Blake: 'I want to be a wrecking ball'
Antwon Blake knows special teams are his bread and butter, but he also wants to make an impact on defense.
There are days when Antwon Blake walks off the practice field after OTAs, the gold visor on his helmet shielding him from having to stop and talk about himself to the gathered media as he quietly runs towards the locker room.
But on this particular day, Blake was stopped time and again, getting all kinds of attention because of the way he has been working during OTAs and making it hard for him to stay quiet.
“Each day I feel a little bit better, getting comfortable in the scheme, the small details,” said Blake of his progress. “Those are getting down pat. I come out here and feel better every day coming out here with the guys.”
Blake, who was claimed off of waivers from Jacksonville at the start of the 2013 season, quickly became a force on special teams for the Steelers last year, finishing second on the unit with 11 tackles. It’s a role he loves, one he embraces and one he takes great pride in.
“To play special teams you have to have a high motor and a great work ethic,” said Blake. “Every special teams play is normally just one play. You have to go your hardest one play at a time. The people that do that successfully are the ones that make an instant impact.
“My mindset is when I go down there I want to be a wrecking ball. I feel like nobody can stop me. If somebody gets in my way, I have to move them. I have to bowl through them.”
And when he does, it’s a good feeling. But he doesn’t rest on his laurels.
“When I make a tackle on special teams I instantly think to myself when I have the opportunity again, I want to do it,” said Blake. “I like that feeling. I want to have that feeling constantly.”
There is another feeling he wants too…making those same type of hits on defense. The cornerback was limited in his defensive snaps last season, but is hoping to change that around this year.
“I want to continue to raise the level of play I have on special teams and maintain my niche at that,” said Blake. “At corner I want to emerge as someone who is in the lineup consistently and ultimately become a starter and show the world what I can do. I want to help my team any way I can.
“If I come out here and make plays consistently I feel like I will be all right.”
Blake has caught the attention of defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, who talked about the cornerback the weekend of the NFL Draft.
“Antwon Blake is one very fast, quick aggressive corner that I liked coming out last year,” said Lake. “We were fortunate to grab him, and he's turned out to be very productive for us, especially on special teams.”
Hearing praise from Lake, someone he admired not so much during his Steelers playing days, but when he was with Blake’s hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, means a lot.
“Carnell Lake is someone I was a fan of growing up. In my eyes he is a sure Hall of Famer,” said Blake, who was converted to safety in Jacksonville but is more comfortable back at cornerback. “It’s kind of a dream come true to be coached by someone like him. It’s easy to listen to him. It’s easy to understand what he is saying and believe what is coming out of his mouth because I saw him do the things he is asking of us. It’s a great feeling to know you are being coached by somebody with that pedigree and background.”
1.15) Ryan Shazier - ILB/OLB
2.46) Stephon Tuitt - DE
3.97) Dri Archer - RB
4.118 ) Martavis Bryant - WR
5.157) Shaquille Richardson - CB
6.173) Wesley Johnson - OT
6.192) Jordan Zumwalt - ILB
7.215) Daniel McCullers - DT
7.230) Rob Blanchflower - TE
"Before you can win a game, you have to not lose it." -- Chuck Noll
A clean bill of health means better chance for a brighter year for Brice McCain
By Christopher Carter on Jul 6 2014
Another offseason addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers is McCain. He is not a big name, and isn't looked at to be a starter, but if he can stay healthy he may be a solid utility player that makes a few plays on special teams or in extra coverage schemes in 2014.
While other free agents that joined the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason have intrigued fans and analysts, Brice McCain has been one player that hasn't drawn much attention.
As a former sixth round draft pick from the Houston Texans, McCain has not produced a consistent year, and is going into his sixth season in the NFL. His best of his five seasons so far was 2011, when he had 13 passes defensed and two interceptions. He also returned one of those two interceptions for his only touchdown in his NFL career. McCain caught a tipped pass and zig-zagged his way to the end-zone on the tail-end of a blowout of the Tennessee Titans making the score 41-7.
Since 2011, McCain has not had as productive a season. He started primarily as a slot cornerback and temporarily would replace a starter whom fell to injury. Though such an opportunity presented itself in 2012 when Jonathan Joseph became injured, McCain would suffer a broken foot in late November that would sideline him for 4 games and has been a nagging injury since.
Recently however, McCain has claimed he has finally taken the time to make a full recovery and feels ready for his new season with the Steelers. "The last two years weren't what I wanted them to be but I’m fully healthy for the first time in two years," McCain said. "I can’t wait to get going."
McCain clocked in a 4.33 40 yard dash time coming into the NFL, which fits the new "speed" focus of the Steelers' defense. Though his 5'9'' frame doesn't favor the team allowing him to assign him to cover large tight-ends, it does fit the mold of a nickel corner replacement for William Gay and/or a dime corner to cover speedy backup receivers from other teams.
If you're looking for any highlights on Brice McCain in the NFL, there's not much to look at. Just search youtube for "Brice McCain highlights" and you'll see that three of his first five videos are of him being taken advantage of by opposing offenses. And of the other two, both are interceptions from his rookie season, one in the preseason.
In addition, Pro Football Focus went from calling McCain a "secret superstar" in 2012, to the league's worst cornerback after 2013.
McCain claims it was tackling and his love for the game of football that has gotten him this far. Hopefully his tackling and his speed can make an impact on special teams for the Steelers and he can fit the mold of a solid Steelers' backup. The good news is that he is excited about being in Pittsburgh and that he has an understanding of what the Steelers' organization is about.
"Tradition, hard work, an organization that knows how to win. I smell tradition."
Hopefully he can sniff out a turnover or two in 2014.
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Team Needs, 2015 Draft (In order of need): CB, NT, OLB, FS, DE