Snapshot: Thaddeus Gibson

Thaddeus Gibson missed nearly all of the spring workouts with his new pro team, but is banking on his formal training at Ohio State to help him this weekend at training camp.

When asked at minicamp about the progress of second-round draft pick Jason Worilds, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley talked instead about fourth-round pick Thaddeus Gibson.

"Last year Ohio State was in the 3-4 defense, so he understands it a little bit more than Jason. He's catching on to it faster," Woodley said.

That edge may have disappeared, of course, since Gibson had to miss the rest of the spring workout schedule because neither he nor his class at Ohio State had graduated.

But there's little doubt that Gibson – only one course shy of a degree – learned his lessons well in college before leaving after his redshirt junior season.

In two years as a starter, Gibson tallied nine sacks. And in his final game, the Rose Bowl against Oregon, Gibson showed that he understood well his coverage responsibilities. On one play, a certain interception was broken up by safety Anderson Russell.

"The ball was coming right to me," Gibson said. "I could've done cartwheels into the end zone after that catch."

On another, Gibson came off his man to make a tackle of the Oregon receiver – scatback LaMichael James – inches short of the sticks on a late third-and-9 pass play over the middle. Down nine, Oregon then missed a field-goal attempt to cement the win for Ohio State. It also told the Steelers what they needed to know about Gibson's potential to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.

"I was taught how to play that hybrid position at Ohio State and I think that's going to help me out with the Steelers," Gibson said. "We ran that same style of drop and the same style of position at Ohio State, so I'm very comfortable doing those types of things. I actually enjoy it. I enjoy dropping, just like I enjoy rushing the passer. I enjoy doing my job."

That enjoyment was put on hold this spring when Gibson had to abide by the NCAA's arcane rule over graduation dates. He was the only Steelers rookie to miss workouts for that reason.

"Aw, man, it was stressful," he said. "You always want to be around the guys, build camaraderie with your new team, and most importantly get in that playbook and learn a new scheme and try to get on top of that before camp. It was stressful, but there was nothing I could do about it. That was the worst thing, for sure."

New Steelers assistant coach Jerry Olsavsky came to Gibson's rescue. Every Friday, the former Steelers inside linebacker would rise early to meet Gibson for a 9 a.m. workout that would break for lunch and resume until 5 p.m.

"I owe a lot to that man," Gibson said. "He could've spent that time going home to see his family, but he spent his time with me teaching me things and honestly I think it made all the difference. It really helped a lot."

Olsavsky was part of the Steelers troupe that visited Ohio State for Gibson's Pro Day. Gibson dressed in black and gold and the media made a point of connecting the player with the pro team.

Was Gibson really a Steelers fan growing up in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid?

"Yeah, I really was," he said. "My uncle was a huge Steelers fan back when Kordell Stewart was quarterbacking. He used to always talk about those guys and how they used to beat up on the Browns. He got a kick out it for sure. I think he made me become a huge Steelers fan. You couldn't go wrong with those guys, even being from Cleveland."

Is that why Gibson dressed in black and gold for his Pro Day?

"It wasn't," he said. "It just happened that way."

Gibson had been sent black-and-gold cleats by Under Armour as part of his combine package. He didn't wear them to the combine, and was disappointed with his 4.71 40 time. So he used the new cleats at his Pro Day and chose a gold sweatshirt and black sweatpants to match.

"It just so happened there were all those Steelers coaches at my Pro Day, so I looked just like those guys," he said.

Olsavsky sat down with Gibson after the Pro Day workout for a chalk talk, and Gibson impressed him. The Steelers chose the 6-2, 243-pounder in the fourth round, even though they'd already drafted an outside linebacker two rounds earlier.

It appears to be a fit for player and team, particularly since the Ohio State coaching staff has been leaning on alumnus Dick LeBeau to install its 3-4 scheme.

"It's very similar," Gibson said. "If one linebacker's dropping, the other one's rushing, unless it's a certain play. And on each play, you can look for a certain word or a certain something in that play that helps you remember the play and your responsibility during that play. That's how I always did it, even in high school. It was something I do to remember things easily. When I was there at minicamp, LaMarr was a great teacher whenever I would ask him questions. It wasn't hard at all. It worked out well."

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