It’s rare for a player to make a wholesale switch to another position but the Pittsburgh Steelers have a couple examples of that on their roster, including Alejandro Villanueva and Roosevelt Nix.
In their pre-game sitdown, Bob Labriola of Steelers.com talked with Mike Tomlin about Nix’s transition.
The conversation began by Tomlin reflecting on his initial conversation with him, then an inside linebacker.
“A little over a year ago I mentioned to him about playing fullback, because the lines were long at linebacker, we had unique depth at inside linebacker. I said, you give yourself a better chance of making our football team if you potentially explore fullback. He didn’t bat an eye, and his attitude largely dictated the course of events that occurred after.”
The switch allowed him to become the backup fullback to Will Johnson and his performance there, and primarily his aptitude on special teams, allowed him to carve out a spot on the team’s 53 man roster. By mid-season, he had become the starting fullback and one of the team’s top special teamers.
From the beginning, Tomlin believed Nix had the baseline tools to make the transition work.
“We saw signs in Rosie Nix very quickly, that he had some things, traits that would lend itself to the position. Then you go about developing consistency in terms of technique, and the understanding of the nuances that go into the position.”
There aren’t any significant switches on the current makeup of this roster. OT Brian Mihalik was attempting to make the same transition before suffering a knee injury against the Detroit Lions. Wide receiver Issac Blakeney isn’t playing the position for the first time but didn’t begin his wideout journey until his junior year of college, playing safety, defensive end, and tight end before then.
And Doran Grant has recently gotten his first taste of playing safety, though his final career path is still yet to be determined. But Tomlin loves flexibility, primarily along the offensive line, but anywhere on the roster where a player can become more valuable. That’s what Nix has done and what the others after him are looking to replicate.