Logan's kick returns intriguing to Steelers

| Monday, Aug. 24, 2009

A couple of days before the Steelers' second preseason game, the coaches told Stefan Logan that he would serve as the team's primary kickoff and punt returner against the Redskins.

They weren't the only ones eager to see what the pint-sized Logan could do in his first extended game action as a Steelers player.

"Before he even touched the first kickoff, we were making bets on the sideline (of) when he's going to take one to the house," starting running back Willie Parker said. "He's amazing."

He sure was Saturday night, and the explosiveness Logan displayed in piling up 205 return yards turned him from a curiosity into a legitimate candidate to make the 53-man roster of the reigning Super Bowl champions.

"I think it's pretty obvious that he did a nice job," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

Logan's breakout performance could not have come at a better time — for both him and the Steelers.

Had Logan flopped in the Steelers' 17-13 loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field, he may not have gotten another serious look from the coaches in his bid to make the team. His showing, meanwhile, gives the Steelers hope that they have found a player who can add a much-needed spark to the return game, particularly on kickoffs.

Last season, lumbering running backs Najeh Davenport and Gary Russell served as the primary kickoff returners, and the Steelers were 29th out of 32 NFL teams in that department.

Against the Redskins, Logan ripped off kickoff returns of 60 and 45 yards and said he was "inches" from taking both returns all the way to the end zone.

Not bad for a guy who is just over the height minimum for some of the rides at Kennywood and who will be a 28-year-old rookie if he plays his way onto the Steelers.

The 5-foot-6, 180-pound Logan played high school football in Miami but spent five years away from the game before taking it up again at the University of South Dakota.

Logan spent some time on the Dolphins' practice squad in 2007 before making his way to Canada.

He starred for the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League last season, and the Steelers signed Logan last February, shortly after they had won a sixth Super Bowl.

Logan, who was given the nickname "Joystick" while in Canada because of his ability to make the kind of outrageous cuts seen in football video games, opened eyes during offseason practices.

And his speed even impressed Parker, who has long been one of the fastest players on the team.

Parker said the two raced during the offseason and that he beat Logan in a 40-yard dash. But, Parker added: "If we would have raced five more yards, he would have blown past me. Once he gets in playing shape, he is going to be deadly."

Logan, for his part, is hoping to blow past the other candidates to return kickoffs and punts this season. He may have separated himself from the pack by averaging almost 40 yards on four kickoff returns against the Redskins.

"When my (teammates) see a guy who can take it to the house at any moment, they're going to block their tails off," said Logan, who is called "Half Pint" by his Steelers teammates.

The question the Steelers may have to answer in a few short weeks is whether they have the luxury of carrying a player on the roster who may only help them in the return game.

"It's a possibility," Tomlin said of Logan, who also has lined up at running back and wide receiver but has been focusing solely on his duties as a return man. "He got our attention."

The key for Logan is holding that attention.

"I want to show everything I can do in these last two (preseason) games," Logan said. "I'm sure I'm going to get another shot at it, and I'm sure I'll do what I can to take it to the house."

By the numbers

Stefan Logan shined as a return man in the Steelers' 17-13 loss to the Redskins on Saturday night. But playing in the Canadian Football League last season, he excelled as both a running back and receiver. Here are some of the highlights from his only CFL season.

4 — Logan's rank among the CFL's rushing leaders.

6 — Logan's rank among CFL leaders in yards from scrimmage.

7.3 — Yards per carry Logan averaged.

52 — Passes Logan caught.

1,366 — Yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) for Logan.

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