Our Ron Lippock spoke with outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, a Toledo alum that signed a contract with the Steelers after joining the team on a tryout basis for rookie minicamp.
First, can you let us know how you got the tryout in Pittsburgh?
To be honest, I don’t know – it all went through my agent. I was at Kansas City’s rookie mini-camp and it was their last practice when I got calls on my phone. My agent said “Guess what? You’ve been invited to the Steelers’ rookie mini-camp!’” That was on Tuesday. I asked him when it was and he told me Thursday, so it was a quick turnaround.
Kevin Colbert also called me to confirm after that.
What do you think caught their attention enough for them to sign you?
I’m not sure. I guess they liked what I had to offer. Of course, Ola Adeniyi is like my brother. He told me to just be myself. I stayed with him – soaked up all the knowledge he had. He has established himself in Pittsburgh – they all like him – the coaches and trainers – everyone! So I’m learning from the best!
What’s the next step now for you now that you’ve been signed?
Next is just trying to make the 53. I need to learn the playbook and how to drop in coverage. I was a defensive lineman in college – I didn’t drop back. So now I have to show the coaches that I can be versatile. I need to work with the veterans to do so – and in my off time with Ola.
How specifically do you work on that part of your new position as an outside linebacker?
Dropping back is definitely different for me. It’s my first time having to cover running backs, tight ends – even slot receivers sometimes. I just have to get comfortable playing in the open field. I know I can handle the pass rushing part of the position – I excelled at that in college.
How hard was it coming from one camp directly to another – and what were the differences between the two?
The biggest difference was the culture of the two teams, ultimately. Pittsburgh has a history of winning. It’s just different than Kansas City. And Pittsburgh is much more physical – that was a big difference too.
Have you peeked at the roster at all to see where your opportunities may be?
I haven’t had a look yet no. I’m just taking it one day at a time and adjusting to it all.
I’ll get to know more about the organization soon and prove my worth. I want to stay with this team.
How about special teams? That’ll be a big part of making this team. What’s your experience there?
I covered kickoffs in college. I know I’ll need to expand that more, to have a role on all phases of special teams – punts, punt returns … just need to show them I can handle all of those different roles.
Tell me a bit about you off the field – what should we know about you?
I’m the biggest people-person. Most people are often scared to go out and just meet and talk to people. I’m never scared to talk to people. I have no problem being social – I’m a funny guy.
Well you’ll be able to use that when you have to do rookie skits! You got one ready?
Oh absolutely! I’m going to keep it under wraps though!
What else makes you tick?
I like to play games too – I’m a gamer as well. I like 2K basketball, Call of Duty. I’m not like some highly ranked guy or gamer like JuJu – I just do it for fun. I’m a little dangerous but not so much to brag about!
Tell us a bit about the origin of your name?
I’m not sure, to be honest. My mom and dad are both deceased. Both passed away when I was young. After my mom had me she kind of passed out and passed away after. My dad named me but he passed away when I was young too.
Lastly, how crazy is it to be on the same team with your close friend, Ola Adeniyi? Two Toledo linebackers together – what is it about Toledo linebackers?
Yeah – it is crazy! We dreamt about this day in college. It’s crazy to be on the same team. Coming from college most guys don’t even get an opportunity to play in the NFL at all – both of us being on the same team is crazy.
Toledo – it’s a good school. We’re not scared to work harder than anyone else. You’ve got to put in the work. Everyone’s talented at the college level – and now especially in the NFL. The coaches at Toledo drilled that into us – that you have to work harder than anyone else to be successful.
Steelers Promote QB Coach Matt Canada to Offensive Coordinator
The Pittsburgh Steelers have officially promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, the organization announced Monday.
We have promoted Matt Canada to offensive coordinator.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 25, 2021
After the Steelers chose not to renew the contract of previous offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, multiple outlets reported on Jan. 16 that the team was planning to hire from within and promote Canada.
The club reportedly also interviewed former Cleveland Browns head coach Hugh Jackson and Los Angeles Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, which proved to be mere formalities.
Canada, 48, was also reportedly a candidate for the offensive coordinator opening with the Miami Dolphins, which was filled last week.
Prior to arriving in Pittsburgh ahead of last season, Canada was most recently the offensive coordinator and interim head coach at Maryland in 2018.
He has also made stops as an offensive coordinator at LSU, Pitt, NC State, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Indiana and Butler.
Canada is most known for his success at Pitt in 2016, where he orchestrated the nation’s tenth-ranked scoring offense averaging 42 points per game. He was recognized as a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant, that season.
Steelers Hire Alfredo Roberts as Tight Ends Coach
The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Alfredo Roberts as their next tight ends coach, the team announced Monday.
A 22-year coaching veteran, Roberts most recently spent the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, serving as their tight ends coach this past season and the running back coach the three prior. He has also made previous stops in Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Jacksonville over his career.
Roberts has coached a number of standout tight ends throughout his career, including Mercedes Lewis as a rookie with the Jaguars, and Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener with the Colts.
Roberts fills the vacancy left by previous tight ends coach James Daniel, who announced his retirement on Jan. 14.
The Steelers tight end room will look different in 2021, as veteran Vance McDonald announced his own retirement from football over the weekend. Pittsburgh is expected to return Eric Ebron, who caught 63 passes for 620 yards and six touchdowns this past season, including playoffs.
A native of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Roberts played his collegiate ball at the University of Miami, before being selected in the eight round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He won a pair of National Championships with the Hurricanes, and two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.
Roberts caught 50 passes for 476 and two touchdowns over 82 career games.
Steelers Connections Abound in Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl
While the Pittsburgh Steelers saw their Super Bowl LV hopes dashed two weeks ago, fans will recognize plenty of familiar faces when the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet on Feb. 7.
Six players with Steelers ties are expected to take the field in either red or pewter on Super Bowl Sunday, with the two most notable examples being Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and Kansas City running back Le’Veon Bell.
Both missed their respective championship games due to injury, but could return to health in time for the Super Bowl with two weeks to recover.
In addition, the Chiefs also boast guard Stefen Wisniewski and punter Dustin Colquitt, who both spent time in Pittsburgh earlier this season.
Wisniewski is in line to make his second-straight Super Bowl start in response to injuries along the Chiefs’ offensive line suffered Sunday, while Colquitt is on Kansas City’s practice squad.
Former Steelers defensive back Ross Cockrell and nose tackle Steve McLendon will take the field for the Buccaneers defensively.
But Tampa Bay’s Pittsburgh connections do not stop on the field, as the Buccaneers will also have six coaches with Steeler ties on the sideline for the big game, including head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians, who is in his second season in Tampa, spent eight years in Pittsburgh, serving as wide receivers coach (2004-06) before being elevated to offensive coordinator (2007-11).
Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich played under Arians in Pittsburgh, and had three separate stints with the Steelers as a backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger.
Tampa Bay also boasts assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin, outside linebackers coach Larry Foote, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El and assistant coach Tom Moore.
Even with the Steelers at home watching along with the rest of the country, Pittsburgh should have no shortage of rooting interests when the Chiefs meet the Buccaneers in Tampa in two weeks time.