Mundy impresses Steelers with smarts, skills

| Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twenty-nine has significance for Steelers safety Ryan Mundy beyond the fact that it is his uniform number.

It explains why coach Mike Tomlin, among others, call the Woodland Hills High graduate "Wonderlic."

When Mundy took the Wonderlic while visiting the Steelers prior to the 2008 NFL Draft, he tackled 29 of the 50 questions on the aptitude test during an allotted 12-minute time period. What earned Mundy his moniker from Tomlin• He didn't miss any of the questions he answered.

"I've never heard of that," Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton said.

If Mundy does as well on his the tests that lie ahead — specifically the ones he will face in training camp — he could find himself playing a significant role for his hometown team.

The Steelers, who are not deep at safety, could afford to get younger on the back end of their defense, especially after not spending a draft pick there in April.

All of that translates into an opportunity for Mundy that is as golden as the color of the jerseys he and the other Steelers defensive players have been wearing during offseason practice.

Not that Mundy, the Trib's WPIAL Class AAAA Player of the Year in 2002, will win a roster spot or a job over the next couple of weeks. Tomlin, after all, dismissively refers to this time of the year as "football in shorts."

But one thing that won't hurt Mundy is the favorable impression he has been making during the practices that resumed Tuesday at the team's South Side facility.

"I was just walking off the field thinking basically every day he's done something good," Horton said last week.

Mundy has been getting plenty of work while running with the first-team defense.

And with starters Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark not taking part in the offseason practices — the former is training in California; the latter is still recovering from shoulder surgery — Mundy has been playing both strong and free safety.

"It's a great experience for me," said Mundy, whom the Steelers drafted in the sixth round out of West Virginia in 2008.

The Steelers let Anthony Smith, once considered the team's future at free safety, leave in March as a restricted free agent. Tyrone Carter, the primary backup at both safety spots, is 33 and going into the final year of his contract.

If his young legs make Mundy, 24, an appealing prospect at safety, his lack of experience doesn't appear to concern the Steelers.

"Nothing fazes the kid," Horton said. "I don't think, 'Oh, he hasn't played a lot of plays' or 'Oh, he doesn't know what he's doing.' It's like he's a veteran, and we're treating him like that.

"We plan to give him a heck of a lot of work during the preseason and see what we have. We're counting on him."

Mundy got little playing time during his first preseason. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder logged fewer than 10 plays before sustaining a high ankle sprain in the Steelers' 2008 preseason opener against the Eagles.

The Steelers took the calculated risk of releasing Mundy, figuring teams hadn't seen enough of him to sign him while he was recovering from the injury. They later re-signed Mundy, and he said the time he spent practicing with the Steelers has prepared him to make a significant jump in his second season.

"I just feel like I've got to stay healthy," Mundy said. "I know I'm going to be in shape. I know the playbook. So if I stay healthy, I feel like everything will take care of itself."

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