Steelers notebook: New linemen example of NFL’s unglamorous side



Eric Olsen and David Snow are the newest Steelers, signed to the 53-man roster within the past week to provide depth along a depleted offensive line. Neither had been on an NFL roster this season, and they were among the hundreds of forgotten players released by other teams in training camp.

“Everyone looks and sees Ben Roethlisberger or Drew Brees and they think it’s all sunshine being in the NFL,” said Olsen, who played in every game and made four starts for the Saints last season. “They don’t see the other side of it. There is a whole subculture of guys who are trying to get on rosters and stay there.”

Olsen, a sixth-round draft choice of the Denver Broncos in 2010, sprained his foot in training camp with the Saints. He was placed on injured reserve, but later came to terms on an injury settlement that kept money coming in until the seventh week of the season.

After his foot healed, Olsen began to work out with a personal trainer in New Orleans in hopes of getting back in the NFL.

“I just tried to stay in shape knowing that injuries can happen anywhere in the league,” said Olsen, 25, who played at Notre Dame. “I tried to be ready. Mentally, as the weeks started going by, it was getting tough, going from playing a lot last year to sitting at home and watching on TV. I tried to stay patient and stay positive and keep working and hope for the best.

“I worked out for a couple of teams. I knew I was at least on the radar, which was good to know. But those couple months felt like eternity for me.

“I’m sitting at home watching ‘NFL Red Zone,’ which was great, but I’d much rather be working.”

Olsen got his opportunity when Fernando Velasco was injured last Thursday against the Ravens. Olsen can play guard and center and could dress as a backup Sunday against the Dolphins depending on the injuries to some of the team’s starting linemen.

Olsen was training in New Orleans but hadn’t been home to New York for Thanksgiving in eight years, so he decided to visit family over the holiday weekend. He received a call Friday morning to get on a plane to Pittsburgh.

“I only had stuff for the weekend,” Olsen said. “It’s been pretty hectic, but I’m happy to be here.”

The same can be said for Snow, another interior lineman who started two games at center for the Buffalo Bills last season but was cut in training camp.

Snow made the Bills as an undrafted rookie free agent out of the University of Texas last year, but new coach Doug Marrone opted to keep some veteran linemen ahead of Snow.

“They told me at the end of camp that I did everything they asked me to do, but the numbers didn’t work for me,” Snow said. “Sometimes you get caught up in that in the NFL. That’s just the ugly side of things. It wasn’t the end. It was just another challenge. I could have given up after not getting drafted, but that’s not in me. That’s not who I am. I was going to keep on fighting either way.”

Snow had been working out with former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell and waiting for his next opportunity. Training filled Snow’s days, but there was plenty of down time at night to wonder about his future.

“You start wondering and stuff, but at the end of the day you have to prepare and hope something happens,” he said. “You kind of get a chip on your shoulder. It was another challenge to be met. You go out and face it like anything else.”

Officials downgraded

The league acknowledged Wednesday that officials made a mistake in not calling a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for stepping onto the field against the Ravens, but did not divulge the punishment the officials will receive for missing the call.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said officials are graded on every play of every game, but declined to detail specific actions taken against officials who miss calls.

Injury update

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee) and nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) did not practice Thursday. Right guard David DeCastro (foot) was a limited participant and tackle Mike Adams (ankle), running back Le’Veon Bell (concussion) and linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) were full participants.


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.

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