Steelers Minicamp: There's a fullback on roster
Sunday, May 02, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
No rookie on the Steelers' 90-man minicamp roster faces the dichotomy that confronts Demetrius Taylor, an undrafted defensive tackle from Virginia Tech.
Taylor is the only fullback listed on the Steelers' 90-man roster, a position he has never played and which the team's coordinator says will never exist in his offense.
"There's not a fullback on the roster," Bruce Arians declared three days before the Steelers opened the 2009 season. "There's a running back who plays fullback, a tight end who plays fullback. I don't have a fullback. There's no fullback in my offense, there's never going to be one."
In this minicamp there is one, precisely one. Taylor actually played fullback one year -- as a high school freshman. He then moved to running back and linebacker, went to Virginia Tech as a linebacker and moved to defensive tackle. At 6 feet, 270-something, he is not big enough to play that position in the pros.
Nevertheless, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin saw something during the Virginia Tech pro workout day and asked Taylor if he thought he could play fullback.
"He had the explosive, fullback-type movements," Tomlin said. "He ran a 4.70 in the 40, he had a 9-something broad jump, he kind of looked like a fullback. I asked him if he had a [running-back] background. He said he did, he was one in high school, he was recruited as one."
He has been recruited as one again, the only listed fullback on a team that supposedly will try to run the ball more consistently (per Steelers president Art Rooney's instructions). Other players have lined up at the position in games, but only Taylor is listed as a fullback. Tight ends David Johnson and Sean McHugh and running back Frank Summers have played fullback, and the Steelers are taking a look at running back Isaac Redman there as well.
Arians was declared off-limits on the topic this weekend, and Tomlin scoffed at what his coordinator said last September about the fullback position.
"We got fullbacks. You guys take him too literally sometimes," said Tomlin.
Last season, before the Steelers let him go as a free agent without making an offer, halfback Willie Parker talked about how much better it was for him and others to run behind a true fullback. He decried the loss of it in the Steelers' offense.
Tomlin said those types of pure fullbacks are tough to find.
"Those high school fullbacks are playing different positions on college football teams because very few teams employ a fullback," Tomlin said. "So you have to turn over a stone or two and find out who is that kind of animal."
Tomlin turned a 270-pound stone over to discover Taylor.
"He has nice quick-twitch," Tomlin explained. "We won't know until we know, that's the reality of it. We were excited to give him an opportunity."
If Taylor can pull it off, he would not become the first to do so, but would join the few.
"When I was in Detroit, we had a defensive lineman come in and convert to fullback and did well, Jon Bradley," said McHugh, a Lion before he became a Steeler.
Indeed, Bradley played defensive tackle for Tampa Bay from 2004 through 2006 (Tomlin being on that staff for two of those years) before he went to Detroit and switched to fullback. He played fullback for the Lions in 2007, listed as 6 feet 1, 301 pounds. He played in 15 games that season, started six.
Defensive lineman Dan Klecko also has played some spot fullback for the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles.
So, why not Demetrius Taylor?
"I was pretty good," Taylor said, recalling the one year he played the position. "I could go out there and make some big-time blocks."
The Steelers will need some of those to get their running game in gear.
NOTES -- Quarterback Byron Leftwich continued to run with the first team. ... Bryant McFadden promised to remunerate Keenan Lewis for giving him his No. 20 back, but neither will say how much it cost him. Lewis switched to No. 23. ... Rookie C Maurkice Pouncey, now wearing No. 53, is trying to convince linebacker Patrick Bailey to give him his No 55. ... Don Henderson, the agent for kicker Jeff Reed, will arrive here this week to try to move negotiations along with Kevin Colbert for a contract extension. Reed signed his one-year tender as the team's franchise player.