PITTSBURGH — The Steelers linebackers and defensive linemen, under the watchful eyes of coaches Karl Dunbar and Jerry Olsavasky, spent Thursday morning working on the footwork and their hands.
But the position group was missing one of its usual members, as rookie sixth-round pick Sutton Smith from Northern Illinois as nowhere to be found.
Well, he was somewhere to be found — on the offensive practice field, working out with the running backs. The Steelers plan to use Smith at both linebacker and fullback. The Steelers have a fullback on the roster in veteran Roosevelt Nix, but if Smith’s versatility might be an inside track for a roster spot in a crowded linebackers room.
Ola Adeniyi, Anthony Chickillo and Tyler Matakevich seemingly have linebacker spots locked down, as will the loser of the battle between Mark Barron and Devin Bush. There isn’t a lot of room in there for a lower-round pick to make a mark, but Smith is hopeful that if he can be a contributor on offense, defense and special teams, he can find a way onto the 53-man roster.
“Whatever works, man,” Smith said. “I’ll do whatever they need, for real. I keep saying that, but it’s the God’s honest truth right now. … It’s a great opportunity for me.”
The triple-threat of being a contributor on offense, defense and special teams might make Smith a valuable player, but it also will make his learning curve and the transition to pro football an even steeper one.
“There’s obviously a learning curve, because I’m learning two positions, so there’s going to be time spent on both positions,” Smith said. “But I think I’m picking it up pretty well. So far, we’re just taking little steps at fullback right now. Hopefully I can help keep taking bigger steps in the future.”