Do you recall way back in August when I wrote an article about Pittsburgh Steelers second-year fullback Roosevelt Nix in training camp, and how he was catching the eye of some of his coaches for his soft hands in catching passes? Well, he finally caught his first two passes of the season in the regular-season finale—and they were passes thrown by Landry Jones.
Back in the early stages of training camp, Steel City Insider writer Jim Wexell spoke to Nix’s position coach, James Saxon, about the stout lead blocker and how he was showing himself to be more than just a bulldozer to steam ahead in front of a running back through a hole.
Wexell asked Saxon if he was aware of the sort of hands the former undrafted free agent out of Kent State had, to which he responded, “nobody did”. But the veteran running backs coach told the reporter that “the guy’s an athlete, and that’s a credit to him”.
Nix is not too tall, and he certainly packs on the pounds, but he does not carry it poorly by any means. He is not the embodiment of agility, but he does not lack for athletic ability. The Steelers had a fullback the past few years in Will Johnson that many believed was underutilized in the passing game as well.
Johnson had some relatively substantive contributions in that department during his first season with the team, in comparison to what might be expected, which fueled certain people’s ambitions for what he could accomplish, but the Steelers never significantly used him in the passing game—no matter how many years I went on to write about it.
So I vainly continued my speculation about fullbacks catching passes this past year, with Nix as the focal point, even though he has far more of a natural fullback build than Johnson, which one might think would not lend itself as neatly to catching passes.
Of course, there was nothing talked about in any sort of official manner with respect to wanting to get Nix more involved in the offense, so what I did was indeed idle speculation and no more. And yet I can’t help but wonder if the fact that he missed so much time had any impact on his inability to make a bigger impact on the offense, beyond leading the way for the running backs on occasion.
The second-year player, in fact, missed most of training camp, and, if I recall correctly, all but one preseason game, and he then went on to sit out the first five games of the regular season as well while he was dealing with a back injury. He was also inactive for the first game against the Ravens.
But as the season wore on, the fullback position became more and more important to what the Steelers were looking to do on offense, and his playing time took a steep incline, culminating in a record rushing day in Buffalo. By season’s end, he was catching two passes—albeit for five yards—but might this be a sign that they are finally willing to look his way as a pass catcher? It would certainly help if not every play he lines up for is a running play.