Rolling Out The Steelers' Rookies

The Steelers' rookie class will meet on the South Side this weekend, and before we note its progress we should note its past. Here are the team's UFAs:

* Devon Carrington (6-0, 194, 4.68) is a safety/cornerback from Stanford, where he started 5 games as a sophomore but served as a reserve the rest of his career. He's a camp tryout invite, as Terence Garvin was last year, and could sign with the team after the weekend. He's known in Stanford lore as "The man who chased down Marcus Mariota," after the Oregon QB escaped for a 77-yard run down the right sideline. Carrington chased him down from the other side of the field and the defense held undefeated Oregon without a score. Stanford won the game in OT, 17-14.

* Chris Elkins (6-4, 300) is a right guard/center from Youngstown State who prepped at nearby Beaver Falls H.S. He was first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference two years in a row, and was a four-year starter on a team that produced a 1,000-yard rusher each season. A captain after three years starting at right guard, Elkins moved to center last season and had only 4 missed assignments in 717 snaps without allowing a sack. His 87 percent grade was the best in four years by a YSU lineman.

* Ethan Hemer (6-5.1, 291, 5.11, 32 reps) is a defensive end from Wisconsin. A former walk-on, Hemer started 42 games and finished his career with 92 tackles, 6 tackles-for-loss and 2 sacks. He was a 320-pound 3-tech in Wisconsin's 4-3 alignment before dropping to 285 to play end in their new 3-4 alignment last season.

* Kaycee Ike (6-4, 294, 5.02, 22 reps) is an offensive tackle from UAB, where he replaced Steeler Chris Hubbard at "quick" tackle. Ike had been the team's "strong" tackle as a junior, when he and Hubbard bookended the road for a 1,000-yard runner. Ike graduated with a degree in exercise science after being named All-Conference USA honorable mention last season.

* Howard Jones (6-2.4, 235, 4.60, 40 1/2 vertical jump, 25 reps) is an outside linebacker from Shepherd University, a D-2 school in West Virginia. He was recruited from Woodbridge, Va., as a 187-pound wide receiver and moved to OLB before settling at DE, where he recorded 35 career sacks, a Shepherd record. All measurables in this article are from the combine or pro day, if available, and Jones' combine numbers are some of the best of any Steelers UFA. His problem will be dropping into coverage, but his 1.58 10 time and long 34.1-inch arms suggest he should be moving forward to the QB anyhow.

* Brendon Kay (6-3.2, 226, 4.63) is a quarterback from Cincinnati who was given a sixth year medical hardship due to three knee surgeries throughout his career. The past injuries clearly did not affect his pro day 40 time. Kay also ran a 6.99 3-cone and had a 34 vertical jump and 10-1 1/2 broad jump. After compiling a 34-2 prep record and leading Marine City to the 2007 D4 Michigan state title, Kay became a starter late in his UC career and posted a 12-4 record. Known as more of a running QB, Kay completed 66.3 percent of his passes last season with a 22-12 TD-Int ratio. He also, as a pooch specialist, punted 15 times for a 38.6 average.

* Josh Mauro (6-5.7, 271, 5.15) is a defensive end from Stanford, where he did not start until the third game of his senior season. In that game, against Arizona State, Mauro had a sack and a 25-yard interception return and remained in the lineup the rest of the season. Born in St. Albans, England, and prepped in the same Dallas-area high school (Bell) that turned out Tommy Maddox, Mauro is an intense competitor who's been compared to "a young Brett Keisel." Again, perhaps the Steelers should re-sign "an old Brett Keisel" to mentor a promising group of young defensive ends that includes Mauro.

* Roy Philon (6-2.3, 298, 5.13) is a defensive tackle from Louisville by way of Lexington, Ky. In 30 starts at Louisville, Philon compiled 22.5 tackles-for-loss and 8 sacks. He completed his master's degree in criminal justice and said of his potential future work as a federal law enforcement officer, "I wanna keep tackling people."

* Will Simmons (6-5, 326, 5.37) is a right guard from East Carolina who, after losing 100 pounds during his high school days in North Carolina, gained 62 back during college to peak at 342 before losing some weight for his pro day. Simmons is a health fitness specialist major who started 38 consecutive games at RG for ECU. He was an All-Conference USA first-teamer his junior and senior seasons.

* Eric Waters (6-3.1, 244, 4.58) is a tight end from Missouri who caught only 14 career passes but learned how to block in-line this past season when the offense vowed to improve its running game. After the Missouri pro day, Waters was the focal point of a Kansas City Star story that started, "If there was a breakout star at Missouri's pro day it was Eric Waters." Waters not only ran a 4.58 40, he had a vertical jump of 39 1/2, a broad jump of 10-2 1/2 and reportedly caught every pass thrown to him. Waters also has experience blocking from out of the backfield.

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