Christian Scotland-Williamson is confident he can make the Steelers roster. That may appear brash coming from someone who had never caught an oval shaped football until last year, but he feels confident his hard work will pay off this season.
American football players are brought up from a very young age being part of organised football. They know what is expected of them. They know what is required from the position they are playing. They grow up knowing what a quarterback’s cadence and a snap count is. They grow up with football while eating, sleeping and living it throughout their young lives.
The reward for the best players is a career in the NFL with all its tremendous rewards. Christian was a professional athlete playing for the Worcester Warriors in the English Premiership but decided to live a dream and attempt to play in the NFL.
He became part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program that encourages and supports athletes from around the world to become part of a sports empire that is still expanding as it enters its centenary.
Christian was lucky enough to end up in Pittsburgh with our Steelers, so it is only appropriate that SteelerNationUK has followed their man.
After spending the last year in Pittsburgh, Christian is currently in the UK to help with the NFL Academy trials being held in London. SNUK were fortunate to spend a little time with him during his busy schedule and find out how his rookie season worked out.
CHRISTIAN CONFIDENT OF MAKING THE ROSTER
He acknowledged that he found last year challenging. From being a rugby player at the top of his game to a rookie in the NFL with no playing experience, it was also humbling.
Having never played football, there was a huge gap to overcome in technique and skills sets. Football players in the USA start at 5 years of age and at 24, Christian had to somehow gain all those years of experience as quickly as possible.
After his first year on the practice squad, Christian feels he has now learnt the game of football sufficiently to make a sustained attempt to make the roster. He oozes confidence about making it and I had the impression that that his assurance wasn’t misplaced.
I asked him how it felt not to be a rookie and he instantly replied, “Amazing!” No longer one of the new kids on the block who had difficulties in understanding the fundamentals, he feels he can now focus on improving his football skills.
“The weirdos thing is the fact that I’ve learnt so much in twelve months that during rookie minicamp I was kinda leading other guys and showing them what to do. In OTAs and minicamp I was moving guys around because they were in the wrong position. I had spent my off time learning what to do.
I’ve had a couple conversations with a few coaches, backroom staff and players and they are saying it’s ridiculous what I’ve learnt to do in twelve months having never played the sport before.
The first time I put pads on was training camp last year. The first huddle I had been in was minicamp.
He was honest when he acknowledged that last year had been really challenging and humbling. “You go from someone who is established in their sport. Not that you don’t have to think, but you don’t have that type of automaticity where you don’t have to think about what you’re doing in terms of – and then every single thing you are doing is a deliberate and conscious thought. “Where are my hands? What mark am I running? What steps? What’s the cadence?”
This year I have been able to strip back that top level of thinking and get back to how I was playing in rugby with confidence and knowing what I was doing without someone advising me as to exactly what I’m doing. Whereas last year it was basically learning what to do and not why I was doing it.
That’s the big difference this year, I know the whole scheme and know where I can force the rules and where I can’t. Last year I didn’t know whether I had to block my man or where I had to end up. There was so much to think about, but this year I’ve spent all offseason in Pittsburgh breaking up film and studying.
At his point in our conversation, I try to wind Christian up by reminding him of the penalty he drew against Philadelphia last preseason. SNUK watched every Steelers preseason game with interest, always looking to see if #49 had made it onto the field. That wasn’t very often, but it was an opportunity to impress Mike Tomlin and the coaches.
We laughed about the incident with Christian suggesting, “Obviously, with rugby and over here with football, it is not the same stadium noise. We were on the road and I was thinking, ‘get off the ball, play fast, do something.’ I thought the quarterback was going into his cadence. I didn’t have my eye on the ball, you know I should have had my eye on the ball. He said, ‘Alert, Alert,’ and I thought that meant go….”
Christian got his wish. He did move fast, but the flags came out for a false start and the only move he made was towards the sideline when he was taken off. He puts it down as a learning experience and hopefully, there will be less of those this summer.