Steelers show interest in Penn State center

| Friday, Feb. 20, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- Joe Paterno told A.Q. Shipley he could be a good defensive tackle in college. But in selling the idea of a position switch to Shipley, the legendary Penn State coach told him he could play 10 years at the next level as a center.

Shipley is hoping to convince NFL coaches and general managers of the same thing.

The Moon High School graduate met with about 20 teams, including the Steelers, Wednesday night. He is trying to make enough of an impression during the NFL Scouting Combine and subsequent workouts and interviews to hear his name called fairly early during the league's draft, April 25 and 26.

Shipley said he has been told he could be picked from the second to the sixth round.

The Steelers may have a need at center, and Shipley's connection to them goes beyond his rooting for the team while growing up in suburban Pittsburgh.

Shipley went to high school and played sports with the son of former Steelers great Mike Webster. And, like Webster, Shipley is considered a little undersized for a center coming out of college.

His height -- Shipley said he measured just over 6-1 yesterday -- may work against him. But Shipley said he thrives on proving people wrong.

"I've had a chip on my shoulder my whole life," Shipley said. "I just want the opportunity to play in this league and play against the best."

Shipley, a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions, last season won the Rimington Trophy, given to the top center in the country.

Not bad for a player who was at best a reluctant center when he moved to the offensive line following his freshman season at Penn State.

"It worked out for the best," Shipley said. "And I came to the realization that I actually like offense more than I like defense."

> Steelers injury update

Running back Rashard Mendenhall could have returned to action last season despite sustaining a fractured shoulder in late September, Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said yesterday.

Colbert said the Steelers placed Mendenhall on injured reserve, which ended his rookie season, because he would have missed too much practice time to contribute in December and during the playoffs.

Mendenhall was the Steelers' first-round pick in last April's draft.

"All of the medical reports indicate he'll have a full recovery," Colbert said.

As for Kendall Simmons, who was injured in the same game as Mendenhall, Colbert said the veteran right guard is making good progress. Simmons, though, hasn't fully recovered from the ruptured Achilles tendon that ended his season.

"All signs are that he will make it," Colbert said, "but he's not there yet."

No. 1 pick still a gamble

The Detroit Lions were bad enough last season -- they became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 -- that they earned the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft.

But the selection comes with risk, since the Lions will set themselves back even more if they miss on the pick.

"I've compared it a little bit to playing blackjack," said first-year coach Jim Schwartz, the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator before taking over in Detroit. "You can go play blackjack in Vegas and play the $5 table and play for a couple of hours and make a lot of bad decisions and lose $100 and have some fun. If you go play at the $5,000 or $10,000 table, if you make bad decisions, you're walking home, you're not flying home."

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