Jordan Dangerfield’s not only blowing up offensive players on the field, he’s killing it off.
Ask him if he’s getting any respect.
“I tell you, I don’t get any respect around here,” he’ll say with a laugh.
No respect for Dangerfield.
Well, that’s changing.
On the first play of the first live tackling session of training camp, the free-agent safety the Steelers picked up off the street last January came whistling up from the deep patrol like the proverbial missile to blast tight end Michael Palmer. It was the start of an outstanding practice, one they were still talking about two days later.
“This Dangerfield kid,” Joey Porter was telling his old friend Clark Haggans, “he comes to play the game TODAY.”
It wasn’t a one-and-done for Dangerfield, either. In the first live-tackling period Thursday, Dangerfield came up and thumped running back Miguel Maysonet to the delight of the crowd. And a couple of snaps later, Maysonet ran wide left but made the mistake of cutting back into the middle of the field and into the middle of Dangerfield’s crosshairs.
Up in smoke went Maysonet.
Has the 5-11, 200-pound Dangerfield been allowing this aggression to build since he was cut last August by the Buffalo Bills?
“Yes, sir. Absolutely,” Dangerfield said. “It’s been a l-o-o-o-n-g journey. I’m just blessed to be out here just to have the opportunity to put the pads back on and hit.”
Dangerfield had seen the end of his career before, so he knew exactly what to do.
As a freshman at Hofstra, Dangerfield received a call some time in December of 2009.
“They called an urgent team meeting,” he said. “The head coach came up and the head of the board of trustees came up and they told us they canceled the program. That was a tough break. I didn’t think I would play football again. But Towson came around and I went there and started working.”
Dangerfield turned to the Division I-AA school in Maryland and started three years, was a two-year captain and two-time All-America, a first-team all-conference, and the school’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2011. He played against Maryland, Kent State and most prominently LSU.
“The LSU game was a highlight,” Dangerfield said of a 38-22 loss at Death Valley in 2012. “That was my best game in college. I had something like 8 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Everybody thought the world was going to be watching that game. It was on ESPNU and it was my chance to show I could play with the best of the best.”
But he wasn’t drafted the next spring, and then signed with the Bills as a free agent. He didn’t make it past the final cut, and so he sat by the phone until the Steelers called in January.
Of course, he did more than sit by the phone.
“I was training hard,” he said. “I just kept grinding, worked out twice a day, Monday through Friday, until Pittsburgh called me, and then I kept the grind going. So I was thankful for them to call me right after the season.”
Otherwise he was ready to go find a job.
“I’m just blessed to have wealthy parents so I didn’t have to work, but it was getting tight,” he said. “They believed in my dream. They stood behind me.”
Dangerfield said if the Steelers hadn’t called, he would now be finishing up his Sports Management degree at Towson. “But after they called I just wanted to train and just be more prepared than I was going into Buffalo. Since I have experience I knew what was going to be expected, so I wanted to make the most of my opportunity.”
And he’s leaving no stone unturned, no earth unscorched, as he goes about seeking running backs, tight ends and wide receivers.
“He’s coming up, man. He’s coming up and he’s not afraid to put his face on people,” said veteran safety Will Allen. “He’s not afraid to come up and tackle somebody. That’s part of being a Steeler. He’s got a little attitude about hisself. We like that, man, especially being a younger guy. He’s playing well.”
The problem, of course, is finding a spot on a roster loaded with safeties. He’s obviously a natural special-teamer, at the least.
“He’s a good player. That’s what matters,” Allen said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the day. He’s still got to prove himself on special teams and who knows what can happen there. If he’s playing well at safety in the games, and playing well at special teams, who knows the spot he’ll have for this team, or on one of the 31 others.
“I like him, man. I like his demeanor, how he comes to play. He’s a good young player.”
So, Dangerfield IS getting a little respect around here.
“Yeah,” he said with a laugh. “I’m trying to. I mean, I’m trying to earn respect, just making the best of this blessed opportunity. I’m trying to do the best I can do.”
NOTES — Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) returned to practice for individual drills only, but the other running back, LeGarrette Blount, was down with an unspecified minor injury. … Rookie tight end Eric Waters, who has been distinguishing himself with his blocking, left practice on a cart with what Mike Tomlin believes to be a low back injury. … Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey also left practice with a non-specified injury. … Free safety Mike Mitchell has been on the PUP list with a groin injury but appears to be close to a return.