WPIAL alumni Kevin Rader, Trevon Mathis happy to make the Steelers practice squad
While Trevon Mathis and Kevin Rader were in high school, their football teams played each other.
“The two of us talked about that this morning,” Rader said earlier this week. “At the Wolvarena.”
On Oct. 21, 2011, Rader’s Pine-Richland Rams lost 26-7 at The Wolvarena in Turtle Creek against Mathis’ Woodland Hills Wolverines.
Who knew all these years later that they would be teammates?
Mathis, a cornerback, and Rader, a tight end, were named to the Steelers season-opening practice squad when it was announced Sunday. They’re the only players from Pittsburgh-area high schools among those at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex locker room on the South Side.
“(My family) was excited,” Rader said. “Growing up in Pittsburgh, I am staying here. They loved the fact that I’ll be here.”
Kevin Gorman: Pine-Richland's Kevin Rader again facing long odds with Steelers
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— Kevin Gorman (@KGorman_Trib) August 15, 2019
Rader, in the moment, was disappointed by the practice-squad designation because he was in contention for a 53-man roster spot as the Steelers’ No. 3 tight end. But big-picture, it was an accomplishment for an undrafted player from an FCS school (Youngstown State) who was cut by the Green Bay Packers at the end of their camp last year.
Mathis’ invitation from the Steelers was even more improbable. He wasn’t even signed until three weeks prior to cutdown day.
“It still hasn’t set in,” Mathis said Monday. “But I still know I have a lot of work to do. I can celebrate it for about a day and then get right back to work. Because it’s not there yet. It’s halfway, so trying to stay locked in and not get caught up to things, try to block out the noise.”
"I've been a Steelers fan for a long time, so it's an honor to be home and put on the black and gold. I don't take it for granted. I'm going to give it everything I've got."
“Dream” for Woodland Hills HS’ Trevon Mathis to join Steelers
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— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 10, 2019
As the lone players at their perspective positions on the practice squad, Mathis and Rader could be the next men up if a reinforcement is needed.
Rader, in particular, could be summoned if the Steelers have a use for another tight end. His strength is blocking.
“The coaches told me it’s a little bit more time to develop from those technique things at the tight-end position,” Rader said, “and once I’m ready I’ll basically get the shot.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .