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A drill for every situation

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LATROBE, Pa. - It's been referred to on occasion as the "Fat Guy Fair Catch."

But that said there was a method to the apparent madness of the Steelers having defensive ends Matt Conrath (6-foot-7, 306 pounds) and Ethan Hemer (6-6, 285) try their hand at catching kickoffs launched from a Jugs machine on Thursday afternoon.

The offense went 7-for-7 today in the "Seven Shots" drill during today's practice at Saint Vincent College.

The idea of the drill was to prepare a potential blocker on the kickoff return team stationed at or around the 25-yard line to field a pop-up kickoff.

It was a new experience for both.

"I think the last time I played a position where you would catch the ball was in seventh grade when I was a tight end," Conrath said. "It's been a while."

Added Hemer: "I've never had the ball in my hand but that doesn't mean I can't dream."

The pair had some fun breaking down a drill that looked a little comical but might someday prove critical should the need for such a player to execute a fair catch arise.

The nuances discussed included:

Potentially Returning a Kickoff
Conrath: "I've never scored a touchdown in football so that would be pretty awesome."
Hemer: "If that ball is high in the air I'm fair-catching it. I'm not going to be 'that' guy."

Thursday's Results
Conrath: "I was 10-for-10."
Hemer: "I got cocky and started spinning around and trying to catch them (after initially lining up with his back to the Jugs machine) and I dropped one or two. You have to challenge yourself."

The More You Can Do
Conrath: "Whatever they need done. This is something that's part of the game and we want to make sure that one time it does happen that we prepared for it and we're ready."
Hemer: "If you're put in that situation and you capitalize on it that only helps you."

The Key
Conrath: "Figuring out the trajectory of it, but the more reps you take you kind of figure where the ball's going to arc. Keep the elbows in and secure the catch."
Hemer: "Muscle memory. When you're out there (in practice) you just keep getting in that rhythm, keep doing it and try to carry it over into that game setting."

Coaching Points
Conrath: "They tell you to watch the ball in and be an athlete."
Hemer: "We watch the guys that do it for a living and we try to emulate them."

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