By Matt Popchock

Pittsburgh Power head coach Chris Siegfried is no stranger to success. He’s no stranger to the Power’s upcoming opponent, the Tampa Bay Storm, either.

As offensive coordinator for the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks in 2010, he masterminded two hard-fought victories over their in-state rivals en route to a South Division title for the Sharks. Now he takes the league’s newest member, the East Division-leading Power (7-4), into the St. Pete Times Forum for an intriguing contest against the Storm (4-7).

Aside from the fact that the hosts use to make their home in the Steel City as the Pittsburgh Gladiators, one of the original Arena Football League franchises, there’s a lot that stands out about the Power’s Week 14 opponent. Before Thursday’s practice on the South Side, we¬†talked with Coach Siegfried about that, and about how the Power have been able to challenge for an American Conference playoff berth in their first season:

Q: Being out there, versus being in here…boy, it has to be nice just to be able to practice inside, isn’t it?

A: It is nice to be out of the sun. We play indoors, so naturally we try to practice indoors, and yeah, it’s hot, but we think it helps our conditioning.

Q: The team is in a very good place right now…first place in their division, coming off a big win over Cleveland. Sometimes in football, after a big, emotional win, teams fall victim to a big, emotional letdown the following week. How do you avoid that, and take care of business this Saturday?

A: We’ve had a number of emotional wins, back-to-back-to-back-to-back. We’re not going to have a mental letdown, I don’t feel, but we have had a tendency to start slow in these games, and that’s something we’ve really been focusing on over the last five weeks, trying to play a more complete football game, so we’ve got a lot of room for improvement. We realize that game Saturday night could’ve gone either way, so our guys are very humble about the situation, and still very hungry, and very focused.

Q: Without getting complacent, or losing that focus, it has to just feel good, where things stand right now, after all the team has been through from the beginning of the season to this point.

A: We certainly feel a lot better today than we did six weeks ago. We’re working hard, we’re grinding, and things are starting to happen for us in a positive way. We’ve just got to not get too high when it’s good, and not get too low when it’s bad. We’ve done a good job staying focused when times were rough, and we need to continue to do a good job staying focused now that things are happening positively for us, and we’re winning. We’ve still got a lot of football to be played, but right now we’re looking forward to the challenge of playing Tampa in Tampa.

Q: How healthy is the team right now? Any roster additions or subtractions this week?

A: We traded for a nose tackle, Terrance Taylor (formerly of the Spokane Shock), a couple weeks ago. He reported a couple days ago, and he looked good in his first practice yesterday, so we’re actually going to play him this week. He’ll be a good addition to our already good defensive line. (Defensive back) Tyrell Herbert is [back] on the field as well, but no [major] subtractions, just kind of tweaking the roster to put the best 21 guys on the field.

Pittsburgh Power practice

Siegfried (far right) instructs the offense during practice at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex Thursday.

Q: What can you tell us about Tampa Bay, other than the fact that the franchise used to call Pittsburgh home?

A: Their defensive line is very good. They’ve got one of the best nose [guard]/mac [linebacker] combinations in our league (Tim McGill and Cliff Dukes, respectively). They’re a veteran team, a smart team, very good athletes across the board. It’s really going to be a matter of, can we protect Bernard Morris enough to throw the ball down the field? That’s going to be the big question. A lot of teams have good edge rushers, a lot of teams have good noses, but this team…they’re really, really strong up the middle, which could wreak havoc. The game starts with the quarterback-center exchange, so that’s our primary focus this week, making sure we don’t have any fumbled snaps, and making sure we get away from the center cleanly, and blocking Tim McGill at nose guard.

Q: One of the things we talked with (quarterback) Bernard (Morris) about was, no interceptions last week, no sacks allowed, and no quarterback hurries allowed. If memory serves, that’s the first time that’s happened all season. That has to give you guys at least a little bit of confidence going against that combination, doesn’t it?

A: (shakes head) I don’t think about that at all. All I think about is the W’s. I don’t look at the stats; if you look at the stats, we probably shouldn’t be 7-4. I’m not really a stat-watcher, so I didn’t realize Bernard didn’t get sacked. Obviously we care about protection of the football and turnovers. I’d prefer not to give up any sacks, but I’d rather give up a sack than a turnover, so I don’t worry about that too much. Bernard’s always done a good job protecting the football, and we expect him to do that as we move forward.

Q: How do you neutralize (Tampa Bay mac linebacker) Cliff Dukes?

A: (smiling) We just try to block him as best we can. Dukes and McGill together are a tough, tough combination. Our guys are going to hang in there; they’re ready for the challenge, and they know it’s going to be a huge challenge, especially at the fullback and center positions, to block those two. But we’re going to try our best to keep them off balance, and slow them down a little bit. If we can hold off the initial onslaught and settle into a groove, we’ll be okay. But in my opinion, that’s definitely going to be where the game is won or lost, whether we can block those two guys.

Q: How has this team, to this point, played so well on the road, and what’s it going to take to gut out another road victory on Saturday?

A: We don’t really care where we play. Yes, we’ve struggled at home, but I think a lot of that is because we played so many home games at the beginning of the season, when we happened to be struggling. As far as getting another win, we just have to stay focused, and make sure we score more than they do. It’s really a simple formula. Just keep grinding. It could be a close game, but who knows…maybe it’s not, though we certainly hope if it’s not a close game, that it’s [still] going to be in our favor. But we know that to win on the road is hard in this league, and our guys have done a pretty good job of playing well there. We just have to keep that focus for 60 minutes.


Keep it logged onto this weekend for more pre-game coverage of your first-place Pittsburgh Power!

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