Newest QB hoping to stick around

PITTSBURGH – The new No. 8 stands along the sideline waiting for his reps, much like the old No. 8 did, but the new No. 8 stays after practice a good 45 minutes working on the fundamentals of the quarterback position.

As the fourth arm – no, as someone competing to be the fourth camp arm – Shane Boyd knows he's a longshot. So he stays in the hot sun with quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple and receiver Isaac West, and throws lasers, one after another, in the hope he can replace the old No. 8, Tommy Maddox, with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'm a guy who can throw," said Boyd, "But I'm also a guy who's able to scramble. I was the all-time leading rusher at quarterback at Kentucky. I passed Jon Kitna. I'm able to run but I've been blessed with a strong arm, a live arm that can put it on receivers and get it down the field. Just say I'm a mobile-type quarterback who can throw."

In fact, Boyd was the exact opposite of Jared Lorenzen, a.k.a. "the hefty lefty." Boyd replaced Lorenzen as the Kentucky starting quarterback in 2004, and in his second game passed for 205 yards and two touchdowns (30-21-0), and also rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in a 51-32 win over Indiana.

Boyd, as is often the case with anyone at hapless Kentucky, had his ups and downs in his only season as the full-time starter, and finished with 1,328 yards passing and a team-high 297 yards rushing.

At 6-0 5/8, 232 and a 40 time of 4.58, Boyd was considered either a raw quarterback prospect or a potential running-back prospect. And his stats earmarked him as a slash-type player: He became the first player in school history to catch, throw and run for a touchdown in one game, but it all added up to an underdeveloped resume.

Boyd also played baseball at Kentucky. He was a closer out of the bullpen and was drafted in the 13th round of the 2000 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins. It's still something he'd like to try, if football doesn't work out. Boyd didn't need reminded that the crosstown Pirates could use a live arm in the bullpen.

"You might want to put that in there, that I can stay in Pittsburgh to play my football career and my baseball career," Boyd said with a laugh.

But the football career might not last long if Boyd can't beat Rod Rutherford for the No. 4 job coming out of minicamp. The spot might be the only one truly on the line this spring as Rutherford rehabs from a foot injury.

Boyd spent the 2005 preseason with the Tennessee Titans but didn't make the team. He was signed after the Super Bowl by the Steelers in February and they sent him to NFL Europe.

As the quarterback for the Cologne Centurions, Boyd finished sixth in passing (54.1 comp. pct., 5 TD, 11 int.) and ninth in rushing (47-339, 7.2 avg.) as the team finished 4-5. He returned to the United States the second week of coaching sessions in May and has yet to take a snap in live practice, so he stays late and tries to learn.

"I've got to keep my skills together," he said. "It's still there because I'm coming off a Europe season but I'm just getting used to new receivers and listening to new plays, and putting in extra work after practice is something I like to do."

At Kentucky, Boyd was a receiver, running back, punt gunner and quarterback for three seasons behind the 300-pound Lorenzen. When a Steelers scout was asked for his opinion of "the hefty lefty," the reply was: "I actually like his replacement a little better."

And, voila, here he is. Boyd has a live arm, quick wheels and the confidence and charisma of a leader. He was an Academic All-American at Kentucky after coming to the school as the state's most decorated player at Henry Clay High School in Lexington.

So far, it's taken him to the other side of the world, but he really just wants to find a home in Pittsburgh.

"Europe was a great experience," Boyd said. "The whole point of that league is development, and with me being raw as far as playing time at quarterback, I was able to get a lot of game-time reps. I developed a whole lot as a quarterback being over there.

"Now, it wasn't all peaches and berries, but I made sure I took the positives out of that. It was a blessing just to see another world. Not saying it's a place I want to go back to, being over there three months was a long time. I got homesick, but my objective was to be a better QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers and that's what I kept my focus on."

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