The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the practice field Tuesday, taking part in training camp for the first time since wide receivers coach Darryl Drake passed away. Understandably, this was an emotional day for the entire team, especially the players that were coached every single day by Drake. As head coach Mike Tomlin explained to reporters, the entire team was devastated by Drake's passing, and they were working with professional grief counselors to properly deal with the emotions and the pain.
This has not been an easy process, as evidenced by photos that were captured on Tuesday. Photojournalist Ed Thompson posted multiple images on Twitter that showed wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster struggling with the return to the practice field.
Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger was also shown as he attempted to console Smith-Schuster and help him make it through the practice session.
Rough day at @steelers camp today; the first day back after Coach Drakes sudden death. @TeamJuJu was visibly still shaken and @_BigBen7 tried to ease the pain. @247Sports @AllanBell247 pic.twitter.com/8S4I3Zn1Ni— Ed Thompson ™️ (@ThompsonFoto12) August 13, 2019
"Was at a loss for words when I heard the news," Smith-Schuster posted on Twitter on Aug. 11. "Coach Drake was honestly my favorite coach that I ever had in this game, he taught me so much about football and especially how to go about life.
"Coach was an amazing role model, not just for myself, but for a lot of people who he touched. I wish I could see you just one more time. It won't be the same out there on the field, in meetings, and I'm gonna miss all those long talks we used to have. We all know you want us to be successful and to play to win. Thank you for all the memories and life lessons you've taught me. Forever in my heart! Love you man. Rest in Peace Coach Drake."0comments
There is no denying the impact that Coach Drake had on Smith-Schuster's career. In his two seasons as a pro, the Steelers young star has posted 14 receiving touchdowns, including two that each traveled 97 yards. He also led the team in receiving yards with 1,426 and topped 111 receptions. Smith-Schuster is one of the most effective weapons in the league and is well on his way to becoming an all-time great.
Smith-Schuster has incredible talent, but Darryl Drake helped guide him toward greatness. Losing this mentor was incredibly difficult for Smith-Schuster, and he will never forget the impact upon his life and career.