Snapshot: Derrick Richardson

Deep into the offseason, continues its coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers with a look at another newcomer. Here's an inside peek at undrafted free agent Derrick Richardson.

If this NFL thing doesn't work out for Derrick Richardson, at least he's making some friends in high places.

The rookie free agent safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers is just a few credits short of graduation with a degree in accounting from New Mexico State.

Given who he's hanging out with now and how much money they make, even if Richardson doesn't make the Steelers' final roster, he could at the very least meet some potential clients.

The 5-11, 190-pound Richardson, however, has bigger plans.

"I'm all in here, but if that doesn't happen, I was ready to take a couple of more classes to get my 150 credits and sit for the CPA course in New Mexico or Arizona and be a CPA," Richardson said. "I'd probably do audits."

Yes, Richardson has an analytical mind. In fact, the three-year starter at New Mexico State was an engineering major before the birth of his daughter forced him to switch to something a little less demanding.

"You can ask anybody. I'm a pretty smart dude," Richardson said with some modesty. "I read a lot. I do a lot of studying. I watch a lot of film. I always work on my craft. I'm just a worker."

That attitude is what helped sell the Steelers on him when they were looking at undrafted free agents. It also didn't hurt that Richardson as a tackling machine for the Aggies.

Richardson recorded 318 tackles in three seasons, good for 10th in school history. He led the nation in tackles per game as a senior, averaging 12.5, while finishing with 137.

"I pride myself in being a good tackler," Richardson said. "I tell myself that I shouldn't miss at all. Whatever play that comes to me, I'm not going to miss it."

It also didn't hurt that the Aggies played a 3-4 defense before shifting to a 3-3-5 in 2008.

"The 3-3-5 that we ran last year is a lot different that what we're running out here," Richardson said of the Steelers' base defense. "There's not a lot I can take from that. But I ran the 3-4 a lot, so I'm used to this."

The Steelers used Richardson at both free and strong safety during spring workouts and he and the other young safeties on the team's roster saw plenty of practice time as starting free safety Ryan Clark sat out after having shoulder surgery, while strong safety Troy Polamalu went through his own offseason training program.

Richardson leaned on second-year safety Ryan Mundy – who also played in a 3-3-5 defense at West Virginia – to help him out when needed.

"He's a smart guy, he knows the defense in and out. They call him Wonderlic, so he's a good guy to ask questions," Richardson said. "I just go to him and ask him where I should be and what I should do. He gives me the right answer and has been a lot of help."

The fact that the Steelers weren't deep at safety behind Clark and Polamalu was one of the selling points that helped make his decision to sign with the team. Despite having offers from six other teams in the hours following the draft, when scout Kelvin Fisher called, Richardson said the decision to sign with Pittsburgh was an easy one.

"I told (the other teams) them nope, I'm already signed, I'm going with the Super Bowl champs," Richardson said. "It wasn't that only. They didn't have many safeties. All the other teams had five or six on their depth chart. There were only four or five here and (the Steelers) said they weren't bringing in any more safeties. I really went for it. Then, to come to the Mecca of defense and NFL football, I was ready to come and play for the Steelers."

It also didn't hurt matters that so many undrafted free agents have not only earned roster spots with the Steelers, but are now starters.

"That was definitely a selling point. When the scout (Kelvin Fisher) called me, he told me that (head coach Mike) Tomlin doesn't care where you were drafted or if you were drafted. If you can play football, you can play football. That's all you want, a decent chance, especially in this league."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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