TJ grad Nix eager to face Steelers
Growing up only miles from Heinz Field and sharing a practice facility with them during his college days at Pitt, Lucas Nix isn't about to deny being a Steelers fan.
“I don't know of a person from Pittsburgh who wasn't a Steelers fan growing up,” Nix said. “I was one of them. I watched them every week.”
Nix still is watching a lot of Steelers games, but to him, they are now “nameless, faceless people on film.”
Nix, who was a Parade All-American lineman at Thomas Jefferson before being a four-year letterman at Pitt, will play against his hometown team for the first time Sunday when the Steelers travel to take on the Oakland Raiders.
“I really haven't thought too much about playing my hometown team,” said Nix, the Raiders' starting left guard. “Once you are in the grind of the season, it really doesn't have the effect that some people may think it does on you. Now obviously my family has thought a lot about it. They all want to come out here and see this game.”
Nix will have a small group of family in Oakland, including his mother and brother — former Pitt linebacker Nate Nix — but Lucas isn't in the mood to entertain.
Known for his power blocking, Nix has battled his way from being an undrafted free agent into a starting offensive lineman within a year. Nix beat out last year's third-round pick Tony Bergstrom during training camp before Bergstrom went on injured reserve with a foot injury.
“I thought I should've been drafted, but I wasn't,” Nix said. “That is something that I came to accept, but you still play with that chip on your shoulder. I look at it as all these teams didn't want me. There was a little disrespect about it, and you play with a little more extra motivation. It is all about what you are doing now.”
Nix was inactive for the first 15 games of his rookie year before seeing action in the second half of the season-finale against the San Diego Chargers. To Nix, playing against the Chargers was motivation.
“It was like I didn't play football for a year,” Nix said. “I was practicing, but I wasn't playing. To get a taste of it like that, it just made me even hungry. That propelled me into the offseason to work hard and come back and win that spot.”
Raiders coach Dennis Allen likes what he has seen.
“He continues to improve on a week-in-and-week-out basis,” Allen said. “I think as long as he continues to get the opportunities to get out there and play, he's going to continue to get better.”
Nix has battled an ankle injury that forced him out of a Week 2 game against Jacksonville and also the following two games against Denver and Washington.
The injury has caused Nix to struggle at times, but the entire unit hasn't played well, either. The Raiders allowed nine sacks against Kansas City the last time they were on the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Nix was responsible for one.
The nine sacks didn't sit well with anybody, including Nix.
“Anytime you let a number like that and you have to watch film on it the next day, it is not a good feeling,” Nix said. “We had to sit and watch it once or twice, and now we have moved past it and made the corrections.”
Nix hopes those corrections come against his hometown team.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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