Snapshot: Elliott Harris

Marianna is a sleepy town in eastern Arkansas, about 60 miles southwest of Memphis. Of its 5,181 people, over 18 percent are unemployed. Elliott Harris really didn't take that into account when he left town to sign with the Steelers two months ago.

But my, isn't Harris a long way from home?

"Well," said the rookie nose tackle, "I know Freddie Gibson."

Harris is quiet in a manner similar to Joel Steed. But Steed was a third-round draft pick before setting the standard for Bill Cowher nose tackles in Pittsburgh. Steed had a chance. For Harris, an undrafted rookie, his days in town could prove to be a lonely experience.

"It's going just fine because some of the veteran guys are showing me the ropes," Harris said. "Casey's been giving me pointers about relaxing and some pointers about our alignment and my assignments."

Casey Hampton is the Steelers' second Pro Bowl nose tackle under Cowher, but he's built like one. In addition to sharing positional insights with Harris, Hampton might want to teach the kid how to eat.

Harris was a 260-pound defensive end at Arkansas and is listed at 285 pounds by the Steelers, some 85 pounds less than Hampton. Then again, the 285-pound listing is generous.

"I weighed in at 277," said the 6-foot-3 Harris. "I want to gain some weight so I can last, and that won't be a problem. I'd like to get up to 295."

Perhaps the Steelers are looking for a light and quick nose tackle to replace the departed Kendrick Clancy, and Harris comes to the team with a reputation for athleticism.

Harris bounced back and forth between end and tackle at Arkansas before settling at end, but he started only one game as a senior. Of his 14 career starts in college, 12 came in his sophomore season.

Why did he lose his starting job?

"Different coaches," he said. "A new (coordinator) came in my junior year. It was a different style but it was something I adjusted to."

Harris played sparingly as a freshman, but became a starting end in 2002 and made 31 tackles and recorded a sack.

His best statistical season was 2003 when Harris finished seventh on the team with 53 tackles. He was third with 6 tackles for loss and second with 10 quarterback hurries. His best performance occurred that year during Arkansas' upset of then-No. 5 Texas. Harris had 8 tackles, a tackle for loss, one pass broken up and a forced fumble.

Last year, Harris was 17th on the team with 24 tackles and a sack. Harris also completed his senior year as a repeat member of the Honor Roll, but was "very disappointed" he went undrafted. Harris also said the Steelers' 3-4 alignment shouldn't be a problem because "we played some of that in college." But, he never played nose tackle.

"It's great so far," he said of the position. "It's all about technique. If you've got the proper technique, it shouldn't be hard."

And what does he think about playing for the Steelers?

"It's a great opportunity to play for one of the top-notch organizations," he said. "It's kind of hard to express."


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