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Undrafted lineman Embernate hopes he can stick with Steelers

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By Alan Robinson
Sunday, May 5, 2013, 10:48 p.m.

When San Diego State guard Nik Embernate visited the Steelers last month, he left Pittsburgh hoping he would see the city again soon.

“I love this place,” Embernate said. “I was only here for less than 24 hours, but it was awesome.”

Just as Pittsburgh made an impression on Embernate, he apparently made one on the Steelers — one he hopes will help keep him around for more than a little while this time.

Despite being generally regarded as a likely fifth-to-seventh-round pick, Embernate was not selected during the April 25-27 NFL Draft. The Steelers, who had brought him in for a personal visit several weeks before, quickly signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent.

With the Steelers needing backup help along the offensive line, there are indicators the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Embernate isn't just one of those bodies who is brought in to supply depth at training camp.

He could be around in September.

Embernate is a physical, competitive and aggressive player who gained the nickname of “Embernasty” after engaging a Wyoming defensive lineman in a 2009 fight. He is an excellent run blocker — the Aztecs ran for more than 2,000 yards in 2010 and 2011 — and the Steelers badly want to upgrade their running game.

“Going back to college, the way I played hard, physical, tough — that's what the Steel City is all about,” Embernate said. “That's what I kind of feel myself as: a blue-collar worker. I've got my lunch pail going to work every day, just trying to get better and help out no matter what way I can.”

For his aggressiveness, which he considers to be an asset, Embernate is a disciplined player. His father and step mother were Los Angeles County police officers, and his two grandfathers also were policemen, one in San Diego and the other in Hawaii.

Being slighted in the draft when some scouting services listed as one of the top 15 guards is a motivating factor for him. He played through injuries the last two seasons — a torn labrum in his left shoulder in 2011 and a high ankle sprain last season — one reason why the Steelers checked him out in advance.

“I can't really say I was surprised. I was disappointed,” Embernate said of going undrafted. “You always want the best for yourself, but it's just another way for me to compete and kind of prove people wrong.”

He first did that when he successfully shifted from baseball to football in 10th grade. Later, only two schools, Nevada and San Diego State, offered him a scholarship.

Embernate started to believe he might be able to play in the NFL when, two seasons ago, multiple Michigan defensive linemen complimented him following a physical game and told him they thought he could play at higher level.

He's at one now. And he wants to stay around for more than just spring practices and a summer training camp.

“It's an awesome team to be on,” Embernate said. “I love it here from a football standpoint, a city standpoint.”

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