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Exclusive with Steelers CB Herb Waters

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Ron Lippock spoke with cornerback Herb Waters about signing with the Steelers and how playing wide receiver has helped him as a corner. 

First,  can you let us know why you decided to sign with Pittsburgh last season – what brought that on?

When I got cut from Green Bay I had a lot of tryouts afterwards for different teams – about seven or eight of them. But they all said the same thing – that it was a good workout but they wanted to stick with the guys they had.

I was getting very frustrated, My lease was up in Green Bay and I was just about to move to New Orleans with my brother when Pittsburgh called. They said I didn’t need to do a tryout – I just needed to pass my physical. I knew that wouldn’t be a problem since I passed every physical when I tried out for those other teams. I passed the physical and I was practicing with the team the next day.

Any idea why the Steelers were so interested in bringing you in?

Well when I was in Green Bay we played the Steelers, and I had a pretty good game against them. I had a couple of tackles and pass breakups. I guess word got out I was available and they wanted to see what I had to offer.

You actually changed positions in Green Bay – from wide receiver to cornerback. How did that happen and what were your thoughts about they doing so with you?

When I first got to Green Bay I was a receiver – I was a wide receiver at Miami. The defensive backs coach though said he wanted to see me at defensive back, He asked if I new how to play defensive back and I told him I played both ways in high school. He told me that if he worked with me he cold make me one of the top cornerbacks on the team – that I reminded him of Sam Shields. Well, a week later Sam got hurt. A scout told me they were going to move me to defensive back after that and they’d see how it goes and give me an opportunity to stay there if it went well.

I got in one game that year – the playoff game versus the Giants. That was my first real game. I only played on special teams though – I didn’t get a chance to play on defense.

Why do you think they wanted to move you to defensive back?

I think he was coaching defensive backs for so long and knew the skillsets guys needed to succeed. I had the height, length, speed…. He knew what it takes and saw that in me. I trusted him. It was all new to me, playing defensive back at the NFL level. I didn’t play defense since high school. I never questioned him – I just got to it.

How does your experience playing wide receiver help you as a defensive back now?

It helps tremendously – knowing the routes and the splits – what guys can and can’t run. For example, what guys do at the top of their routes. If they are looking for an inside release they may look out to break in, to confuse the defensive back. I used that technique myself as a receiver. I know how they’ll do a little push off and that I’d need to tug them a little bit to stay with them. Guys wold ask me how I knew what route they were running. As a former wide receiver I just knew what they were going to do. I’d been there, done that.

And I think defensive backs and receivers are really just about the same thing, except defensive backs have to backpeddle well and wide receivers are moving forward.

The Steelers are starving for more big play guys – guys who can create turnovers. How does your receiver experience help there?

Well I know how to catch the ball and know how to go up and get it – to fight for it and win it I can bring that to the defensive side. I can be that splash play guy – the turn-up guy for the defense guys can get excited about.

When you got to Pittsburgh, did any of the guys help you – on and off the field? Did you know any of the guys?

I know most of the guys – Artie and I played together at Miami. I knew Joe Haden was one of the best defensive backs in the league. Playing with him last year paid dividends for me. It was great building a relationship with him last year.

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I felt like all the guys helped me from day one. It felt like home that first day in the meeting room. All the guys answered any questions I had – with open arms.

Artie was there for me. He told me that if I  needed help to let him know – he was there for me. I followed his lead until I felt comfortable with the place.

How much does that help mean to you, and how hard is it seeing guys who mentor you later not make the team?

Well, I think good things happen to good people. Guys helping each other out is the nature of the business. When you see guys get let go it sucks, but giving guidance to one another is part of being on a team. It’s bittersweet when guys get cut and you don’t, but it’s nothing that you can control.

What was your role on the practice squad- what matchups did you enjoy?

I was running the defense of opposing teams mostly. Sometimes I would play wide receiver as well. We’d look off the cards to play the defense or run the routes we needed to practice against. I was happy to help out the team in any way I could. I’d play special teams too – and I go hard every play. That way it’s easier for the team on game days and they know what to expect during games.

AB was great to go against. Knowing what he brought made me the best player I cold be. JuJu ran hard every play too. And Eli Rogers, when he came back, he showed me something different – a different type of showing. His route-running and releases were  different than the other guys. It was new to me and we had some great competition. Those were the top three guys right there.

Any fun stories of your time there you can tell us about?

When we played Jacksonville, I remember Sean Davis dropped an interception. It was an easy interception but he made it so hard. We all laughed about it later. We’d talk about it in terms of value. We told him that interception cost him a million dollars right there! One million down the drain, we told him!

So, looking at this upcoming season, what do you have to do to make the 53? Did the coaches talk to you about that?

What I have to do is to learn the playbook and get faster and stronger – go to camp and compete. It’s a big room, and I’m sure they’ll draft more defensive backs too. I just have to compete and play my balls off.

And special teams will play a major role. My first goal is to get  role on special teams. Just knowing that most of the guys are set already, special teams is the way to get on the roster.

Where do you see yourself once the season starts?

Honestly, I see myself starting. It’s a competitive room but I have to expect that for myself. I have to go and put in the work and do the little things and pray about it all. Let the Good Lord lead me to where he wants me to be.

Lastly – what should we know about you that’s not football-related?

I like country music! I’m into a lot of different stuff. I’m a big nature guy – but I don’t ike lizards!

Ron Lippock is the author of Steelers Takeaways and has interviewed over 650 past and present Steelers players, coaches and personnel. You can purchase his book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Steelers-Takeaways-Memories-Through-Decades/dp/1681570076

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