Pass-rusher Tuzar Skipper out to gain notice at Steelers camp after making roster as tryout
After going undrafted in April, Tuzar Skipper attended the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie minicamp on a tryout in May.
After Rocket-ing his way to a contract, Skipper joined a couple old buddies in the Steelers locker room.
An outside linebacker, Skipper joins position mate Ola Adeniyi and third-round rookie receiver Diontae Johnson as former Toledo Rockets on the Steelers’ training camp roster. It can be a special thing when three members of one Mid-American Conference program all end up with the same NFL team, particularly when it’s two at one position who played together.
IF YOU KNOW THEN YOU KNOW🚀 pic.twitter.com/xzrTPxtzHk
— The Tuzar Skipper (@TuzarSkipper) June 5, 2019
“It was something I look forward to,” Skipper said after a Steelers’ veteran minicamp session last month. “It makes settling in and being a professional a little easier knowing you have teammates from college here.”
While Adeniyi and Johnson are likely assured of sticking with the Steelers come the regular season in some capacity, Skipper’s path is not nearly so assured. Though he has some intriguing qualities (8 ½ sacks as a senior, impressive size at a chiseled 6-3, 246 pounds), as a rookie tryout Skipper has a long road to making an impression at training camp – even if he did catch the eye of Steelers management at the three-day rookie camp.
“They just said they liked me,” Skipper said. “They liked me in college and stuff like that, so they were excited to have me. All I can do is keeping showing them why.”
Skipper’s best shot at 2019 is probably to make the Steelers practice squad at a position that includes starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree and veteran backup Anthony Chickillo with Adeniyi having the inside track at another 53-man roster spot.
The Steelers have a history of mining gems out of college defensive ends and turning them into quality pro 3-4 outside linebackers.
“They do,“ Skipper said, “and that’s why I feel like this team is a perfect fit.”
During organized team activities and minicamp, Skipper was for the first time exposed to responsibilities such as dropping into coverage that he never had to do when he was lining up with his hand on the ground on the line in college.
It’s those types of nuance that Skipper will have to show proficiency in picking up if he has a chance to remain with the Steelers.
“Just something I had to add to my arsenal,” Skipper said of dropping back at times. “I wasn’t comfortable at first, but the more I’ve been doing it the more I get used to it.”
A former junior-college player who suffered a torn ACL in 2017 at Toledo, there is reason to believe Skipper could be the proverbial late bloomer who could potentially be a candidate to be a camp darling.
Outside linebacker is traditionally a high-profile position on the Steelers’ defense, and sacks are a glory stat for a defender. Maybe Skipper takes advantage of a preseason opportunity to bring down a quarterback or two during games, and that’s his route to gaining notice.
“All I can do is work hard every day,” he said, “and show everyone what I can do.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .