One of the aspects of coaching that Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin does very well is in motivating his young players to seize the job opportunities that are in front of them. He always has a list of names handy that he is prepared to rattle to make a comparison to any circumstance that a player is in.
Are you a rookie minicamp invitee feeling dejected about your chances? Let me tell you a little tale about a guy I like to call Terence Garvin. How about a college free agent worried about making the roster? Well, just have a talk to our NFLPA rep, Ramon Foster. Have you been cut multiple times? I have a Super Bowl clip of James Harrison to show you. Concerned about being limited to being only a return man? You can make a career out of that. Stefan Logan did.
Prior to the team’s final preseason game, he showed the team clips of Antonio Brown running down kicks in the preseason finale of his rookie year in 2010, when he was a sixth-round draft pick buried on the depth chart behind Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El, fellow rookie Emmanuel Sanders, and others, including Logan, who was still there.
The point is, look at who Antonio Brown is, and what he had to do just to prove himself when he first got here. This is your foot in the door. This is your opportunity to stick and to start building your legacy. And several young players did take that message to heart and stepped up in the preseason finale for the Steelers.
There’s no better example of that than Joshua Dobbs, who really helped to push his way onto the roster with by far the best showing of his young career, presumably entering this season as the team’s backup quarterback when most assumed he would not make the team back in May. Mason Rudolph also played his best game, though his job was not in jeopardy.
Then there was Marcus Allen, the rookie fifth-round safety who missed most of the offseason due to injuries. He merely registered 10 tackles and forced a fumble in the game, which helped to vault him onto the 53-man roster, at least for now.
The same can be said for the two rookie undrafted free agent linebackers, Matthew Thomas and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, both of whom made bit splash plays with strip sacks, the former nearly returning his for a touchdown. While Thomas was probably already very close to being a lock beforehand, they both solidified their status in the finale.
Who knows where their careers will go from here? Chance are, they won’t become the next Antonio Brown of their position, but that’s no insult. They’re all on an NFL roster, which means they all have the opportunity to carve out a long career for themselves.