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Silence was golden for 3 Steelers

Posted Sep 1, 2014

Three players were happy their phones didn't ring on Saturday.

One was washing his car, another went fishing, while a third just did everything and anything he could to get his mind off things as the clock turned painfully slow, hour after hour getting closer to that 4 p.m. deadline without any news.

That’s life in the NFL when you are waiting, not so patiently, for word on the final 53-man roster.

“I tried not to think about it too much and kept myself busy,” said receiver Justin Brown. “It was easier said than done. It got to a point where I was wondering what was going on.”

Brown, a sixth-round draft pick in 2013, knows what NFL cut down day is like. Last year he was released as a part of the final roster cut, and then re-signed to the practice squad the next day. He remembers getting the phone call with the bad news. But this year things were different. The phone never rang.

“The previous year I was called at eight in the morning,” recalled Brown. “Around 10 or 12 on Saturday, I thought shoot, at least I made it a little bit further than last year.”

It wasn’t until around 3 p.m. on Saturday, an hour before teams had to make their cuts, that Brown learned the news. He made it.

“I hadn’t been contacted or anything. I had been looking online,” said Brown. “My girl found out for me so she knew before I did. I was sitting in the car saying I still don’t know and she said here is the list and I was like, okay, I guess I made it. It was cool to finally find out what the word was. I was definitely excited when I found out. My family started calling me right after I found out. They were excited, I was excited. It was a good feeling.

“I am happy to be on the team and part of the squad. It’s a great feeling. It reassures you about hard working paying off. You just have to keep working. It’s exciting, but we have to start getting prepared for this week and this first game.”

Rookie offensive lineman Wesley Johnson, a fifth-round pick from Vanderbilt, had a good training camp and preseason but still didn’t know what was going to happen. So he did what he loves and went fishing Saturday morning with his father, David, something that is laid back, easy-going and relaxing.

“It wasn’t relaxing,” said Johnson. “We tried to relax as much as we could, but it wasn’t. It was good to be out there, but it didn’t go well.”

The rest of the day, though, did go well. In the same manner most fans learned the news of the Steelers 22 cuts, Johnson did as well.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I was just waiting through the day,” said Johnson. “Then I saw the news release about an hour before the deadline on Steelers.com. I was checking, had my phone on me all day. I was trying to get away from it, but it’s hard to.”

Johnson said it was tough to see some of his teammates let go, the reality of the NFL hitting him, but he feels lucky to be a part of a talent-laden Steelers offensive line.

“It’s an honor,” said Johnson. “Those guys have helped me out a lot. I learn so much from them by watching them and them teaching me. I am happy to play beside them.”

He isn’t alone. Guard Chris Hubbard has had a tough road to being a part of the 53-man roster, but he never let go of his dream. Hubbard was signed as an undrafted free agent in April, 2013, but was released prior to the start of last season and signed to the practice squad. A relentless worker, Hubbard kept fighting for a spot. But nothing is ever guaranteed, no matter how hard you work, so after a tough night trying to sleep he kept an eye on his phone Saturday. And then, he got word.

Ramon Foster texted me and showed me I made the cuts,” said Hubbard. “I was outside washing my car, trying to get my mind off of things. That is the part that got me for a loop. I thought we were supposed to get a call when you make the team so I wasn’t sure at all. So he texted me and let me know.

“It’s a great moment, that excitement, waiting on the call, waiting for the coaches to make the decision. It’s pretty exciting.”

Word spread fast, and his Twitter notifications, text messages and phone calls started pouring in.

“When you make that 53-man roster you are on the team, you are here to help the team,” said Hubbard. “When you are on the practice squad you are here to help the team, but in a different way. You are showing them the other team, the opponent. Just being on the team is great. It’s very passionate. It’s a different feeling.”

Hubbard said he sees a big difference in his play from this time last year and on Monday morning was ready to get to work preparing for the Cleveland Browns.

“I feel confident,” said Hubbard. “I am better at playing my role. I know what to do and how to do things as far as last year I was wondering how things would go, how things should be done. It’s so much better for now.

“Last year paid off learning from the veteran guys, guys like Ramon what he does, how he does it, even off the field the things he does. Learning from those guys is a treasure.”

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