Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin believes a player cannot 'make the club from the tub'. Alameda Ta'amu is Tomlin's most recent example of how an injury can take its toll on a player's roster chances.
Ta'amu was a fourth-round draft pick by Tomlin's Steelers in 2012. They traded up to grab him with the impending retirement of Casey Hampton looming on the horizon. Ta'amu then struggled through his first training camp as a rookie, battling both the playbook and injuries.
He missed training camp snaps to a foot injury incurred during a walk to the local Latrobe Wal-Mart, part of his rookie initiation. Then during the season, an alcohol impaired evening did severe damage to his personal reputation and career, as he was suspended by team and then later released. Ta'amu spent most of the remainder of his rookie season on the practice squad.
As the team prepared to enter the 2013 preseason without Hampton, Ta'amu was expected to play second fiddle to new starter Steve McLendon. Unfortunately, Ta'amu pulled a hamstring as he trained during the off-season. He was still nursing the injury when camp began, forcing him off the field and onto the PUP list.
While he has been out, others have been making the most of their new found opportunities -- primarily Loni Fangupo.
An undrafted rookie with the Houston Texans in 2012, Fangupo later played with the Seattle Seahawks and finally landed with the Steelers for the final week of the regular season. He has looked good in his second NFL training camp, even drawing the attention of coach Tomlin on more than one occasion.
Now, Fangupo finds himself listed behind McLendon. Ta'amu finds himself with nothing but ground to make up in a battle he was losing before he even began.
Making things even more difficult for Ta'amu to make the roster, is defensive end Al Woods who has been taking snaps at nose tackle along the way, with the team hoping he can become a 'utility infielder' along the defensive front, freeing up a seventh roster slot for another depth-hungry position; especially with rookies Nicholas Williams, Cordian Hagans and Brian Arnfelt all fighting for end spots.
Ta'amu had reportedly trimmed a few extra pounds and was working hard to maintain his place in the pecking order, but his hamstring brought his progress to a screeching halt. Fangupo took the opportunity and ran with it, and now Ta'amu is steadily losing ground.
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