I don’t know a Pittsburgh Steelers fan that doesn’t love fullback Roosevelt Nix. He has become emblematic of what fans want the team’s identity to be: raw, physically, and even slightly untamed. But while they love watching him throw a linebacker out of running lane for James Conner, the reality is that his roster spot has always primarily been tied to his ability to contribute on special teams.
He has shown why he is one of the most underrated special teams players in the league this season, including this past Thursday, when he was able to produce a fumble on a kickoff against the Carolina Panthers that set the offense up at the nine-yard line, looking at first and goal.
He also showed that back in Week Five when he was able to get in front of a punt against the Atlanta Falcons. It wasn’t the first block of his career. It wasn’t even the first time he had blocked the Falcons’ punter, though the first came in the preseason.
When Nix was first signed to a Reserve/Future contract several years ago, he was brought in designated as a linebacker. Primarily a defensive lineman in college, he first signed as a college free agent linebacker with the Falcons, but didn’t make their team after they tried to convert him to fullback.
The Steelers signed him in the same fashion, and made the positional conversion in the same fashion, but with different results. Even though he got extended playing time on offense as a fullback in the preseason, however, the reason that he made the 53-man roster is still because he played well on special teams, including blocking a punt.
Since then, he has been a four-phase special teams player, lining up on both punt and kickoff coverage and return units, and starting fights on all of them. Literally all of them, and seemingly as often as he can get somebody to engage with him.
He is closing in on 1000 special teams snaps played now in his career and has a couple dozen tackles to show for it, as well as a couple of blocked punts and forced fumbles to go next to his name as well. That doesn’t factor in his use as a blocker (something he does naturally on offense) or the tone that he sets, both for his units and for the offense and defense.
He isn’t seeing a lot of action of offense this year (only about 75 snaps on the season to date, after logging close to 200 a year ago), but he is continuing to play well when he does get those opportunities, which are becoming fewer and further between, outside of blowouts.
That’s okay, though, because even though he has become a Pro Bowl fullback, his primary job has always been as the special teams demons that leads the group on every play he’s on the field for and causes havoc in whatever way he can manage, which is sometimes a big play.