Anything to cull from Steelers’ rookie minicamp?


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Dravon Askew-Henry makes a one-handed interception during rookie camp. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Just like that, it was over.

There's a lot of hoopla that surrounds the Steelers' rookie minicamp. The players are obviously excited. And given the fact the Penguins are out of the playoffs and the Pirates were out of town, there was more media at the Rooney Complex than usual for the event.

In reality, however, it's just the beginning of the process for a choice few and the end of the road for most others when it comes to their NFL careers.

Of the 60 players who were in attendance this weekend, a little more than half will still be around when the Steelers begin the next phase of their offseason program May 21.

Of those, most will make it to training camp when it begins in late July. But the majority of those won't be around a month after that when the team starts trimming its roster. And by the time the Steelers get down to 53 players, there will likely only be 10 or so players who were in attendance at rookie minicamp who will still be with the team.

So, what was to be gained from this process? For the coaching staff, it was an opportunity to get a look at a new draft class and throw a bunch of other players against the wall to see who sticks.

The key for the coaches was seeing who stood out. Who are the quick learners? Who doesn't need to be told how to do something multiple times?

The rookies received their playbooks as a group Friday morning. By midday, they were taking some of those concepts onto the football field.

For the nine players who were part of the Steelers' draft class, it was step one in the offseason. For the undrafted players or 19 who were here on a tryout basis, it was a chance to do something that would catch the eyes of the coaching staff.

That's why an interception Saturday by former West Virginia star Dravon Askew-Henry was a big deal.

“(I was) just reading the quarterback’s eyes and I saw he threw it kind of high,” Askew-Henry said. “I knew I had to come down with it, so I did."

A 6-foot, 202-pound safety, Askew-Henry was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent. An Aliquippa native, Askew-Henry was exactly where he wanted to be on this weekend.

“If I was undrafted, I already knew where I wanted to go," Askew-Henry said. "This is my home. I grew up a Steelers fan. I have family that stayed here in Pittsburgh. I feel like I’m at home.”

For now, at least.


It's hard to turn heads in a positive way in this kind of situation. But an interception helps. So does lining up correctly and taking what you just went over in the classroom to the playing field.

Nobody expects perfection in these kind of practices, even the coaching staff.

"There are very little surprises in weekends like this," Mike Tomlin said after practice Saturday.

And he's right. In most cases, the coaching staff is looking for draft picks to justify why they were picked where they were. But seldom do players come into this kind of practice setting and dominate, even if they're a first-round draft pick.

There's just too much being thrown at them.

What the team does want to accomplish is getting through this without any major injuries. And that seemed to happen.

Other than a minor issue with receiver Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick, the Steelers made it through unscathed. And Johnson should be back sooner rather than later.

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