Steelers Notebook: Stafford Report

Items on new safety Daimion Stafford, new workout routine for Antonio Brown, man coverage for Artie Burns, and more.

PITTSBURGH -- Daimion Stafford showed up at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex 11 days ago weighing about a robust 228 pounds.

Kind of, um, fat for an out-of-work, free-agent safety.

"Yeah," Stafford said with a laugh. "I was a big fella."

The Pittsburgh Steelers -- looking for someone to replace Shamarko Thomas to provide depth -- told Stafford to lose weight and come back.

He came back this holiday weekend "about 219, 218," he said. "They kept their word and brought me back."

They brought Stafford back to the league. 

After being part of a safety rotation for the Tennessee Titans last season, with six starts in his fourth pro season, Stafford was expecting an earlier offer in free agency. But he missed out on the first wave, and the second, before signing with the Steelers on Tuesday.

"It was a little frustrating," Stafford said. "That's just how the chips fell and I'm ready to make the best of it."

Stafford has played in 62 games with eight career starts. He has three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery on defense, and on special teams he has another fumble recovery and a forced fumble. 

He was a seventh-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2013 as a 5-11 5/8, 221-pounder who ran a 4.69 40 at the NFL Combine. His agility times (4.26/7.06) and bench press (21 reps) were strong, and his jumps (30.5, 9-3) were below average.

Stafford played mainly special teams his first two years before starting two games in 2015 and then six last season, when he made a career-high 52 tackles. 

His scouting report from a source in Nashville contends that Stafford is "a decent role player who will help best on special teams. He's a big hitter but limited in man coverage, better in zone. Not afraid to come up in run support and doesn't mind being physical."

More of a strong safety, Stafford has experience in the dime safety/LB position that could help the Steelers, who tried 202-pound Robert Golden there last season.

"I played a lot of dime last year in (Dick) LeBeau's defense," Stafford said.

Stafford didn't receive an offer to re-sign with the Titans, but said it had nothing to do with LeBeau, the famed former Steelers coordinator.

"Oh, that's my guy," Stafford said. "By far one of my favorite coaches."

Stafford jumped into the practice Tuesday as a third-teamer next to Terrish Webb, the undrafted rookie from Pitt. 

With Sean Davis only participating in drills as he recovers from shoulder surgery, Golden teams with Mike Mitchell on the first team ahead of second-teamers Jordan Dangerfield and Jacob Hagen.

"I thought I had a pretty good year last year," Stafford said. "I did what I did on the field. If one team didn't love me, than who else would? Well, the Steelers gave me a chance and I'm here to make the best of it."

THE ABs OF RECEIVER PLAY

Antonio Brown was working with Ben Roethlisberger in the red zone during the individual period in front of a group of Pitt receivers, who had stopped to watch while on their way to their practice field. Brown ran a blur of a complex route that not only resulted in a touchdown but an awed emotional response by the college players.

Brown enjoyed hearing that story after practice, and he smiled broadly.

Was it a new route? Was he perfecting an old one?

"Man, you gotta perfect the old stuff," he said. After pausing he added, "And try to work out the new stuff."

The receiver who's caught 481 passes in the last four seasons is used to flashing his skills and habits in front of young players. He has rookies such as JuJu Smith-Schuster watching every move Brown makes, even dressing like him in practice with the gold game pants and towel tucked neatly around back.

"Just want to continue to set the tempo, put in a good example for those guys to follow," Brown said.

Is JuJu doing everything Brown does?

"Trying," Brown corrected with that broad smile.

The pride in mentorship clearly sits well with Brown.

"I love it," he said. "The wisdom has to be shared, sharing information to help the young guys get better. When he gets into that lineup, he'll want to give us his all to help us win a championship."

Brown has altered his offseason workout a bit. He stopped counting reps and works more against the clock.

"We do everything for 20 or 30 seconds," he said. "Those workouts are definitely going to help with my endurance, my strength, because I feel like I'm not in the best shape just yet. I'm in good shape for where we're at now, but I have to add to it a little bit."

Brown realizes he'll benefit this season from the return of deep threat Martavis Bryant. The two head up an explosive group of receivers.

"Excited about it, man," Brown said, and he laughed an awe-inspired laugh. "It's just the beginning. We're out there laying the foundation for what's to come."

(For the full transcript of the Antonio Brown interview, click here.)

MR. BURNS CONCURS

Artie Burns was last off the field after working with Smith-Schuster, and Burns added to the cacophony of praise being directed at the Steelers' receiving corps.

"I LOVE our receiving corps," Burns said. "You get so much of everything. You've got AB and Eli, the quick guys. You've got Sammie, Hay-Bey, Tay, the long runners. We've got all those guys. You get a chance to see every different angle of receiver."

What about Smith-Schuster?

"JuJu, he's real strong, a real solid guy, big hands, most definitely. He's going to be real good," Burns said.

Burns was asked about the increased workload of man coverage being proposed by the coaching staff this year and said it won't be a problem.

But isn't re-routing a receiver more important?

"Yeah, yeah, just knock the timing off," Burns said. "It's all about timing between him and the quarterback. Knock their timing off and be able to get between him and the ball."

So, why didn't the Steelers do more of that against the New England Patriots?

"Yeah," Burns said, suddenly downcast. "We've got to figure out a new way to beat them this year."

ROLL CALL

Missing from the fourth of the 10 scheduled OTA practices were Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ryan Shazier, Ramon Foster and Le'Veon Bell. In attendance but limited were James Harrison, Sean Davis and James Conner.

Daimion Stafford / SCOUT

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