Visit NFL from the sidelines on the new Observer-Reporter site:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

As a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, part of my duties this week included signing up to transcribe an interview or two of some of the players who are available to the media at the NFL Draft Combine.

Knowing that the Steelers will be in the market for a running back to serve as a backup to Le'Veon Bell, I chose Northern Iowa's David Johnson, who was one of the stars of Senior Bowl week.

It was a good choice on my part. Johnson just might be the closest thing to Bell in this draft.

He measured in at 6-0, 224 pounds on Friday and said he hopes to run in the 4.4 range in the 40.

We'll see about that, but like Bell, Johnson went under-recruited coming out of high school. Also, like Bell, Johnson also thrives as a receiver out of the backfield.

There's a reason for that. Coming out of high school, most colleges viewed Johnson, who said he was 190 pounds with his clothes on, as a wide receiver. He had split time at wide receiver and running back in high school.

Because of that, like Bell, Johnson understands route trees, runs crisp routes and also has very good hands.

Johnson said he was scheduled to meet with a number of teams, including the Steelers, tonight, so they are interested in him. But so are a lot of teams. Johnson isn't a first-rounder, but if he does go out and run a sub 4.5 40, he'll go as high as the second round. If, as expected, he runs in the 4.6 range, he could be available to the Steelers in the third or fourth round.

And he would be an ideal backup to Bell.

@ Bruce Arians was making the rounds today and said that former Steelers linebacker Larry Foote will join his coaching staff this offseason - though Foote isn't officially retiring.

Arians said Foote will work with the Cardinals, for whom he played last season, throughout the offseason and make a final decision about whether he'll continue as a player once the team gets closer to training camp.

@ Duke star receiver Jamison Crowder, who is 5-8, was asked if there are any smaller NFL receivers he looks up to or patterns his game after.

He immediately mentioned the Steelers' Antonio Brown as being that guy.

Crowder said his coach at Duke, former Steelers assistant Scottie Montgomery, began showing him tape of Brown when he joined the staff there a couple of years ago.

While some of the media guys there were looking to pin Crowder down as strictly being a slot guy, Crowder wasn't having any of that.

"Antonio Brown can play all over the field," Crowder said. "I just don't want to single my game to the slot. I want to be versatile, show that I do play outside and inside."

@ Pitt offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings was originally scheduled to meet with the media Wednesday along with the rest of the offensive line group. But that didn't happen.

Then, he was expected to be out early Thursday. But he didn't come out all day.

He's now expected to speak on Friday.

Taking that much time with the teams usually indicates there is a medical issue with a prospect, but I haven't heard anything concrete as of yet.

@ The Steelers and Bills will not have their joint practices this summer as they did last year in the week before their annual preseason game.

Those practices were done as an agreement between Mike Tomlin and Doug Marrone and Marrone is no longer with the Bills.

And with the Steelers now having five preseason games, they weren't too inclined to want to add to their training camp schedule, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Cards cut Foote an hour or two ago.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff

Dale Lolley said...

They cut him so they could add him to their coaching staff and save cap space

Anonymous said...

I assumed as much. Just thought it was odd that Arians was telling reporters Foote would serve a dual role as coach/player until sometime around camp, when Foote would decide which direction he wanted to go, playing or coaching. Least that's how it reads to me. Then a couple hours later the team cut him?

Patrick said...

Dale can you explain how this isn't roster stashing? I swear the eagles tried something similar with an assistant coach to be their 3rd qb and the league squashed that quickly

Dale Lolley said...

I have no idea. I guess since he isn't under contract as a player right now.

Anonymous said...

I think Patrick is implying that Foote is basically on retainer without costing them cap space or a roster. He can be around the team, leading drills, leading workouts, leading film studies, etc. Staying in shape, staying up to date with the defense, involved, until if and/or when they decide they need him to suit up. Given what Arians said and then what happened an hour or two later, it appears shady on the surface. Seems the Pats tried something similar with Troy Brown years ago, but I can't remember.

Patrick said...

Other than the obvious difference of positions played, I don't see how the Foote scenario is any different. I haven't seen it brought up by the national media, so there may be a rule change that I'm not aware of. The above article doesn't describe any league action, but I remember the Nagy contract being a no no by the league.

Patrick said...

per wikipedia:

Nagy was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles on August 10, 2009 after an injury to backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. Nagy had been working for the Eagles as a coaching intern prior to his signing. The NFL disapproved his contract the following day.

Dale Lolley said...

It's really not all that different than the Steelers having an agreement with Keisel that if he was going to play last season, it was likely going to be with them.

Keisel was going to make the trip to Arizona simply out of respect for the Cards. But he wasn't leaving the Steelers unless he was overwhelmed. As I reported last year, he never even cleared his locker at the team facility.