Nik Embernate says his knee is feeling good and he's 'going to come back strong'

The Steelers lost their most popular undrafted free agent in training camp of 2013, but he said Saturday, after his alma mater San Diego State advanced to the Sweet 16, he's optimistic about his return.

Steeles 2013 undrafted free agent Nik Embernate became a fan favorite in training camp last season due to his physical style of play and his epic nickname "Embernasty."

A knee injury put him out for the season in camp despite reportedly playing well enough for consideration to steal a spot on the 53-man roster.

Those dreams are still alive, according to Embernate.

He was in good spirits Saturday after watching his San Diego State Aztecs dispatch Cinderella-hopeful North Dakota State from the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

His Tweet regarding the game wasn't appreciated by some.

Fortunately, Embernate saw it as a joke (except for the bitter alum part), and gave something of an update on his status.

It wasn't a great game, certain NDSU alumni can admit which team was clearly better, but it's even better to see the optimism expressed from a guy who's giving Steelers fans a reason to believe again in the team's scouting reach in the undrafted market. That ability was a huge reason the team had the success it did in the 2000s, having netted Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison and 2-time Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker.

Embernate finds himself in a competitive situation. With veteran Ramon Foster entrenched at left guard and David DeCastro ready to climb into the ranks of the best guards in the game, it would appear he's vying for a back-up utility spot. His power and strength can serve as a highly valued player for the future with the Steelers. Veteran utility interior offensive lineman Cody Wallace was signed to a three-year deal this offseason and both Embernate and Foster have two years left on three-year deals they signed in 2013. DeCastro's four-year deal is set to expire in 2015.

It's a pivotal year for the future of a Steelers' offensive line group that can be fairly considered both one of its youngest and its strongest position units heading into 2014.

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