Ex-Cat Dawson an intern coach with Bengals

Longtime Steelers center is now helping coach rival Bengals

mmaloney@herald-leader.comAugust 3, 2010 

GEORGETOWN — Amidst the big-bodied offensive linemen in the Cincinnati Bengals' training camp, there's something familiar about one of the coaches.

Aha! That chiseled 6-foot-2 frame belongs to Dermontti Dawson.

That's Dermontti Dawson, out of Bryan Station High School and the University of Kentucky, a 13-year veteran of a dreaded Bengals rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers (1988-2000).

At 45, his weight is 30 pounds under his playing days average of 300. That's 270 pounds of muscle, not fat.

"Looks are deceiving," Dawson said Monday when told he is looking fit. "Some of the 'D' linemen, when I'm over doing the drills, they said 'man, you're still quick and it still looks like you can play.' I said, 'well, I could probably hang in there for a little bit.'

"But, hey, I don't want to do it anymore. I've had my time, had my fun and now it's time to get into coaching."

Dawson, a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the last two years, is an "intern coach" with the Bengals.

Having served an internship as a scout for the Steelers last season, Dawson said he was talking with the Tennessee Titans about scouting for them this year. He mentioned that to a former Steelers teammate, Jonathan Hayes, who now coaches the Bengals' tight ends.

Hayes suggested that Dawson get in touch with Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis. Soon after the the NFL Draft, Dawson was offered a coaching internship. (Cincinnati's other intern coach also is a former Steelers great, Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson.)

"Dermontti and Rod both have an opportunity to really impart their professionalism, their wisdom, their ability to prepare to play the game and how you play the game to young guys," Lewis said. "I think they're doing a good job of that."

Dawson works with Paul Alexander, who as assistant head coach/offensive line is in his 17th season as a Bengals coach.

"He's a great influence on the players," Alexander said. "Obviously, Dermontti was a consummate pro, dedicated, hard-working, tough. He brings that all to the group.

"He also shares some of his knowledge that he has. He's been a real help to us and it's been good for him, too — learning a new system and developing his own football background."

A seven-time AFC Pro Bowl selection, Dawson ranks sixth in Steelers history in games played (181) and second in consecutive games played (170). Now, he's a rookie of sorts.

"I'm just learning the terminology, the plays, and it's coming easier now that I've been exposed to it," Dawson said. "But the only way that I'm going to be able to help the 'O' line is if I know the plays in and out. And it will get easier when we get close to pre-season games, where you start to minimize what your plays are and then you get a game plan.

"But right now you have such an array of defenses and an array of plays that you're running against. The more repetitive and the more exposure you get to it, the better off you are. That way, I can be more effective helping guys with the techniques."

A guard at UK, Dawson was taken by the Steelers in the second round of the 1988 draft. In his second professional season, Dawson was asked by Coach Chuck Noll to play center. He did, becoming the successor to Hall of Famer Mike Webster. The position switch, where it became his duty to call out block checks, enhanced the background of a potential coach.

"Being a center, you know what every position does, their responsibilities, so it makes it a little easier as far as trying to instruct guys as far as blocking schemes and techniques," he said.

"I commend (Bengals center) Kyle Cook because Kyle does a great job of barking out the calls to the front side, back side, heel-toe guys, where the MIKE (middle linebacker) is located. Then he'll direct those guys as well. He's very knowledgeable of the offense."

Although he lives nearby in Jessamine County, Dawson doesn't have time to go home during camp. On a typical day, he's working from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Then, he may study the playbook some more.

"I don't mind at all. I love it," Dawson said.

"I'm learning a lot from Paul (Alexander), the way he approaches trying to work on some of the things that guys struggle with technique-wise. I'll work with them as well and kind of give them little tips here, little tips there. If they're struggling with a certain block or a certain technique, I'll give them different options to maybe try to see if it works and if it's better for them."

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