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View Full Version : Gary Russell : Another Diamond in the Rough?



Iron City South
08-02-2007, 12:33 PM
If you would ask 100 people to define the Pittsburgh Steelers as a whole, 99 of them will say that they are a strong defensive and power running type of team. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had great success with their backs over the years and lately have had great success with backs that are considered developmental and never drafted.

Willie Parker never started in college but Rooney took a chance on him after he was scouted in North Carolina and he is now cemented as the starter of the famed running team. Danny Krieder was also un-drafted out of a small school and surpassed fullback Jon Witman as the starting FB. The Steelers enter Camp Tomlin with another un-drafted rookie RB, Gary Russell, from the University of Minnesota and by all accounts is making some noise in Latrobe.

Coming off an 8-8 season, a year removed form being the World Champs, the Steelers running back corps lacked depth. Willie Parker was the bright sport of a dismal season and #2 back Dookie Davenport played well considering he had to come in and immediately learn a new system, but not enough to really contribute or be judged fairly. Haynes suffered a knee injury and was released (subsequently resigned prior to camp) and the front office brain trusts did nothing to address the situation during the 2007 draft. Enter Pittsburgh native Kevan Barlow. Barlow was acquired to challenge Davenport and add some depth to the running game. By all accounts Barlow is not making any noise and may be getting a visit by the turk as the Steelers start reducing their camp roster to 53 men.

Russell comes to the NFL after being recruited by the Minnesota Gophers in hopes that he would be their premiere back and one of the best in the Big 1. Russell showed the athleticism but struggled with the student part of “student-athlete.” He only played two seasons of D-I ball, totaling 15 games. His 2005 season was a 1,000+ rushing season and he averaged 6.1 yards per carry. He was used sparingly in the passing game but averaged 8.4 yards per reception when thrown to. His academic problems forced him out of school in 2006 and he subsequently declared himself eligible for the draft.

Russell was invited to the combine but had a mediocre to poor showing. His 40time was slow; around 4.8, he did nine bench press reps and was dubbed out of shape. His commitment was obviously in question by failing out of school and not prepared for the combine. Some mock drafts picked him to go as low as the 4th round to not being drafted at all which the latter prevailed, most likely due to his combine effort. Many draft experts considered him a back with a tremendous amount of upside but limited NCAA experience and commitment to stay in college (or at least remain eligible) was obviously his downfall.

Russell’s strength in college was his cutting ability and that point was noted by Dale Lolley during his training camp blogs. Russell can block and that is something that is needed in the backfield. He has been reportedly returning kickoffs and being tried in a variety of roles. It appears that after the Steelers took a chance on him, he became committed to be a NFL player and is now turning heads and busting his *** at St. Vincent. :tt02:

Un-drafted rookies are a long shot. Every blue moon you’ll get a Priest Holmes or Willie Parker but they are rare. Russell will most likely get ample playing time this pre-season and our first real look at him will come on August 5th against the Saints in the Hall of Fame Game. Willie Parker will not play (minor knee injury) and you can assume Haynes may not play or play an extremely limited role to protect his knee.

Camp Tomlin opened with a platoon of running backs competing for an unknown amount of spaces (four or five most likely) with at least Parker, Davenport and Krieder guaranteed on the 53 man roster. That leaves one or two spaces depending on Arians and Tomlin’s running back philosophy/plans. So far so good for Russell. We’ll see soon enough if the Steelers got another great value with the un-drafted folks. At worse, Russell is certainly challenging some vets. Personally, this is one guy I can't wait to see in the pre-season. :helmet:


http://static.flickr.com/24/51736106_63a686f069_o.jpg


Gary Russell, # 33: (as provided by Steelers.Com)

HEIGHT – 5-11

WEIGHT – 215 (every bit as solid as Parker)

COLLEGE – Minnesota

BORN – September 8, 1986

HOW ACQUIRED – FA-'07

NFL EXPERIENCE – R

Dako
08-02-2007, 12:36 PM
Bring on the competition. He may not make it, but will help get the best effort from those that will.

TEEMONT
08-02-2007, 12:40 PM
I am def pumped to see him play on Sunday....

SteelerSal
08-02-2007, 12:41 PM
Un-drafted rookies are a long shot. Every blue moon you’ll get a Priest Holmes or Willie Parker but they are rare. Russell will most likely get ample playing time this pre-season and our first real look at him will come on August 5th against the Saints in the Hall of Fame Game. Willie Parker will not play (minor knee injury) and you can assume Haynes may not play or play an extremely limited role to protect his knee.


I am really looking forward to watching him play and I hope he makes the team by pushing out Barlow (attitude problem) and Haynes ( history of health problems).
I watched Russell, when he played at Minn., and I thought he was a great rb and was happy to see him on our team.
Great post, ICS.:bigthumb:

DIESELMAN
08-02-2007, 01:20 PM
Just another example of how good our scouts are. He might have had a poor combine, but its what you do on the field that determines how good or bad a player is. He's definitely showing how grateful he is for a chance to play in the NFL....good for him. :cope: :cope: :cope:

BlackGold4vr
08-02-2007, 01:32 PM
Just another example of how good our scouts are. He might have had a poor combine, but its what you do on the field that determines how good or bad a player is. He's definitely showing how grateful he is for a chance to play in the NFL....good for him. :cope: :cope: :cope:


He was heavy at the combine and it was reflected in his 40 times which undoubtedly was the reason he went undrafted. Look at Chris Henry from Arizona, he was on nobodies radar until he ran the second fastest 40 time at the combine. He was originally projected as a late day 2 pick at best and ended up being drafted on day 1. Russell had the disadvantage of not coming off of a football season and being in game shape like most of the other backs at the combine. 2 years ago when Russell was sharing backfield duties with New Englands Lawrence Maroney at the University of Minnesota he was a prospect with a bright future. So he wasn't a great student.....who cares? Can he run the rock? Thats all we care about now. I have read reports that say he is the second best cut-back runner on our team (Willie is #1). I would love to see this guy make our team and I believe that he is already good enough that if we cut this guy to our practice squad somebody else is going to snatch him up in a hurry! In my book he should be the #3 behind Najeh Davenport. We'll see what happens.

AZ_Steeler
08-02-2007, 01:38 PM
Hopefully playing for a team like the Steelers is motivation enough for him to get back in shape and return to for of his 05 season in the Big 10. The Big 10 is no slouch conference and to put up those kind of numbers is impressive :bigthumb:

Nice post ICS!

DIESELMAN
08-02-2007, 01:54 PM
He was heavy at the combine and it was reflected in his 40 times which undoubtedly was the reason he went undrafted. Look at Chris Henry from Arizona, he was on nobodies radar until he ran the second fastest 40 time at the combine.

Thats my point right there about doing good or bad at the combines. Henry had a great 40 time and got drafted, now hes fumbling like crazy in the Titans TC. Russell had a ****** combine, went undrafted and now is working his *** off and will make the team. :bigthumb:

Black@Gold Forever32
08-02-2007, 02:52 PM
I watched Russell many times in college.....He was a bad *** at Minnesota....Its shame he didn't play last year.....he would have been drafted....But good for the Steelers since they might have another undrafted gem.....

When I heard we signed Russell after the draft I was rooting for him to make this team....I know he has NFL talent....

BRICKTOWN BEAST
08-02-2007, 02:56 PM
Man I don't have the NFL network so I wont get to see these guys play for the first time. O well I know I'll get all the info I need right after the game right here.

K Train
08-02-2007, 07:54 PM
i like him, hes alot like maroney and i did like maroney before well you know

USMCVET
08-05-2007, 12:30 PM
I was very happy to see the team take a shot at this kid.

He justifiably had 4th round potential.

Us picking him up as an UDFA was a good move. His year round commitment to playing could be his determining factor to being a #3 next season.

Can't wait to get a look at him.