Steelers notebook: Local rookie camp invitees embrace long odds
They are relegated to chairs with their names scribbled on pieces of masking tape instead of above lockers, and most, if not all, of the 20 players the Steelers have in for a tryout during rookie minicamp won't be around after this weekend.
But there is an opportunity. A half-dozen local players hope that is the only one they will need.
“I am thankful for getting an opportunity to get my foot in the door and hopefully bust through it,” Gateway graduate Dorian Bell said following the first of a three-day rookie minicamp.
Bell is joined by three high school teammates in cornerback Corey Brown (Ohio State), cornerback Dayonne Nunley (Miami, Ohio) and linebacker Delbert Tyler (Hampton). Former West Mifflin tackle Adam Gress (Penn State) and ex-Jeannette running back Jordan Hall (Ohio State) also are in camp hoping to get noticed enough to stick around.
Bell, Brown, Nunley and Tyler played on the 2008 Gateway team that lost to Bethel Park in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game.
“It's crazy, but we all did well in college,” Bell said.
“We all just want that chance, and hopefully that chance turns into us staying with the team.”
While it is unlikely those invited to try out will be asked back, there is recent precedent of it happening.
Linebacker Terrence Garvin made the 90-man roster after his tryout last year and went on to make the team, play in 15 games and become one of the few rookies to start a game in the Mike Tomlin era.
“My thing is, once I am here and working, my chances are as good as anybody else's,” Gress said. “I have to do my best and see what happens. I am pretty excited in taking part in this, and it's a great opportunity. It is extra special being with my hometown team, and I have been really looking forward to it. I am definitely going to take advantage of it.”
Offensive lineman Chris Elkins of Beaver Falls was signed as an undrafted free agent, making seven former WPIAL players participating this weekend.
McCullers on the move
Rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers of Tennessee is 360 pounds but fills his frame nicely, and the former 420-pounder showed he can run well for a big man.
“Show that I can run to the ball that I do have speed and that I will use it,” McCullers said.
“Run to the ball. That's what they've wanted me to do from the moment they brought me here.”
Playing catch with Big Ben
Ben Roethlisberger isn't eligible to participate in rookie minicamp, but that doesn't mean he hasn't had a chance to throw passes to fourth-round pick Martavis Bryant.
“We were working on routes, and he came out here Tuesday and threw to us,” Bryant said. “He just said he's happy for me to be here.
“I didn't really talk to him that much.”
Taking his shots
Bryant averaged more than 22.2 yards per reception at Clemson, but Tomlin has yet to refer to him as a one trick pony.
“He's been talking to me,” Bryant said.
“He's been messing with me a lot. I like it, though. He's a good coach.”
Bryant said Tomlin gets on him for “getting tired sometimes and stuff like that.”
OTAs begin May 27
The Steelers will hold two more sessions — on Saturday and Sunday — before reconvening May 27 for the first of 10 organized team activities.