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Exclusive with Steelers LB Tuzar Skipper

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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.

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

NFL

James Conner Surprises Mom with New House

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner warmed hearts last month when he surprised his father with a new truck.

Now, he is taking care of mom.

Conner recently surprised his mother with a brand new house, sharing her emotional reaction to Twitter on Saturday.

Conner was able to pull off the surprise for his mother, Kelly Bibbs, with the help of his brothers. While Bibbs may have not realized what exactly was going on at first, seeing her son James and the golden balloons arranged to say “Welcome Home” quickly gave it away.

Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry shared their thoughts on the big surprise, among other on social media.

Conner’s gesture is a continuation of an offseason of giving that saw him gift his father a brand new truck back on June 6.

Entering his fourth season out of Pitt, Conner is looking for a bounce back season following an injury plagued 2019 campaign. He rushed for 464 yards and four touchdowns, but played in only ten games for the Steelers.

Last season was a far cry from 2018, when Conner was a breakout sensation replacing Le’Veon Bell. He ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning Pro Bowl honors.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the 25-year-old has something to prove in 2020.

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NFL

Bill Cowher Reveals He and His Wife Recovered from COVID-19

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher and his wife Veronica have and recovered from COVID-19, the future Hall of Fame told Ed Bouchette of The Athletic.

While not diagnosed at the time, the couple experienced symptoms back in March following a trip to Hawaii, and tested positive for the virus antibodies in April.

According to Bouchette’s story, Cowher first knew something was wrong when he was unable to smell flowers he had purchased from a florist, and could not taste his wife’s cooking. Cowher also said he experienced shaky joints and a fever, while Veronica had a cough.

Cowher also shared his thoughts on the NFL season going forward, and if he thinks the league will be able to start up without a hitch. He seems skeptical.

“I don’t know,” Cowher said via Pro Football Talk. “No. 1, the players have to feel comfortable with whatever they come up with from a testing standpoint, from a protocol standpoint. I totally understand the reluctance. Even though they say young people aren’t getting it, you also have people who have asthma, people who have underlying conditions in their families — they’re going back to their homes with parents who may now be elderly. It’s not like you can isolate yourself from everybody, particularly during a season that’s five months long. . . . I still think we have a long way to go.”

Cowher added that players needed to be respected with regard to how they choose to handle the virus personally, including if they decided to skip the 2020 season entirely.

“It’s going to come down to the league and the NFLPA feeling comfortable moving forward, and even within that, if they come up with a set of guidelines, and now a player who doesn’t feel comfortable, he may not want to be part of it. It affects people differently not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. . . . I think we have to respect that.”

A Super Bowl champion in 2005, Cowher spent his entire 15-year head coaching career with the Steelers. His 149 wins are top-20 in NFL history.

Cowher has worked as an analyst for The NFL Today on CBS since 2007.

The legendary coach was supposed to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August, but the ceremony and festivities were moved to the summer of 2021 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

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Steelers

Lawrence Timmons Donating $500,000 to High School Alma Mater

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Former Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons is giving back to the next generation of football players at his high school alma mater.

Timmons donated $500,000 to Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina to remodel their stadium. The renovation process is expected to get underway in September.

“All of these upgraded facilities, around the school and athletic complex, give students a renewed pride in their school. I’m glad to play a part in that,” Timmons told Clint Buckley of 247 Sports.

The renovation plan for Tiger Stadium includes a new track, additional seating and an updated, brick entrance to the complex.

“I am very appreciative of Mr. Timmons’ contribution,” said Eric Robinson, Wilson’s principal. “This just goes to show that he remembers where he came from and that he will always be a Tiger. I am excited to see what everything looks like when it is done. Our students and our alumni deserve the best. I think this will motivate them to be even better on the field.”

A 2003 graduate of Wilson, Timmons played linebacker and tight end, posting 150 tackles and two sacks along with 47 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.

Trading Florence for Tallahassee, he earned All-ACC honors behind 79 tackles and 18 tackles-for-loss in his final season with the Florida State Seminoles.

Timmons was selected 15th-overall by the Steelers in the 2007 NFL Draft. He spent ten seasons in Pittsburgh, earning both a Pro Bowl appearance and Second-Team All-Pro during his stellar 2014 season. He won Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.

Timmons recorded 983 tackles, 35.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and 12 interceptions over his Steeler career.

Timmons has been out of the NFL since being released after a single season with the Miami Dolphins in 2018.

Still, it is great to see Timmons staying close to the game by giving back to the place that gave him his football start.

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