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‘Surreal For Me’: Underdog Steelers Special Teams Ace Overcomes Adversity to Make Pro Bowl



Steelers SS Miles Killebrew
Steelers safety Miles Killebrew against the New England Patriots, Dec. 7, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers saw three players get selected for the Pro Bowl Games on Thursday. Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt have been there and done that. It’s not a surprise. But Miles Killebrew, who earned the special teams nomination, will go his first Pro Bowl as an NFL player. For a player out of Southern Utah with few options out of high school, that means a lot more than just hearing it. It’s a culmination of a journey.

Killebrew is a soft-spoken, humble man. He’s not a rowdy leader, though; he leads by example and emotion out on the football field. He’s among the most down-to-earth players I’ve ever covered. So, it’s no surprise that he was rooted in complete graciousness on Thursday.

The entire scene for Killebrew was stunning. General manager Omar Khan came in to congratulate the Pro Bowlers. He started at Minkah Fitzpatrick’s locker on the other side of the door frame. Then, he walked across to the right corner where T.J. Watt sat and let him know he would go a fifth-straight Pro Bowl. Killebrew’s locker sits just two over to the right from where Watt is in the team’s facility. But Killebrew never expected Khan to come to him and congratulate him for making the Pro Bowl.

Mike Tomlin Steelers

Steelers safety Miles Killebrew and head coach Mike Tomlin against the Ravens, Oct. 8, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“He congratulated T.J. and then he turned and congratulated me and I was like ‘for what’?” Killebrew said. “He said congratulations, you made the Pro Bowl….I was just overwhelmed with gratefulness, excitement, still a little surreal for me.”

Killebrew is not a guy out of Georgia his first success. He was drafted in 2016 by the Lions, and only now is earning this honor. Earlier this season, he stood tall after a tough game against the Cardinals where he was penalized three times. That led to death threats being sent his way. But Killebrew since has been on a tear, including notching another blocked punt the game after those threats were sent to him.

He’s the guy who upholds the standard on special teams. And it’s not a surprise that he would get the honor considering how much of a weapon he has become to the Steelers on those units. Special teams is what drives Killebrew. It’s not the interceptions, it’s that blocked punt that is the pinnacle of football to him.

“I wouldn’t have made it to college without special teams,” Killebrew said. “My coach told me he never seen someone put kickoff for their first 10 plays on their highlight film. He was like ‘we got to have you here’. I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in. It’s something I’ve always known I could be good at.”

Killebrew, the Steelers’ special teams captain, has four punt blocks since joining the Steelers in 2021. He’s the commander of their group. And now, he gets a little taste for a reward by heading ot Orlando for the Pro Bowl. He’s overwhelmed with emotion, but the journey has come full circle for Killebrew to make it to this point in his football career.