Snapshot: Dedrick Roper

Dedrick Roper left Michigan State because of broken promises, so all he really wants from the Steelers is a fair chance.<br><br> By reading the arithmetic on the wall, the rookie outside linebacker realizes the odds are good if the chance is fair.

The man who would be Jason Gildon's replacement was asked about those odds.

"I think they're pretty good, man," said Roper, a 6-2, 256-pound outside linebacker from Northwood University, a Division II school in Michigan.

Rarely does an undrafted free agent have the nerve to actually like his chances, but Roper's only competition for a roster spot is fifth-round draft pick Nathan Adibi and fellow UFA Nick McNeil. It's the perfect opportunity.

"I understand," Roper said. "I just feel blessed being here and I'm just going to put my all into it. Whatever happens happens."

Roper played strong-side linebacker at Michigan State, where he spent three years after being named to the California all-state prep team at the San Jose suburb of Milpitas.

A walk-on, Roper rose to the second team at MSU and was active on special teams, but he transferred to Northwood in 2002.

"Basically they weren't coming through with a scholarship," Roper explained. "I was getting adequate playing time -- they were coming through on that end -- but it was mostly for financial reasons. I had to leave."

At Northwood, Roper moved to defensive end. In 2002, he started 11 games, made 27 total tackles, 6 tackles for loss and had half a sack. In other words, he wasn't too impressive.

"I underestimated the talent there," he said. "I thought it would be a cakewalk. I got there and realized there was a little talent so I adjusted and everything came out all right."

As a senior, Roper made 65 total tackles, led the conference with 19.5 tackles for loss, was second in the conference with 10 sacks and forced three fumbles. He was named first-team all-conference by the coaches and second-team All-America by Don Hansen's Football Gazette.

After the season, Roper played defensive end in the Whataburger Cactus Bowl, a Division II all-star game, and led his team with three solo tackles and seven total tackles.

"Dan Rooney (Jr.) gave me a call a couple weeks afterwards," Roper said. "He thought I moved pretty well and thought I might be a good fit at outside backer since they had some openings."

Roper has played outside linebacker and defensive end in 4-3 alignments. What does he expect of the move to 3-4 outside linebacker?

"It's a pretty natural transfer for me," he said. "I like standing up better, but defensive end's a lot less thinking."

Roper laughed when asked about how much thinking he'd been doing at the Steelers' spring workouts.

"Oh, my head is spinning," he said. "But it should be alright. I'll just try my best. I don't know what the outcome will be. It's a different level of competition for me. But once I get adjusted I should be able to make an impact. I just want to see how much value I can give to the team."

The day after Roper signed with the Steelers, his coach at Northwood, Pat Riepma, raved about him to a reporter from the school's website.

"Dedrick is a man of great character," Riepma said. "He's put himself in a position to earn this opportunity because of hard work.

"He's a complete player with a motor that never ends. Dedrick competes on every play relentlessly."

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