By Matthew Marczi
It has been a theme for many years that, aside from the occasional special teams contributions, rookies on the Pittsburgh Steelers, including even first-round draft picks, rarely contribute during their first season. That has been especially true over the years on defense, though less so on offense.
That pattern changed somewhat in 2013 due to a variety of circumstances, both foreseen and unforeseen, as many rookies—even undrafted players—got a good chunk of playing time on both sides of the ball. Therefore, there’s more to go on than usual when speaking about how their rookie seasons went.
Player: Nik Embernate
Draft Status: Undrafted
It may seem unusual to discuss an undrafted free agent that landed on injured reserve before even taking a snap with the team in a preseason game during a review of the previous year’s draft class.
In fact, it probably is.
It seems that many want to make a bit of a special case for Nik Embernate, an offensive guard who was just one among many linemen that the Steelers brought in after the draft as rookie free agents.
True, he was one of the more highly regarded linemen that went undrafted last year, and true, he received very positive reports throughout the offseason process up until the point that he tore his ACL.
The fact remains, however, that he’s a player that most know nothing about, because they simply haven’t seen him. Nobody, in fact, has seen him in a professional stadium. And offseason reports can be less than representative of what a player will ultimately bring to the table.
For Embernate’s case, it was noted that he was promoted to the second-team offensive line not long before suffering his knee injury during a one-on-one blocking drill. The reports suggested that he was on a solid upward trajectory.
That trajectory was derailed before any of us were ever able to find out what he was able to do against defensive linemen from another team—perhaps against some higher competition, and in more realistic ‘game-time’ circumstances.
Still, many are hopeful about Embernate, not only for his rehabilitation and recovery, but also potentially for what he may be able to offer on the field. He will resume his NFL campaign this offseason—if and when he’s ready, of course—with a mind toward making the roster.
The Steelers have had success, of course, with undrafted linemen, particularly at the guard position. Doug Legursky was a quality backup for several seasons, and starting left guard Ramon Foster has proven that quality can be found after the draft.
Of course, there is one obstacle in particular facing Embernate, outside of his injury recovery, and that is his position inflexibility. The Steelers are one of many teams that prefer to dress seven, rather than eight linemen, which generally means that the interior reserve has to be a good center. So even if Embernate is able to make the roster, which in itself is a long way away, it will be another battle entirely to actually dress for a game. As for right now, he’s just another hopeful body.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – LB Jarvis Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – RB Le'Veon Bell
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Markus Wheaton
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – S Shamarko Thomas
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – QB Landry Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – CB Terry Hawthorne
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Justin Brown
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – ILB Vince Williams
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – DE Nick Williams
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – ILB Terence Garvin – Undrafted
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – DE Brian Arnfelt – Undrafted
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – G Chris Hubbard – Undrafted