Steelers Rookie DE Walton Getting Noticed

The sixth-round pick has quietly gone about sticking with the second team, and then some.

LATROBE -- The roster will be whittled to 75 on Sept. 1, and the way the Pittsburgh Steelers have been treating sixth-round pick L.T. Walton, he should be one of them.

But, of course, for guys who aren’t flashy, don't have a big rep, resounding accolades or awards, well, it’s day-by-day, baby.

And that means Walton.

How does he handle it?

“I feel good,” he said. “Every day I just wake up and am ready to attack the day. Every day I just want to be able to walk off the field and be able to say that I did better than the day before.”

In Combine and draft-day interviews, Walton came off as bright, likeable, optimistic and warm, so an answer like his is genuine. And he seems to have that blue-collar work ethic Pittsburgh loves so much. The heat and pressure of training camp have not tarnished any of that, even though Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler might understand if it had.

“He's coming along,” said Butler. “But he's, like, a rookie under John Mitchell. That's not a fun place to be. That's not comfortable.”

Butler chuckled a bit, then resumed talking about the rookie defensive end.

“Yeah, the kid's still got a lot to learn, but he's coming along pretty good for us. We'll see how he develops. I think if you can get past Year One with John Mitchell, you're gonna be something.”

This past week, Walton took reps with the first team, and he looked comfortable.

“It’s always good to take reps with the ones,” Walton said. “When somebody goes down, you have to be ready anyway. When the opportunity presents itself to prepare for that, you have to be able to take full advantage of it.”

But, as they say in real estate, the big return on investment comes when you put your know-how and instincts to work and choose properties that have “good bones” or that need much work but have a lot of potential. All teams, especially the Steelers with so many veterans having moved on, tend to invest in players in a similar fashion.

The word coming out of Central Michigan was that Walton is mobile for a big guy, but needed some physical development. He’s been working on that since OTAs and has been paying more attention to his conditioning and diet. He’s 6 feet 5 inches, 319, and can stay on his feet and has shown an ability to finish a play at camp.

While his college stats weren’t the most stellar, he was double-teamed quite a bit at CMU. And while several other members of his class are at camps right now, Walton was the only Chippewa drafted, going in the sixth round at the sixth pick.

Kind of like the last Chippewa-turned-Steeler, Antonio Brown.

“I catch up with him after practice sometimes,” Walton said. “He’s told me that if I need anything, he’s there to help me out.”

Has the rookie taken the star’s offer?

“You know I haven’t needed anything so far,” Walton said with an easy smile.

Not even a lifeline during a summer working under the hard-to-please Mitchell?

“I’ve got the perfect coach,” Walton said. “He always emphasizes technique, so that was the perfect thing for me coming in. Coach Mitchell harps on it every single day and that’s helped me become a better player. He always says to us that the techniques don’t change. If you learn the techniques, then you will be successful.”

But Walton doesn’t look much further than the game coming up Sunday, which will mark what could be the first of many moments at Heinz Field.

Or, it could be his only trip there.

Rookie sixth-round picks never know. But at least Walton enjoyed his stay at St. Vincent College.

“No need to pay rent when you are in training camp,” he said.


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