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Ex-Steeler Says Getting Drafted By Steelers Was a Bad Experience

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Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin

It’s a good story when local players get drafted or sign with their hometown NFL teams, but there’s a lot of pressure and distractions that come along with it, too. In regards to the Steelers, it worked out well for Charlie Batch, Cam Heyward and things have gone smooth with Joey Porter Jr., but former Steelers center/guard A.Q. Shipley said in a recent interview that getting drafted by his hometown team was the worst thing that could’ve happened to him.

“It was a dream come true. It was like, that’s where I wanted to be. Mike Webster was the epitome of, when I become a center that’s where I want to be,” Shipley said during an appearance on the NetWorth podcast with offensive lineman Justin Pugh, via Joe Clark of Steelers Depot. “And then you got all the history of Pittsburgh centers with Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and then Jeff Hartings before that when they won the Super Bowl. And I get and I’m like, ‘Oh this is gonna be great.’ And then it was the worst thing for me. I’m back home, I’m back home in a comfortable environment, I’m back home around my family, I can kind of lean on them. And I’m one of the guys that like, I do best when I’m away from everything. When you put me in a dungeon and I have to focus on something, that’s when I do best.”

Shipley, who starred at Moon High School and Penn State, was drafted by the Steelers in the seventh round (226th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft. He was a member of the Steelers’ practice squad for just once season, before signing a three-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in January of 2010.

He also had short stints with the Indianapolis Colts (on two separate occasions) and Baltimore Ravens, before playing five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He started 51 games at center for Arizona from 2015-2019.

Shipley finished his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won the Super Bowl in the 2020-2021 season. Overall, Shipley played 110 games and made 72 starts in his 12-year career. That’s certainly not bad for a seventh-round draft pick.

Shipley isn’t the only local product to express concerns about playing in the NFL close to home.

Former Ohio State standout quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who played high school football just outside of Pittsburgh at Jeannette, had similar statements as Shipley during a 2016 interview with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

Proy made it clear that he didn’t want to play for the hometown Steelers in 2011 because of the pressure and distractions.

“Coming out of the supplemental draft, we talked about them possibly drafting me,” Pryor said in 2016, via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. “I just told them, it’s pretty close to home and I play quarterback, I didn’t feel comfortable playing there at quarterback because of all the people I know and people know me. It can get messy. The focus can’t be there. I kind of told them, as much as I wanted to play there, because obviously it’s a great organization, at the same time it probably wouldn’t have worked out because there would have been a lot of focus issues, probably.”

According to Pryor at the time, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he would take Pryor, but with a caveat.

“Mike said, ‘Hey, I’ll draft you if you want to play here,'” Pryor said at the time, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But he gave me a story when he was in Tampa Bay about a quarterback who was in the same hometown as his NFL team and it was hard for him.”

“I don’t know what the guys up top were thinking, but Coach Tomlin gave me an opportunity if I wanted to. I ended up saying no because, at a young age, I didn’t want to be near home and having distractions around me.”

Later in his career, Pryor wanted to sign with the Steelers after moving to wide receiver, but the homecoming never came to fruition.