Pittsburgh Steelers rookie mini camp features a rookie TE, Christian Scotland-Williamson who is a 6’9″ British rugby player. Can his play stand out as much as his bio?
The Steelers kicked off their rookie mini-camp on Friday. Over 50 players showed up for their chance to play for the Steelers in 2018. Seven were drafted, thirteen were undrafted free agent, and one player wasn’t even eligible for the draft. One player is already a professional athlete. One player stands above the rest … in height. That player is rookie TE Christian Scotland-Williamson.
It is an interesting and unique story. The Steelers will occasionally reach outside of the traditional means of acquisition. Those means being drafting, trading, or signing a current NFL player. They recently gave WR James Shaw of the Arena League and Shawn Lemon of the CFL a look. QB Tommy Maddox is probably the most successful example.
For Scotland-Williamson however, they looked outside the whole sport. He is listed as tight end but his position is “lock”, whatever that is, in his original professional sports calling of rugby.
Christian Scotland-Williamson has played rugby for the England’s own Worchester Warriors since 2014. Last year he made a tackle that went somewhat viral and motivated him to make the jump to the NFL.
He came stateside via the NFL’s International Player Pathway program and was signed to the Steelers practice squad on May 1, 2018. He participated the Steelers rookie mini camp.
His biggest asset is his size. I will convince of that when I tell you his size. He is 6’9″ and 276 lbs. He also has solid athletic skills to go with his size.
It will be a difficult adjustment however. Though rugby and football bear some similarities it can easily be overstated. If you grew up playing football it can be easy to overlook what a strange ball it is to catch, and how awkward it can be to run around with all the padding and your field of view limited by a helmet.
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He’s also had to deal with some injuries in the past. Although football will be relatively new to him this is not simply a guy cashing in on a viral video of a tackle. He’s apparently dreamed of playing in the NFL for a long time.
Scotland-Williamson is on the young side at 24 but he’s older than most rookies and about a decade and a half beyond where nearly every other NFL player started playing football. Blocking, catching, running routes will all be fairly new. Even running plays is far more complex in football than other sports.
But the idea of someone with that size and that athleticism running across the endzone with his hands in the air is too enticing to pass up. Roethlisberger is always requesting and somehow losing out on a big target. It really doesn’t get bigger than this.
The NFL, likely with an eye toward more international appeal, has decided Scotland-Williamson does not count against the roster number, so there is really no reason not to have him on the practice squad.
He is quoted by Jack de Menezes if UK’s The Independent as saying, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and one that I simply can’t turn down. I’m incredibly excited about testing myself and trying to get on the team roster at an NFL club.”
The Steelers also tweeted out a fun reaction video where he gets the call and says thank you a dozen times. He ends the video with his back to the camera but his friend outs him when he says he almost cried too.
It’s an interesting story and but it’s all upside for everyone involved. The Steelers don’t even have to risk a roster spot. But if somehow Christian Scotland-Williamson can develop, even to a limited extend with his size and athleticism on top of it, then the Steelers will have a big (literally) redzone and third down threat and the NFL can make further inroads in Europe.
It’s an under the radar Steelers story to keep an eye on long term.