Don’t look now, but the Pro Bowl is about to be hit with a wrecking ball. And his name is Rosie.
Or, more formally, Roosevelt Nix, the third-year fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A defensive lineman in college who converted to linebacker out of the draft, and then twice was converted to fullback, Nix was chosen yesterday as the first-alternate at the fullback position to make it to his first Pro Bowl.
To the (mild) rejoice of many Steelers fans. They view it as a deserving accolade, and it is, even though the team does not use the fullback position very much, and rarely as a skill position, but rather more as an extension of the offensive line and the tight end group. He even lined up as a tight end on a few occasions.
But he did manage to score two touchdowns this year, once on a fullback dive and once as a reception, both of them from just a yard out. They were the first scores of his career, and the dive was the first carry of his career.
As I mentioned, the fullback position is not one that the Steelers heavily use. Including the postseason, Nix did not even see 200 snaps on offense this season. There was only one game in which he played more than 20 snaps. And a fair number of those snaps come in kneel-down situations, as he is part of the victory formation.
But he sure is fun to watch when he is on the field, and there is a reason that I compared him to a wrecking ball. Compactly built at around 250 pounds and standing at 5’11”, he is a load to deal with whenever he is able to lower his head and plow forward as a lead blocker.
The running game was frequently a grind for the Steelers this season, as even their lead runner, Le’Veon Bell, only averaged four yards per carry on the year, but it was made easier when he was on the field, as they averaged 4.2 yards per carry on running plays when he was out there. That included four explosive running plays, and 16 that went for double-digit yardage.
Were it not for an excess of talent at the skill positions, perhaps the team would try to make greater usage of him as a runner or receiver, but he rarely touches the ball. No, his job is the touch those trying to touch the ones who touch the ball. And he’s not gentle about it.
Nix is about as physical, old-school a player at the fullback position as you will find in the game today. It doesn’t hurt that he has a defensive background. His routinely makes contributions on special teams as well. There’s a reason that he is a fan favorite, and why people are still happy for him going to the Pro Bowl, even though it means no Super Bowl.