Crazy NFL ride brings Ventrone home

To say Ross Ventrone's NFL career to date has been a roller coaster ride might be one of the biggest understatements ever.

Ventrone, a safety from Villanova, signed with the New England Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2010. For him, it was a chance to live out a dream, playing in the NFL. He knew he would have a battle ahead of him to make the roster, but never knew how daunting that battle would be.

Ventrone was released by the Patriots on Aug. 15, during training camp, but signed back on Aug. 23. He was let go again on Sept. 4 before the start of the regular season. The Patriots added him to their practice squad on Oct. 19, where he spent the final 11 weeks of the season.

After the season he was signed again, but the roster saga continued. He was cut in training camp again in 2011, re-signed and cut before the season began. He was signed to the practice squad, activated to the roster, released, and then through the same process again and again. Throughout his time in New England there were more roster moves for him to even keep track of.

"I think it was something like 21 or 22 roster moves," said Ventrone.

The final count, which included being released before the start of the 2012 season, was 29 transactions in just over two years.

"It was tough never knowing if I was going to be on the roster that week or not," said Ventrone. "When it was going on it was hard because there was so much uncertainty week-to-week."

But you won't hear him complain about it, you won't see the smile that is ever present diminished. That kind of upheaval might break a weaker player, might push him to the brink of quitting. But what it did for Ventrone was make him stronger.

"It was a good experience for me going through the adversity," said Ventrone. "It got me ready. I felt like it helped me. I always had to be ready because I didn't know if I would be activated. I studied a lot of positions, learned more about the game. Looking back on it, I think it made me a better football player and student of the game.

"I wanted to be playing all of the time. I wanted to be on the field. I wasn't getting angry. There were things that happened and I understood how the game works. I kept grinding every day and doing what I had to do."

Ventrone sat out the 2012 season, but never gave up his dream. And now, that's paying off. The Steelers signed him in January, the perfect scenario bringing him back to his hometown of Pittsburgh.

"I am so excited to be here," he said. "I grew up a huge Steelers fan. Everyone in my family is a huge Steelers fan. To come home and play for the team you grew up watching…I am really excited to have the opportunity right now."

He is enjoying working with secondary coach Carnell Lake during phase two of the offseason program, using every minute allotted to soak up as much information as he can.

"Now it's more into the football aspect of it," said Ventrone, who attended Chartiers Valley High School. "Everything else got us ready for the football side of it. Now it's about the concepts and getting to crunch time where you have to learn stuff before OTAs. It's exciting because I want to learn the system. I like that part of the game.

"I am excited to learn a new defense. I think that is the thing that separates everybody at this level. Everybody is big. Everybody is strong. Knowing the defense well to slow the game down for you is the key. The faster you pick it up, the easier it is to make plays on the field."

That is what he is hoping for this fall, to have the opportunity to make plays. It's an opportunity he is willing to fight for.

"Every day is going to be a grind for me no matter what and I have to push as hard as I can," said Ventrone. "As long as I am playing hard that is the key. If I am not living up to my end, they are going to find someone who can. I just have to focus on myself to get better and make the decision tough on them, for them to want to keep me."

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