CFL Experience Helped Shawn Lemon Prepare For NFL Opportunity

Earlier in the week, we talked about Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Shawn Lemon and his long odds to make the 53-man roster, now that the team has stocked up at the position. When he signed with the team in January, he was just one of three outside linebackers on the roster, excluding the impending free agents.

Now, as we head into the dead time that precedes training camp, the team has expanded the roster to include eight players at his position, including himself. It will be difficult for him to force the Steelers to carry a fifth outside linebacker, but the fact that he has even made it onto an NFL roster speaks to his ability to face long odds.

After going undrafted following a largely undistinguished college career, Lemon eventually paved his way up north in the CFL, where he spent portions of the past four seasons, including a breakout 13-sack, eight forced fumble campaign a year ago that got the league’s attention.

Now he’s hoping to use that Canadian experience to his advantage.

He told Adam Crowley of Steelers Nation Radio about the differences between the CFL and the NFL. He said that “the game is a little faster” up north, because the play clock is only 20 seconds, meaning that there is much less down time between plays.

With a wider and longer field, “there’s a little more running in the CFL than there is in the NFL”, which Lemon also believes will be to his advantage when it comes to adjusting to the speed and intensity of the NFL product.

While the 26-year-old has developed his game a great deal over the past year, he does find that there are still some adjustments to be made, despite the fact that he has been playing professional football for the past four years.

While he said that there is “not really a huge difference in things as far as pass rush”, he noted that it is “a little bit different with dropping into coverage more than what I’m normally used to”, though he noted that he is catching on to that aspect of the game.

Still, Lemon seems to look at himself as a veteran who is trying to pave his own way, not necessarily commiserating with his fellow outside linebackers, with whom he is competing for a roster spot. He says that he tries not to depend on other people and has learned his own way, although outside linebackers coach Joey Porter has gained his trust, “because he’s been there”.

For former CFL standout does believe he has what it takes, both physically and mentally, to make this team as a pass rusher. “I have a couple moves that I like to use”, he told Crowley, “but I also study a lot of film and I watch a lot of tackles. I’ve seen almost every pass set there is, so you just take what the tackle gives you sometimes. Also I load myself with great counter moves, so it helps out a lot”.

While his experience in the CFL and being around professional football might give him a slight edge in terms of picking up the defense and working against other professional athletes, it all comes down to what he puts down on tape, which is the great equalizer across all divides, whether it be age, experience, salary, or pedigree.

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