PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers are paying Steven Nelson to make performs on the ball on Sundays, however he is displaying closing pace in five-star lobbies in late March.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was making ready for an additional spherical of NFL house owners conferences when Nelson, who trains in Phoenix within the offseason, proposed breakfast together with his new coach on the Arizona Biltmore. Over fruit and omelets, Nelson needed Tomlin to know precisely what he was getting together with his newest funding.
“I needed to introduce myself formally, look a person within the eyes and provides him a way of satisfaction of the kind of participant I’m, the kind of individual I’m, extra so off the sphere,” mentioned Nelson, who’s taking part within the Steelers’ offseason exercises this week after 4 years with the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs.
Nelson has seen an excessive amount of in his soccer profession to not be clear together with his intentions.
Signing a three-year, $25.5 million take care of Pittsburgh — the richest in franchise historical past for the primary week of unrestricted free company — was the fruits of a profession paved with challenges at almost each cease.
A teenage Nelson proved himself in an ultra-competitive Georgia prep soccer scene, grabbing seven interceptions as a senior for Northside Excessive in Warner Robins, simply south of Macon.
Points with grades dashed hopes of a scholarship with a Soccer Bowl Subdivision college. The soccer dream needed to maintain transferring, and staying house did not precisely symbolize a recent begin. He took an opportunity on School of the Sequoias, a junior faculty situated within the farmland of California, exterior of Fresno.
“I used to be by no means the man who was within the field. I all the time thought my function was all the time larger,” Nelson mentioned.
The following few years examined his resolve. Nelson mentioned he did not have a scholarship and relied on monetary help and meals stamps to pay payments. Tools was minimal, so Nelson needed to hit up the native sporting items retailer for the fundamentals.
He shared a two-bedroom residence with six different teammates. He slept on a sofa at evening and ate off the Burger King worth menu through the day.
Not understanding what to anticipate every week proved irritating, and that stress overcame a couple of teammates who packed up and left. However Nelson performed his method right into a scholarship with Oregon State.
“It is my very own journey. I do not remorse it,” Nelson mentioned. “These are the steps of life you needed to undergo. I wasn’t going to be denied.”
In 4 years with Kansas Metropolis, which took Nelson within the third spherical of the 2015 draft, Nelson developed from backup to three-year starter. In his contract 12 months, Nelson grabbed 4 interceptions and was rated above common by Professional Soccer Focus, the 33rd general nook.
However with Kansas Metropolis rating 31st in complete protection with 6,488 yards allowed final season, cornerbacks had been a simple goal for followers. Nelson felt supported inside his locker room however not all the time exterior of it.
“I type of felt like I used to be shaded,” Nelson mentioned about his time there. “I simply felt prefer it was a slap within the face. Lots of people did not actually know what was occurring there. Plenty of gamers took the warmth.”
What was occurring, Nelson mentioned, was that corners had been requested to play heavy man coverages, usually in tough spots. In 2018, the Chiefs ranked third within the NFL with 55.1 p.c man protection, behind the Denver Broncos (58.5 p.c) and the New England Patriots (60.four p.c), in response to NFL Subsequent Gen Stats. The Steelers had been fifth at 51.5 p.c, however they historically have relied on zone coverages and sometimes make use of zone-man mixtures, reminiscent of a “hearth zone” protection. How an offense strains up can decide that protection.
The Chiefs fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton after a season wherein they reached the AFC title sport however watched the Patriots march down the sphere in additional time for a 37-31 win. The Chiefs are rebuilding their protection with a number of new items.
Nelson accepts the problem of one-on-one play however provides that some Chiefs gamers had grown weary of a predictable scheme that may handicap defensive backs.
“You are a goal to different groups, referees, followers. It is simply not a very good factor,” Nelson mentioned. “It’s a must to swap it up. It is the Nationwide Soccer League. These offenses are sensible. If you happen to swap it up like these different offenses are doing, you can also make performs.”
Nelson mainly knew some time again he would not re-sign with the Chiefs. However he informed himself way back he would play his method into an eight-figure deal.
In a “nice vibes” assembly with Tomlin, the top coach informed Nelson the Steelers would work exhausting and need to win now.
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That is all Nelson needed to listen to. Signing with Pittsburgh, which he believes will maximize his potential in a flexible scheme, is “affirmation I’m on the suitable path,” he mentioned.
“[My background] has given me the sting to go on the market and carry out,” Nelson mentioned. “I’ve already been in these conditions, below strain. I believe it really works out properly.”
The Steelers’ cornerback points have been well-documented. The crew drafted 5 corners within the first 5 rounds from 2015 to 2017, and none of them is slated to begin in 2019. The Steelers discovered a staple in Joe Haden, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal in August 2017 after Cleveland launched him.
Nelson, slated because the beginning exterior nook reverse Haden, is keen to work with and study from Haden.
As for that perpetual cornerback want come draft season, Nelson goals to vary that.
“Now not a necessity after I’m on the sphere,” Nelson mentioned. “I do not say that out of vanity however as a result of I’ll work for it.”