with an injury is such a terrible situation that you can question what else you could have done.

"So, I looked at that, and I don't think I could have done anything different physically. That's why I prepared the same way for this season. I just have to continue to work as hard as I can and hope I can be blessed to stay healthy. If that happens, then I think I can be affective on the field."

In his first right seasons, Logan has been nothing if not consistent. Sure, he's struggled with several different injuries, but he's been a big-play safety when he's gotten the playing time. Logan has several sacks, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles. He hasn't returned kicks since leaving Jacksonville four years ago, but Logan also can play well on special teams.

"For me, I think it's just a mindset," Logan said. "You come in and don't worry about what all the critics say about you. You know how you feel personally, and last year I had a lot of soul-searching to do. I had a lot of time on my hands due to the injury, and the conclusion that I came up with was that I believe I can still be a productive football player for this team.

"I know that I can help this team. So, you can come here with the same mindset, but you also can look at some tape and maybe see where you came up short in a couple areas. So, that's what I've done, and I feel very confident right now in my abilities right now. I just have to go out there on the practice field every day and see if I can prove it to everyone else."

Logan doesn't have to prove anything to Hope. He knows that the veteran can make an impact even if his playing time is relegated to the practice field more than in regular games.

"We can always use more players like Mike Logan," Hope said. "He's a veteran player, a talented player, and he brings a lot to this team on the field and in the locker room. When he's healthy, that just makes our secondary all that much stronger. And I think we're going to be very strong.

"We only lost one guy from last season, Chad Scott, and we have other guys coming in like rookie Bryant McFadden and even Mike, who was injured last year. And with Troy (Polamalu) and myself in our second year as starters, we should be better, too. So, we should be strong and deep."

Steelers secondary coach Darren Perry also believed that there was a place for Logan in the club's defensive backfield this season and in the future as well. Perry even admired how good Logan has looked through the early stages in Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

"Mike Logan has done everything we've asked him to do, and he looks really quick right now,'' Perry said. "So, he's going to try to make an impact, but we expect big things from him. He's a veteran out there, and you can't have too many of them on the field at one time.

"All signs point to the fact that he's going to be right where he was a couple years ago when we expected him to be a starter. So, our expectations are pretty high for him right now. I think he'll tell you that he feels about the best he has in a long time, and his confidence level is very high."

Up Next: the conclusion of our exclusive interview with Mike, and an assessment of where he stands in his efforts to make the Steelers' roster.

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