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Anderson ready to prove himself

Rookie offensive lineman Spencer Anderson has learned plenty about patience playing chess growing up.

And as the Steelers seventh-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the 251st overall selection, Anderson had to put that patience to work as he waited for his phone to ring during the draft.

"It's always tough," said Anderson. "You feel like you have the potential to go higher. I know who I am. I know what I can do. It was kind of a worry, but my agent was on the phone with other teams, and it just happened to work out in Pittsburgh. I am excited. I have no complaints. I am excited to get to work."

Anderson knows the draft, like chess and football, is a game of well-thought out moves that take focus and concentration. But when his phone rang, it was about emotion and excitement.

"I got the call and at first, I was in shock," said Anderson. I was on the phone with another team, and they were telling me it was between me and another defensive back. I had another team telling me I was on their board. I had to hang up because I had a call come in and it was Pittsburgh.

"They asked me about my versatility. I was telling them about that. They told me then they were making me their next pick and said congratulations on becoming a Pittsburgh Steeler. I went crazy. Dreams really do come true. I stayed on the line and talked to a bunch of other people. It was exciting.

"It was definitely emotional. I went outside and I screamed. I was at home with my family, and I let it all out. It kind of echoed through the neighborhood. I was excited. I then calmed down because this is only the beginning."

That versatility that was brought up in the conversation is something that is a plus for Anderson. While at Maryland he played every position on the offensive line, something that can only benefit a young player.

"It does help me a lot," said Anderson. "A lot of times teams only carry seven, eight or nine offensive linemen and most of the time guys aren't able to snap the ball or play guard and tackle. Some guys are only position specific. Me having experience at all five, even a handful of snaps at left tackle, that helps me a lot. Snapping the ball, a lot of guys don't like to snap the ball or have the overall knowledge for it.

"I pride myself on being a football nerd. I pay attention to defensive coverage. I pay attention to tendencies. Little things like that. When you know it, it slows the game down. It helps you a lot. You aren't processing as much in your brain and the game comes easier to you."

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Anderson credits part of that football mentality to his love of playing chess. He started playing at a summer enrichment camp when he was just nine years old and the passion continued through high school, joining the chess club at Bishop McNamara High School. And to this day, he still loves to sit down and challenge an opponent.

"It was something that was calm and eased my mind," said Anderson. "It requires a lot of brain power in the moment. It just helps with overall knowledge. I feel like life is like chess. People make decisions that are sort of immediate or do what feels right, react in the moment. You can't always do that. Things aren't always going to go your way. If they do, great. If not, you have to have something thought out and calculated. You aren't going to make every block. Every scheme can't work against every team. You have to have something different. That is the same with chess. It's always so unique. You don't make the same moves every game.

"I feel like you have to have that mental capacity to make calculated decisions. In chess you have to think about every piece on the board. Football is the same way. I have to move my pawns forward to take somebody's bishop, but meanwhile they are setting me up to take my queen. On the field, you have the same thing. If 10 guys are doing the right thing, and one person isn't doing what they are supposed to do, you are hurting the team. When you have your queen taken, it's hurting your chess board. It's the same premise in my head for football."

While Anderson's football skills have grown over the years at Maryland, his football IQ has continued to take off. He understands the importance of both sides of the game and that one is non-existent without the other.

"They both go hand-in-hand," said Anderson. "You can be the best athlete in the world but not know the playbook in and out. Sometimes you can wing it, but when it matters it can mess you up. You can also be the smartest guy in the world, but if you can't play a lick of football, you can kiss your hopes goodbye of getting on the field. They go hand-in-hand and I know how important both are."

At 6-4, 305 pounds, Anderson isn't your typical chess player. He said he sometimes gets looks when he sits down at the chess board, and others aren't always aware of how good he actually is.

But when he started playing football, he wasn't typical either. While other five-year olds were playing regular flag football, he took it a step further.

"I played contact flag," said Anderson. "Regular flag wasn't doing it for me. In contact flag you could block so I started playing contact flag. That is where my love of the game grew."

His father, Robert Anderson, also helped grow that love. He played college football at Howard University and was always there for his son to guide him through his game and be his toughest critic and biggest supporter.

"He took me to all my games and was always there helping me," said Anderson. "He always let me know when I messed up. He was always the last to let me hear it when I did something good. That is the way it's supposed to be. You can always do something better."


Take a look at photos of Pittsburgh Steelers 7th round pick, OL Spencer Anderson