A former hometown hero returns to western Pennslvania to help support an injured and inexperienced secondary.
DeMarcus Van Dyke was placed on injured reserve by Tuesday's weekly new conference with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. He was instantly replaced with a young veteran that has starting experience in the NFL, and strong ties to the Pittsburgh area.
Justin King was a highly touted prospect coming out of Gateway High School in Monroeville, PA. He took his talent to Happy Valley, playing three years for the late Joe Paterno, at Penn State. King surrendered his senior season, declaring himself eligible for the 2008 draft. At the combine, King ran the second fastest time, surpassed only by Chris Johnson, now running back for the Tennessee Titans. King was taken with the 101st pick, selected in the fourth round by the St. Louis Rams.
King missed his rookie season after tearing a ligament in his big toe. He returned in 2009 and played in 15 games, starting 7 of them in place of injured starters. He spent most of 2010 playing in sub-packages, or dealing with a groin injury. In 2011 when starting outside corner Ronald Bartell suffered a fractured neck, King was thrust into starting duty. He started twelve games, but dealt with ankle and groin issues. He attempted to play through the pain due to the depletion of the Rams secondary by injury, but eventually saw his season cut short after hurting his shoulder which required surgery.
With so many players hurt or on injured reserve, the Rams secondary was in shambles. King was rated as the worst conerback in the the entire league according to Pro Football Focus's rankings. King became a free agent following the season, and was picked up by the Indianapolis Colts for 2012. King was originally locked in as the Colts nickelback, but a groin injury limited his production. He was eventually released after week 5.
King's skillset is predicated on speed. His 5'11", 197 pound frame does not lend itself to being a physical defensive back. King struggled in his final year as a Ram, but the combination of injuries and inexperience among his peers played a significant part in that. Considering he has been unemployed for the past 10 weeks of the season, his groin injury should be healed sufficiently.
King showed up at the Steelers Southside Practice Facility the same day Stanford Routt was scheduled to appear but signed with the Texans, instead. The Steelers had no interest in signing anyone at the time, but they wanted his current measurables on record. The recent trend of injuries ravaging the Steelers secondary left them perusing what Tomlin called "a short list" of available men that could stood the best chance of stepping in immediately. King's youth and starting experience placed him at the top of that list.
With Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen slated to return this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, King will most likely be asked to contribute in Van Dyke's place on special teams, as well as supporting fellow reserves Josh Victorian, Curtis Brown, and Robert Golden.