Malecki looks forward after release from Steelers
For about 24 hours, it looked as though John Malecki had achieved his goal of making the Steelers' opening-day roster.
Then came a phone call from Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Malecki made it through the Steelers' final cutdown Saturday but was waived Sunday after the team signed offensive lineman Cody Wallace, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the weekend.
“It's pretty heartbreaking,” said Malecki, a 2006 Franklin Regional graduate who led the Panthers to the 2005 WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA championships. “I understand Saturday was a, ‘You can't count your chickens before they hatch' kind of thing in this league, but it was kind of hard for my family and my parents and stuff not to believe the media coming out with the 53 once they let the cuts out. Soon you've got everyone calling you, and phone calls are rolling in and text messages and all types of stuff.
“I personally knew that until Tuesday or so would be the real timeline in setting the roster. Sunday came around, and unfortunately they had to make a move. I got a phone call, and I saw a random 412 number and I knew probably where that was coming from.”
Malecki worked as the Steelers' second-team center in all four preseason games. He played guard in one regular-season game last season.
Sunday wasn't Malecki's first brush with disappointment at the NFL level. After signing a contract as an undrafted free agent out of Pitt in 2010, he was released 10 times between 2010 and the end of the 2012 season. He was also assigned to several different practice squads.
This transaction, however, was the hardest one to swallow.
“It was the closest you get to making a team,” he said. “Getting cut off a practice squad's not as bad as it was on Sunday.”
Because Malecki played for separate teams' practice squads for three seasons, he is no longer eligible for that designation. Any team that signs Malecki must put him on its 53-man roster.
“It's difficult for a center, particularly, to come in and be on the active roster in four days for a game,” said Bill Parise, Malecki's agent.
As he waits for his next NFL opportunity, Malecki said he would “keep working out, hanging out with my dog and my parents (and) just keep chugging along.”
He believes he performed well enough during the preseason to earn another chance at the NFL.
“I left it all on the field, and that's what you've got to do in this sport,” he said. “It's a make-or-break kind of thing, and sometimes they just want to go in a different direction. I hopefully put some good stuff on tape, and (hopefully) someone's interested.”
Because the Steelers waived Malecki after 4 p.m. Sunday, he didn't officially hit waivers until Monday morning — making it more difficult for him to sign with a team this week.
Parise said he had been in contact with teams about Malecki since Sunday night.
“I'm optimistic that as this year progresses, teams will find themselves in need and that because of John's performance, he'll be one of the people considered for that,” Parise said.
While Malecki saw his Steelers career end — for now, at least — he said the opportunity the team gave him “was truly a blessing.” He also thanked Steeler fans on his Twitter account Sunday night.
“I got a long-shot, small opportunity when I first got to the Steelers, and they gave me every chance that they could to make that team,” Malecki said. “It was truly a humbling and a really great circumstance for me, being a local guy and whatnot. I really had a fun time the last couple years, even when it was bouncing up and down off the practice squad or whatever.
“It's every kid's dream around Pittsburgh to be a Steeler, I guess, and I got that opportunity to play on the field last season. It was pretty cool, and it's been really good to me.”