The Pittsburgh Steelers have a couple of sleek defensive backs, for starters

SCI.net publisher Jim Wexell attended the Steelers' rookie minicamp over the weekend and shares the following with customers:

It didn't look like I was going to be able to do it, but I skipped lunch on the second day of practices and was able to learn these Eleven Things From Rookie Minicamp about the Pittsburgh Steelers:

1. We may squabble about the nits with the picks, but when you see Artie Burns and Sean Davis on the field you realize the secondary has added two long, lean, sleek and fluid athletes. It may take them some time to make an impact, but to me it looks like Burns has the talent and brains to add zone coverage to his man skills and it looks like Davis will become an effective wild-card in coverage and an instinctive blitzer who knows how to pick his spots.

2. Davis is smart off the field, too. After Saturday's practice, a reporter asked him if he had ever watched, "Say, Rob Gronkowski, on TV and said to yourself, 'If I did this, I could cover that guy.'"

As Davis thought about the question, I said to myself, 'Don't answer this, kid. Don't try to be helpful right here. This could blow up in your face.' Davis finally answered, "No, not really."

3. The Steelers had six defensive backs ranked as first-rounders, in their upper tier, on draft day, with the only safety being Keanu Neal.

Burns was the last of the six to go. He was such a small slice of a smidge behind William Jackson that it didn't matter to the Steelers which one was left to them. And they weren't interested in listening to any trade offers. At. All.

4. I learned that Mike Tomlin likes to call No. 83 out of Virginia "UVA," as in "Way to finish UVA!" after the undrafted rookie, 6-2 wide receiver Canaan Severin, managed to matriculate himself down the field for a score.

I also learned that Severin was honored to have been given Heath Miller's jersey number and had always been thrilled when Miller went back to Virginia to talk to the young players.

5. Even when Javon Hargrave, the 305-pound defensive tackle drafted in the third round, stays too tall as he runs through the chute, he still stays plenty low to the ground in clearing the metal bars easily.

And he has what scouts like to call a "big bubble." I hate to say I noticed, but it's hard not to when he's downfield among DBs while chasing the ball, which seems to already be a habit for the rookie.

His position coach, John Mitchell, has to be pleased with the rookie's hustle, but Mitch has been doing a great job of looking unimpressed.

6. Undrafted outside linebacker Tyriq McCord told a newspaper reporter Friday that he had "turned some heads" at the first practice. But the only time my head turned was when he was being tended to by the training staff.

Nah, in all seriousness, McCord did take well to Joey Porter's teachings and smacked the bags with distinction.

7. Porter's two sons, ages 15 and 14, and Tomlin's two sons, who are even younger, look like outstanding young football players and came off -- during "Bring Your Kids To Work Weekend" -- as outstanding and polite young men.

All of them will be at North Catholic, and I think first we'll hear about Porter's oldest, who's tall, fast and has great hands. The boys are working with the players and coaches and truly are talented. All of them.

And the rumor going around among reporters is that Burns, who's moving into the area, might enroll his brother at North Catholic as well. That young man has already committed to Miami.

8. Number 24, a diminutive running back, was so quick on one play that one of the Steelers' PR men noticed me, about 50 yards away, looking through my roster and not finding the name. I turned to walk over and find out about this running back but the PR man was already there to tell me his name is Brandon Brown-Dukes out of Mercyhurst.

I'm not sure if I was more impressed with the runner or the PR man who read my mind, but quickness on the field wins right now.

9. One of the undrafted rookies who's considered to have a chance -- according to the proverbial "little birdie" -- is defensive lineman Johnny Maxey (6-4 1/4, 293) out of Division II's Mars Hill University. I talked to the big man after practice and will have a feature coming soon to a media outlet near you.

10. Demarcus Ayers, the seventh-rounder drafted for his return skills, also has some fine receiving ability. He grabbed one deep and on the run and caught one short and in traffic.

11. The Tampa-2 is not an objective for a coaching staff here that feels they are adapting to rules changes that make waiting back and hoping to time up the big hit an unfeasibility in today's game.

And, really, it makes sense. Just look at the former NFL head coaches from that championship defense -- Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli, Raheem Morris -- who didn't adapt quite so well to change.

I thought I might learn one more thing, just for a Mother's Day bonus, but was stymied in my attempt to understand why sixth-round pick Travis Feeney, the linebacker with local ties, sat out some of the drills.

Perhaps he's still nagged by that sports hernia, but I will find out for sure and write another column.

Don't say you weren't warned.


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