Through two games, only three Pittsburgh Steelers defensive players have been on the field for more snaps than Tuzar Skipper.
An undrafted rookie who made the team as a tryout at the rookie minicamp in May, Skipper is making the most of his opportunities.
Skipper has a sack in each of his two NFL games, displaying a pass-rushing skill that attracted the Steelers to the late bloomer out of Toledo.
Skipper has played a combined 75 defensive snaps over games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs. He has six tackles (four solo), two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Rookie draft picks Ulysees Gilbert (87 snaps) and Justin Layne (91) and veteran defensive back Cameron Sutton (94) are the lone Steelers to play more defensive snaps thus far. Skipper is by far the outside linebacker who has played the most.
That is a positive signal for Skipper’s chances of sticking with the team. The coaches wouldn’t be giving him that kind of audition if they weren’t intrigued by the 6-foot-3, 246-pounder.
Asked if he feels he’s fitting in physically with NFL veterans, Skipper during minicamp said, “Absolutely. And the veterans make things easier. They give you little hints and tips to take your game to the next level, so I have been soaking everything up, as much as I can.”
Skeptics will say Skipper’s sacks have come during the fourth quarter of preseason games, the domain of guys whose NFL tenures will end in a matter of days. But pass-rush moves translate at any level.
Skipper had 8½ sacks last season at Toledo, ending on a high note after his career was stalled by a junior-college stint and a torn ACL. In other words, Skipper is the type of buy-low talent who could be perfect as a developmental prospect for the practice squad.
An outside linebacker, Tuzar Skipper joins position mate Ola Adeniyi and third-round rookie receiver Diontae Johnson as former Toledo Rockets on the #Steelers training camp roster.https://t.co/LWPGFhp4UX
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) July 13, 2019
After starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree (a free agent-to-be), the Steelers are relatively thin at outside linebacker. Anthony Chickillo is entrenched as a solid reserve. However, the rest of the depth chart consists of nine snaps of NFL regular-season experience, all from Ola Adeniyi, Skipper’s former college teammate whose status is in question after knee surgery last week.
Via a strong training camp and two solid performances in the preseason, Skipper is positioning himself for a spot on the practice squad.
“All I can do is work hard every day,” he said at minicamp, “and show everyone what I can do.”