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The irony of the Steelers signing a free agent nicknamed "The Missile"

It's funny and a bit of a contradiction that Nat Berhe, a special teams ace the Steelers signed on Friday, is nicknamed "The Missile."

NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the Steelers announced the signing of safety Nat Berhe, formerly of the Giants, to a new contract that will bring him to Pittsburgh for the 2018 season.

While Berhe’s formal position is that of safety, he brings home the bacon thanks to his stellar work on special teams.

Berhe’s propensity for making life miserable for return men started in his rookie season of 2014, when New York selected him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. For his tackling abilities and hard-hitting style, Berhe quickly earned the nickname of “The Missile.”

When I first heard of Berhe’s nickname shortly after his signing with Pittsburgh, I didn’t think anything of it. However, as I processed things a bit more in my middle-aged brain, I thought, “How can any player be nicknamed “The Missile” in this day and age of player safety, safety that, as far as the NFL’s future is concerned, begins with the head and goes down from there?”

After all, with the league recently adopting the targeting rule starting in 2018--a rule that will penalize a player for lowering and leading with his helmet--the last thing an NFL player should want is a nickname that implies he does exactly what a missile would do if it was launched at a target--hit it head-first.

However, after I processed things a bit more in my old brain that will officially be closer to 50 than it will be to 40 in about a month or so, I thought, “Nah, Nat probably just earned his reputation based on his sure tackling more so than by leading with his helmet.”

But then I watched his official highlight video, and the very first tackle on said video showed Berhe lowering his head as he crashed into a Redskins’ running back.

And then I read Jeff Hartman’s article on Berhe, where he quoted Big Blue View’s Ed Valentine:

”He moved into the starting lineup in 2016 when Darian Thompson got hurt, but lasted only two games before he was felled by a concussion. He ended up with multiple concussions that season, and the way he plays concussions are always a concern. I’m not sure how many he has had overall.”


Can you say Ladarius Green?

Obviously, you remember Green’s less than stellar one year in Pittsburgh when, after coming over from the Chargers in the spring of 2016 to be the Steelers replacement for Heath Miller as well as their answer to the growing population of mega-athletic tight ends in the NFL, he only played in six of a possible 19 games due to multiple concussions he suffered in San Diego combined with the one he sustained against the Bengals on December 18,.

Green is now an afterthought in Pittsburgh--a forgettable and regrettable free agent acquisition--and the Steelers go out and sign a new free agent who very well might wind up with the same fate in 2018?

Hey, I’m not saying Berhe won’t be a great addition. Special teams is one of those areas few people worry about until the unit comes up to bite their favorite football team in the fall or winter.

Its just funny.

It’s kind of like signing a defensive lineman nicknamed “The Torpedo” shortly after the NFL made a rule that prohibited tackling a quarterback below the knees.

It’s like signing a linebacker nicknamed “The Claw” just a few weeks after the NFL announced it would be placing a greater emphasis on face mask penalties.

It’s also just plain confusing for fans and illustrates quite nicely how the NFL has always been a huge contradiction.

We’re being trained to not like helmet hits, but we’re also being told we should be happy about a special teams ace with a nickname that not only explains his style of play, it explains the many concussions he’s suffered during a career that’s not even five years old.

I’m not saying it’s a bad signing by any stretch.

I’m just sayin’....there’s a football player named “The Missile” in 2018?