On the Steelers: Rookie Jordan Zumwalt training on inside, outside


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One position where the Steelers are thin on talent and which they ignored in the draft is outside linebacker.

Or did they?

They drafted two who played some there in college, but announced both would play inside linebacker, Ryan Shazier and Jordan Zumwalt.

Yet in his first two days at rookie camp, Zumwalt found himself at outside linebacker, where there would seem to be more opportunities for him than on the inside.

"I'll go wherever they want me to go," said Zumwalt, a sixth-round draft choice who started 30 games at UCLA, some in both positions.

His coach, presumably Keith Butler, told him to initially line up on the outside for rookie camp.

"I said OK," Zumwalt said.

"He said get ready because we're probably going to move you inside the rest of the week. I said OK. He said make sure you're paying attention to the inside stuff, too, because you're definitely going to be playing there."

He said OK.

Zumwalt's playbook may be heavier than other rookies, even if it comes on an iPad. There is outside linebacker, inside linebacker and, of course, special teams to learn.

He lit it up everywhere for UCLA, which has been seen most graphically by his hit on Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas via YouTube in the Sun Bowl. It has had more than 30,000 views.

"For about a month, that was a topic of every conversation," Zumwalt said. "Hopefully, I'll get lucky enough to get one out here and be a Pittsburgh favorite."

At least this time, the Steelers drafted a linebacker and not a punter whose big hit is a big hit on YouTube.

As the 192nd player drafted, Zumwalt does not have a lock on making the team. But his versatility and big-play ability could carry the day for him.

"We love that versatility," general manager Kevin Colbert said.

"Learning all the different spots is difficult, but I'm grateful for it, 100 percent," Zumwalt said. "I really plan on being a big special teams guy here if coach gives me the opportunity. I'd love to be on every special teams if I got the chance."

Zumwalt played in a 3-4 defense at UCLA coached by Lou Spanos, a former defensive assistant with the Steelers who has since taken a job with the Tennessee Titans.

"The transition for him will probably be a little bit easier," Butler said. "They did a lot of similar things that we do."

His next obstacle will be missing most of spring practices because NFL rules will not permit him to rejoin the Steelers after today until UCLA's finals the second week of June. He will next be available for the June 17-19 minicamp, which ends the Steelers' spring practices.

Multiple roles

Dri Archer, who is 5 feet 8 and 173 pounds, did not return punts in 2013 at Kent State, but the Steelers are working with him to see if he can do that. They would like him to return punts and kickoffs as well as being the X-factor for them on offense.

"I am comfortable at both," Archer said. "I've been working on both."

He said he did not return punts in 2013 because of an ankle injury but is not worried about getting beat up in the NFL because of his size.

"Everyone tells me I am too small, I can't take hits, I can't do this and I can't do that. I am just out here to play football. And I know what I can do."

Big and mobile

Nose tackle Daniel McCullers is trying to show his new team that his 6-7, 352-pound frame is not only big, but mobile.

He's trying to "show that I can run to the ball, that I do have speed and that I will use it."

"Run to the ball, that's what they've wanted me to do from the moment they brought me here. Be that guy in the middle and be physical and run to the ball. And that's what I'm going to do."

Quick hits

* Besides Zumwalt, cornerback Shaquille Richardson also will miss the brunt of spring practices because of Arizona's class schedule.

* Wide receiver Martavis Bryant missed practice Saturday because "he fell [Friday] catching a ball on the sideline," according to coach Mike Tomlin. "We'll take it practice by practice."

* Former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who Tomlin hired as an assistant coach in February, was scheduled to earn his degree Saturday night from Colorado State University. Porter returned to classes at his school in 2013 and helped coach the football team.

"It speaks volumes about Joey's commitment that he finished what he started and earned his degree," said Colorado State coach Jim McElwain. "That was the goal when he came back last summer to work with our team and gain experience as a coach, to work toward completing his degree. He poured a lot into our team last season, and we're excited he has built on that experience now as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's even more rewarding to see Joey now as a graduate of Colorado State University."

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.


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