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Levcik tries to make cut with Steelers

| Friday, June 13, 2003

PITTSBURGH - Tim Levcik knew when he signed a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers that he would face stiff competition to make the team.

The equipment guys at the Steelers made sure he would be reminded of it every time he got something out of his locker during the team's mini camp.

Because of the way the rookie and free agent stalls are arranged in and around the veteran's, Levcik's stands directly across from Brian St. Pierre, the Boston College quarterback the Steelers took in the fifth round of this year's draft. And for the last four days, he got an eyeful.

"There's competition but you're going to have that anywhere and I've got to take that in stride," Levcik said. "I can't worry about him or anyone else, really, I've just got to got out and do what I do and see what happens."

It's always difficult for an undrafted free agent to make a team. More so for a player who was previously cut in someone else's camp and hasn't seen live action in nearly a year. But that's where Levcik finds himself almost 10 months after being cut Aug. 23 by the Miami Dolphins.

"I just kind of took things for granted a little bit coming out of college, signing with Miami and things seemed to be going well," Levcik said. "Then I was out of football and watching it on Sundays, so just to be able to sign here and get an opportunity to get back into football was great."

Levcik may have been the best offensive skill position player to come out of the Northeast Conference. While playing under former Steelers offensive coordinator and Jets head coach Joe Walton at Robert Morris University. While under center for the Colonials he re-wrote the record books, setting nearly every single-game and career passing mark at the school. He wasn't chosen in the 2002 NFL draft, but was immediately offered a contract as an undrafted free agent by the Dolphins.

That's where things bogged down.

Levcik was supposed to battle for the third-string quarterback slot behind Jay Fiedler and Ray Lucas. But a 5-for-22, two interception performance in a preseason loss to New Orleans, coupled with the team's acquisition of Sage Rosenfels from Washington, opened the door for his departure.

"It was tough last year," Levcik said. "I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to make the team then they made the trade. The way the league is now, it's all a business. You're here one day, gone the next."

Strangely enough, Levcik is in the same position he was a year ago. The two top slots will be filled with NFL Comeback Player of the Year Tommy Maddox and former Detroit starter Charlie Batch, which means that Levcik and St. Pierre will lock horns for the coveted number-three slot when the team heads to Latrobe in July for the Steelers full-scale training camp.

"He and I are both here competing and we both know the situation we're in," St. Pierre said. "We're just going to compete and let the best man win because there's mutual respect on both sides, I think."

St. Pierre was something of a surprise choice as the 163rd pick in the draft. He started every game for the Eagles his senior year and had the third-best season in school history, completing 237-of-407 for 2,983 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was also instrumental in Boston College's Motor City Bowl with over Toledo with a 25-of-35 day for 342 yards and three scores.

Draft status and impressive collegiate numbers aside, it's going to be battle between these two for a roster spot.

"I don't know if anyone has an edge," St. Pierre said. "He's been in the NFL last year, so that's always helpful being in the league and having your feet wet, and knowing the ins and outs. I don't know what he got here in Pittsburgh, but he was here before me and has a little more familiarity with being in Pittsburgh and being from Pittsburgh as well."

In addition to having a little more time learning the Steelers playbook, Levcik has a year in a pro camp under his belt, plus four years playing in the old Jets offense under Walton. Six years of training to play quarterback in the NFL is a little tough even for a draft pick to overcome.

"A lot of the things are similar to what I did in Miami, only the terminology is different," Levcik said. "We didn't really have the coaching sessions and the mini camps and it was more spread out. Having everyday practices to work on the offense has helped out a lot."

Maybe enough to eventually watch St. Pierre pack his bags first.

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