Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler thinks that second-year former undrafted free agent Terence Garvin has a future as a starter in this league.
The veteran position coach seemed effusive in his praise of the player who was forced to earn a roster spot on a tryout basis during rookie minicamp last year when all 32 teams failed to sign him following the draft.
Then again, former WVU players have a history of making it onto this roster the hard way, as Garvin’s former teammate, fullback Will Johnson, knows firsthand.
Having entered the draft during the lockout season, the third-year player went undrafted, and during the lockout, teams were not allowed to sign free agents, including undrafted free agents.
Johnson failed to catch on with any team later that year when the lockout ended, and it took his old university allowing him to attend their pro day the next year in order for him to get a chance, when the Steelers saw his workout and decided to bring him in.
Garvin, too, has learned how difficult it can be to make your way in this league. He knows how crucial special teams is to his position, which is why he put so much into his craft last year and became one of the team’s best performers in the third phase of the game.
But if Butler is to believed, the day will come when he won’t have to be the one chasing down kick returners, even if it seems hard to imagine on the Steelers, given the depth that Garvin is currently staring up at.
Lawrence Timmons is entering his eighth season, but doesn’t appear to be slowing down any. Ryan Shazier looks to be the first defensive rookie to start in over a decade, while last year’s starter, Vince Williams, returns, as does Sean Spence.
For now, Butler says that he sees Garvin as his new Stevenson Sylvester, which he’s always seemed to have an affinity for, which partially explains his frequent criticisms over the years.
Garvin began to take over that role last season, and looks to complete the transfer this year.
Though he’s not the biggest linebacker (he prefers the nickname ‘Big Safety’ to ‘Little Linebacker’, he told Wexell), Garvin is capable of playing both inside and outside at linebacker, which he did last season.
As the season wore on, he began to see a snap here and there, which culminated in the penultimate game that saw him injure his knee and caused him to miss the season finale.
Nothing is given, however, and as with every year, there is new competition. Aside from Shazier, the Steelers also drafted Jordan Zumwalt, who would seem to have a very similar description on paper: a versatile inside-outside linebacker with a special teams demeanor. He also has the advantage of having played in a similar system in college.
With the accolades of Butler fresh in mind, it’s hard to imagine Garvin not making the roster this season, but stranger things have happened.