Steelers love their rookies

There were two local connections at the Pittsburgh Steelers mini rookie camp, which was held this past weekend at the team’s practice facility on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

Former Youngstown Cardinal Mooney High School linebacker Courtney Love and former Youngstown State wide receiver Damoun Patterson were among the 57 players who took part in the three-day event. All seven of the team’s selections in the recent college draft, 29 free agents and 20 players brought in on a tryout basis took part in the drills and meetings under the direction of the team’s coaches and scouts.

Henderson and Love were both part of the tryout group.

Teams generally sign a small number of players who are brought in for a tryout to contracts, inviting them to Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and then hopefully to training camp. It’s a long journey to make the 53-man active roster or the practice squad, but these two are on the way.

Love initially played at the University of Nebraska for Cardinal Mooney grad Bo Pelini. He transferred to the University of Kentucky when Pelini was fired at Nebraska. At Kentucky, Love played for another Cardinal Mooney alum Mark Stoops.

“We have to keep it in the family,” said Love with a laugh at the end of Saturday’s morning workout. “They are both great coaches and great father figures. Outside of my own father, they are the ones who taught me how to be a man. They’re a big part of me growing up and getting here.”

A Kentucky team captain in 2017, Love was second on the Wildcat team with 92 tackles. He was the national winner of the Danny Wuerffel Trophy, which signifies the top community service person among college football players.

The former two-time All-Ohio Division III first-team selection was grateful for the chance to try out for the Steelers.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me and my family,” said Love. “I just want to give it a shot. Quite frankly, I grew up watching the Steelers and I’m excited to be here. I am ready to keep on learning and getting better every day.”

Patterson, who is from Apopka, Florida, transferred to Youngstown State after starting his college career at Utah State, followed by a year at Highland Community College. Patterson led the Penguins with 555 receiving yards on 32 catches in 2017. Patterson’s head coach at YSU was Pelini.

Patterson displayed good hands and ran crisp routes, teaming with third-round pick Mason Rudolph on intermediate routes.

Apparently the former Penguin wide receiver impressed the Steelers, as Patterson signed a free agent contract with the team at the conclusion of the rookie mini camp.

Tomlin’s take

“We are giving them a lot of instruction. We are evaluating how they learn and how their bodies work,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin as Saturday’s morning workout concluded. “A big part of that is getting to also learn about the tryout guys. I like the ways the guys are acclimating themselves Some draft picks and noteworthy guys are showing their pedigrees.”

Continuing to talk about the rookie hopefuls, Tomlin said, “Your career has to start somewhere. This weekend is an important step in the process.”

Next up

Organized Team Activities begin for the Steelers on Tuesday, May 22. They will hold 10 workouts over the course of three weeks, concluding on June 7. A three-day mini camp for the entire team is slated for the following week.