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Dylan Cook Taking on Steelers Jumbo TE Role, Swing Tackle Next?

Dylan Cook is taking on the Steelers “nipple rubber” jumbo tight end role, and could be in line to be the team’s next swing tackle.

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Pittsburgh Steelers OT Dylan Cook
Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Dylan Cook during a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Acrisure Stadium on Aug. 19, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long history of using an extra offensive lineman as an extra tight end in specific packages, such as on the goal line and in short yardage. While many teams use what they may call a jumbo tight end or extra offensive lineman, the Steelers have a unique name from their history.

It was former offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner that created the unique terminology that the Steelers use: the nipple rubber. Fichtner based his nickname on the motion that players must make while reporting eligible, running their hands vertically up and down across their chest.

Third-year Steelers tight end Dylan Cook has gotten an introduction to the position — the terminology, the procedure and the job itself — during OTAs this spring. Cook spent the 2023 season fourth on the team’s depth chart at tackle and regularly a healthy scratch. If the team used an extra lineman, it was either Broderick Jones or Chukwuma Okorafor, whichever was not currently the starting right tackle.

This season, Jones, Dan Moore Jr. and Troy Fautanu have been rotating between the top spots at left and right tackles. That has left the swing tackle job — and the nipple rubber position — for the taking for Cook.

Steelers OT Dylan Cook

Steelers OT Dylan Cook at training camp Aug. 17, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“At the end of the day, it’s whatever I can do to help this team win games. If that’s where they see me, then I’m going to go out there and give my all and do whatever I can to help us win,” he said.

Cook has as unique of a background as you’ll find in an NFL locker room. A high school quarterback, he first played that position at the NAIA level, before switching to offensive line at the FCS level at Montana. Cook has done a little bit of everything in the football world, but playing tight end has been something new to him.

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“I did it freshman year on scout team a few times when they needed a big tight end,” Cook said. “But other than that, this will be a first. … It’s a challenge. It makes me think. I gotta think a little bit more, because I don’t know the position. These guys have helped me out, Darnell [Washington] and Meatball [Connor Heyward], they’ve helped me out pretty good. If there’s a future in it, I’ll give my all to be a part of it.”

The Steelers have plenty of options at tight end behind Pat Freiermuth, with Washington, Heyward and Rodney Williams back from last year and joined by veteran MyCole Pruitt. But they are still keeping their options open, by training an offensive lineman for the job, as well.

The swing tackle job could go to the player who loses the three-way battle between Fautanu, Jones and Moore. But if Cook can prove he can do the job, he make make a potential trade of Moore attractive. So he’s been focused on nailing down being able to play on both sides of the line, in addition to his extra duties as a tight end.

“Just really nailing down the technique of both playing left and right side,” Cook said. “Every team needs a swing tackle. If that’s a spot I can fill this year, I’m more than happy to do it and I’m prepared to do it. … Once we get to Latrobe, we’ll really see where the chips will fall.”