Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Steelers play numbers, name games at rookie minicamp |
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Kevin Gorman

For the first day of Steelers rookie minicamp, all eyes were on No. 55 – and Devin Bush was enjoying every moment.

“It was fun, just being out there and getting back in football mode and learning plays and being around different guys,” said Bush, the inside linebacker from Michigan who the Steelers traded up to select with the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft. “It’s football again so I’m just happy to be back.”

Most importantly, Bush was happy to be a wearing black and gold for the first time while practicing in shorts at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.

“It felt great,” Bush said. “Now I’m a part of the Steelers organization. I’m a Steeler. I’m very grateful to be in the position I’m in.”

Where Bush was the big story on Friday, safety Dravon Askew-Henry was the feel-good story. After starting 51 games at West Virginia, he signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent.

The Aliquippa alum credited his hometown for serving as the springboard for so many NFL careers, from Sean Gilbert and Ty Law to Darrelle Revis to Jonathan Baldwin.

“Because the water’s different out that way,” Askew-Henry said. “Go see a game for yourself. You’ll be like, ‘Wow!’”

A look at some other stories to follow at Steelers minicamp:

1. Numbers game: Being the first-round pick has its privileges, as Devin Bush got his preferred No. 55 to wear as a tribute to his godfather.

The Steelers cautioned that the numbers the rest of the players are wearing at their rookie minicamp are not necessarily permanent.

Even so, there are some interesting choices.

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson wore No. 18, typically given to Steelers quarterbacks (Zach Mettenberger, Mike Tomczak and Cliff Stoudt).

Cornerback Justin Layne was given No. 31, popularized by Donnie Shell but since worn by Mike Logan, Ross Cockrell and, most recently, Mike Hilton.

Linebackers Sutton Smith got Nos. 51 (James Farrior) and Ulysees Gilbert and 54 (L.J. Fort), while defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs got No. 96 (L.T. Walton) and offensive lineman Derwin Gray No. 77 (Marcus Gilbert).

The most interesting choices?

It made sense that running back Benny Snell got No. 24 – once donned by Ike Taylor and worn last season by Coty Sensabaugh – instead of his preferred No. 26. That allows the Steelers to avoid any comparisons to Le’Veon Bell.

But tight end Zach Gentry was issued No. 83, the number famously worn by Heath Miller. It was an odd choice, given that Steelers fans screamed Heath’s name every time tight end Jesse James made a catch the past four seasons.

No pressure, kid.

2. Name game: Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff have to be careful when they call players by their names or this rookie minicamp could get confusing.

They have a pair of wide receivers named Diontae – one is Johnson, their third-round pick from Toledo; the other is Spencer of McNeese State and the CFL.

The Steelers have two rookie kickers in camp, Matthew White and Matthew Wright, and they added punter Ian Berryman to compete with incumbent Jordan Berry.

3. Knock on Wood: Trevor Wood switched between defensive end and tight end at Arizona, then played tight end last season at Texas A&M as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Wood was mostly used as a blocker for the Aggies, catching only two passes for 17 yards after having nine catches for 63 yards and a touchdown in three years at Arizona.

But Wood also can serve as a long snapper, which could be intriguing. Kameron Canaday holds down that position, but keeping a dual-position player like Wood would allow the Steelers to carry an extra tight end on their roster.

4. Oh, Canada!: The Steelers have three players on the roster from Canadian colleges: Wide receiver Kaion Julien-Grant of Toronto, who played at St. Francis Xavier; offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais of Belle River, Ontario, who played at Windsor; and offensive lineman Jesse Gibbon of Hamilton, who played at Windsor.

All three are on tryouts.

5. Family ties: The rookie camp features several players with famous bloodlines, both nationally and locally.

Tight end Milan Richard, a rookie on a tryout from Clemson, is the nephew of Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.

Wide receiver Trey Griffey, who spent last season on the Steelers’ practice squad, is the son of baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and grandson of Donora-born Ken Griffey of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

Another Tre – safety Arnold Tarpley III of Vanderbilt – is a Central Catholic graduate whose mother, Darieth Chisolm, spent 20 years as a news anchor at WPXI.

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