When training camp opened last year, Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix really wasn’t anything, or anybody. He really wasn’t even a fullback, having signed with the team as a Reserve/Future player at inside linebacker, but moved to fullback because of the team’s depth already available there.
Nix spent most of his football life actually playing along the defensive line, but when he went undrafted, he moved to linebacker for the Falcons, only to be moved to fullback later on, but he failed to make their 53-man roster. When the Steelers brought him in under similar circumstances, he was kind of a warm body, but he earned his roster spot on special teams.
And then he just continued to line up in the backfield as a fullback on offense. It started early in the preseason and then it never really stopped. I don’t think most people really thought much of that fact until it was occurring in the regular season. Especially when you consider that the Steelers were moving away from the fullback position in 2014.
But Nix doesn’t appear to be going anywhere now any time soon as he heads into his second season, and perhaps he is looking to do even more than he is already doing—not just on special teams, where he already finds himself a four-way player and soon to be a fixture—but also on offense. And by training camp reports, he seems to have the talent for it.
Jim Wexell wrote about him recently for Steel City Insider and detailed how he has been opening some eyes during training camp for displaying soft hands for a fullback and catching passes, displaying himself as a player who can potentially be an offensive contributor rather than just a lineman in the backfield.
Wexell asked his position coach, James Saxon, if anybody knew about his “great hands” last year. His answer was that “nobody did”, but added, “the guy’s an athlete, and that’s a credit to him”.
He certainly is a big bowling ball of an athlete, with a compact-yet-fit frame near the six-foot vicinity and tipping the scale in the 240-250-pound range. He better resembles what you would conjure up as the image of a fullback than anybody the team has had in about a decade.
But it wasn’t so long ago that the Steelers had a fullback they seemed to like to throw the ball to. During Will Johnson’s rookie season in 2012, he caught 15 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, but his usage in the passing game somewhat mysteriously declined over the course of the next three seasons. He only caught 16 passes from 2013 to 2015.
Can Nix become a bigger part of the offense for the Steelers this year? There are some questions and vulnerabilities surrounding the tight end position right now, so that to me smells like an opening. It will be interesting to see how many targets he might get over the course of the preseason as a sort of prelude to his potential role in the games that matter.