Sometimes, there’s just nothing quite like an underdog story, and that applies to the sporting world just about as much as it does in any other field of life. Sunday’s game for the Pittsburgh Steelers sort of featured a culmination of a years-long underdog story for one player in particular.
That player is Jordan Dangerfield, who in spite of his status as a first-year player has been kicking around in the league—during the summer at least—for four years now, including three of those years with the Steelers.
Originally an undrafted free agent, Dangerfield was released in the final cuts of his rookie season with another organization and did not stick on the practice squad. The Steelers signed him to a Reserve/Future contract the following season, and he made an impact during the season, enough to earn some practice squad time in Pittsburgh during the 2014 season.
In 2015, he was back on a reserve contract, but was actually released prior to training camp. The Steelers brought him in again after injuries at the safety position began to mount, and his play resulted in him solidifying a practice squad spot for the entire season.
After yet a third Reserve/Future contract, Dangerfield finally stuck and made the 53-man roster for the Steelers in his fourth attempt to make a team. On Sunday, he got the opportunity to start at free safety due to injury, and you can imagine that it was a big moment not only for him, but also for those who have been pulling for him throughout his journey.
Consider head coach Mike Tomlin among those who pulled for him, as he lavished praise upon the first-year safety during his weekly pre-game press conference. “Jordan Dangerfield had an opportunity to start for Robert Golden”, he said. “Jordan answered the call. His tackling was very consistent. He wasn’t out of place. He was high-energy”.
On a more personal note, Tomlin talked about Dangerfield’s road from where is now to where it is that he came from now four years ago. “It was good to see a guy that’s walked the journey that he’s walked get the opportunity that he got and to take advantage of it”, he told reporters.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s a two- or three-year practice squad player, to special-teamer, and now getting an opportunity to show a few things on defense. I’m happy for him and proud of his contributions on defense”.
That certainly seems to strike a more sentimental note than is typical of a post-game analysis of a player’s performance, so I think it would be reasonable to suggest that Tomlin has been appreciative of the perseverance and determination, and consistency of character, that Dangerfield has displayed over the years to get him to land where he is now.
He did indeed play well—we will probably take a look at some film from him in a day or two—and after that showing, I would imagine that the coaching staff would have no hesitation to play him if they need to. Perhaps his roster spot is becoming more solidified than it was perceived a week ago, let alone a month ago.