While Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was arguably the star attraction of the NFL Academy trials held at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday, he was not the only member of the Black and Gold on hand watching the student athletes go through their paces.
As Pittsburgh’s only English born player and a participant in the NFL’s International Pathway Program, Christian Scotland-Williamson was also in London to speak with the aspiring young football and work with them on the field. And when the Steelers come to your home town, it seems only right to go and meet then.
We caught up with the tight end during a break in the action to find out more about the work he was doing with the new academy in the U.K., as well as his thoughts about the upcoming season. Looking somewhat trimmer than in his rookie year having lost 36 pounds, the former rugby player revealed to BTSC that his goal was to be on the final 53-man roster when the regular season begins.
“I think this is the year that I can break the roster. I’ve been able to really comes to terms with the playbook, understand what I’m doing. Last year was tough because there we so many new things being thrown at me. Every single day, whether it was in training camp or OTAs or the main season, I was being exposed to different things I hadn't seen before. Whereas now, I’ve been through one round of the cycle I’m able to better prepare myself and know what it takes to actually make the roster.”
Acknowledging the challenges he faced during his rookie season, Scotland-Williamson is clearly more confident heading into year-two.
“Last year was tough, there was some challenges and some hurdles that I had to overcome in terms of just learning the sport for the first time and being able to execute at a high level going up against Pro Bowlers and such high caliber players on a daily basis. But that’s been incredible for my development and how much I’ve been able to improve in that 12-month span is really incredible.”
And while many believed there was turmoil inside the Pittsburgh locker room in 2018, Scotland-Williamson thought nothing of it given his experiences playing will professional rugby teams in Europe.
“What’s unusual from an American standpoint, compared to things I had experienced in rugby is nothing. So, I thought there was absolutely nothing going on here really. I wasn’t even aware of anything. I actually think it is quite harmonious to be honest. Really lucky to be in such a positive and really inclusive environment. Everyone really welcomed me in, even though I was a foreigner, never played the sport before. Guys in my position room like Xavier Grimble, Jesse James, who’s left now and Vance McDonald really showed me the ropes and actually educated me around practice and how to conduct myself within the franchise and on the field, as well as how to learn better off the field.
With the Steelers depth behind Vance McDonald arguably questionable, Scotland-Williamson could not be in a better place year if he has hopes of achieving his goal. And how he performs once the pads go on at Latrobe will be an significant indicator of just how far he has come in a year.
As a fellow Englishman, I am perhaps somewhat biased about his potential and will be rooting for him hard this offseason. A full video of the interview can be found here.
Our thanks to Christian for also sending a shout out to the BTSC readers from across the pond.
Caught up with #Steelers TE Christian Scotland-Williamson @1CSW at the finals of the #NFLAcademy trials in London today. Interview coming later on @btsteelcurtain. Until then, Christian gives the readers of Behind the Steel Curtain a shout out from across the pond. pic.twitter.com/xP0wU0spK2— Simon Chester (@SimonAChester) July 2, 2019