NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Just saying the words “Pittsburgh football” conjures up the images of a tough, physical and hard-hitting style of gridiron play. That physicality has been attributed more to the NFL’s Steelers over the years, while the Pitt Panthers have had an identity crisis from time to time over the years.
Recognizable names like Jackie Sherrill, Johnny Majors, Foge Fazio, and Dave Wannstedt have graced the Pitt sideline over the years. Dave Wannstedt tried to bring Steel City toughness back to the program, but had only moderate success in his six-year tenure. After a year under carpetbagger Todd Graham, Pitt is back to playing old school football under Paul Chryst as is prepares to play at Notre Dame this weekend.
“They’re gonna be physical with us running the ball,” Fighting Irish linebacker Carlo Calabrese said of the Panther offense. “That’s what we like. That’s what I like.”
“They’re a tough team. They have two great running backs (and) their quarterback is doing great this season. We’re focused on everything with their offense. Their receivers are good too. We’re just focusing on it all.”
The running backs Calabrese referred to are senior Ray Graham and freshman Rushel Shell. Graham leads Pitt with 622 yards and seven TDs rushing. He also has 22 receptions for 244 yards and two more scores through the air.
“He’s good,” Calabrese, a New Jersey native, said of Graham. “I’m actually good friends with him. He’s from Jersey. I played in an all-star game with him. I know he’s good and they have another good running back too. We gotta control them.
Shell has rushed for 441 yards on 87 carries with four touchdowns. He was rated as the No. 3 back in the nation coming out of high school last year.