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Exclusive with Steelers Safety P.J. Locke



Our Ron Lippock spoke with Steelers defensive back P.J. Locke III, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Steelers out of the University of Texas.

What have you been doing now as you prepare for camp?

Right now, I’m pretty much just working out every day – nothing too physical though. I’m laying off the weights and focusing on endurance and footwork – keeping that intact so I can set myself apart from everyone else by being in great shape.

You signed with Pittsburgh a bit later in the undrafted free agency process – why Pittsburgh and why a bit later?

I feel like it’s a great fit. The Steelers are known for their defense, specifically. The chance to play for the Steelers was an easy choice – you can’t do better than Pittsburgh!

Their interest was really out of nowhere, to be honest with you. I had no idea they were interested. I had some interaction with them at my pro day. William Gay was there and he asked me if I was ready to be a Steeler. We had a funny conversation and he told me about his own experiences. He said they’d be in touch, but I didn’t hear from that after that. Even a couple of days before the draft when teams were contacting me to verify they had my right contact information, I didn’t hear from the Steelers.

Unfortunately, the draft didn’t go the way I wanted it to – and the way many guys wanted it to. A lot of guys dropped and I fell to free agency. I got some offers and was negotiating with some teams – it took a couple of days for those. Then out of nowhere the Steelers showed up on early Monday. It was a great opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up. They came in and stole the show!

Tell me a bit about dropping in the draft. Do you think being so versatile can hamper your draftability – it becomes a double-edged sword?

I think it can be yes. I look at my versatility optimistically – I’m an optimistic person. I feel like I’m a guy who can do three things – cover, play in the box, and play in the middle – in the post. I’m one guy who can do all three, as opposed to guys who can only play one position. I’m three guys in one – I can save teams a helluva lot of money! That’s just how I look at it – I can hit like a linebacker and cover like a cornerback.

Did the team talk to you about that versatility and the role they’d like you to play on the defense?

When I talked to them they said they wanted to use that versatility. To be that hybrid guy. They didn’t talk about whether I’d play corner or safety. I have no idea where they’ll put me. But I know I’ll have to make it on special teams – I’ll need to do my thing there first. I just need to do well there and learn the defense and do whatever they ask me to do there.

What do you think is your best trait you bring to this team – any preferences you have positionally?

My physicality!  Like I said,  I’m a safety who hits like a linebacker!

Each position has it’s pros and cons. Playing in the nickel, you’re always in the mix. That’s good, but the con is everything happens so fast – in the snap of a finger. I learned to think quickly like that. I got used to that. Then I was moved to safety at Texas and it all slowed down. At safety you can see everything develop. And at cornerback you have the sideline to help you defend guys. So each position has it’s pros and cons. Wherever they putt me, I’ll work my butt off!

What roles did Texas have you play that helps you in what the Steelers will ask you to do?

I played the hybrid position last year at Texas. I was more of a linebacker in their system. When I was a freshman and sophomore I was more of a cover guy – playing man in the nickel. Then as a junior and senior I played more of the linebacker role. setting the edges and blitzing, dropping into zones. Less man coverage. I was the only one there suited at the time to play that hybrid type role.

The Steelers are desperately looking for help creating turnovers in the secondary – how do you help in this area?

I’m a film geek. I watch film all day long and break down film. I love doing that. When you break down an offense on film then see the same play by the offense on the field – it’s like a spoiler.  It’s crazy to see it. I love that feeling. It enables you to anticipate and not hesitate. When you understand the offense, you’re able then to jump routes and create turnovers.

Communication is a big deal at the safety position for Mike Tomlin. Tell me about communication and how you approach this?

It was the same way at Texas. They called it over-communicating. Even in the meeting room, we’d look at the offensive formations like we were on the field. The safeties, linebackers and cornerbacks were all there together in the same room.

We’d have to yell out instructions like we were on the field – left, left, left, right, right, right! We developed that mentality in the room so that when we were on the field it was just our nature. If we weren’t yelling, there were consequences! It’s just second nature for me to yell and over-communicate. That’s not a problem for me.

Your leadership approach is something many rave about. What makes you a good leader?

I think it’s about making guys accountable. Doing extra workouts after practices, extra film work.

Here’s a story. At Texas, every time after a game we’d watch film. I told the guys to bring paper with them, and every time they heard a coach corrected them on something they needed to write it down.

If their pad levels were low, if they needed to get deeper in the zone. … I told them to write those all down. If that happened again the next week and the coaches said the same thing to them, then they knew then that was something they really needed to focus on more. I told them to do that the whole season.

What was in your notes?

Ha – most of the time it was pad level. I think that’s what made me think of it before!

Lastly, a little bit about you off the field. What makes you tick?

I’m definitely a gym rat. I always stay late in the gym and work out – do some extra time on something. That’s been a continuous thing for me since high school, through college and even when I was working out for the draft in Ft. Worth. They used to have to tell me to stop and kick me out!

I expect the same thing will happen in Pittsburgh – the coaches will have to have someone kick me out of the weight room. They’ll see I’m the most hard-working guy out there.

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