Dangerfield has the right attitude

There is a special attitude you need to have, a mindset that needs to prevail to be the best at what you do.

When it comes to playing special teams, Jordan Dangerfield has that.

It's that mentality that every snap matters. You have to play with reckless abandon, without anything but making a hit or a block on your mind.

"It's kind of a crazy attitude," said Dangerfield. "Don't judge me then. Just don't judge me. You have to be a little crazy. You do have to be a little crazy.

"I am night and day different on and off the field. Total opposite. You become a monster when you are running down there thinking about everything and going out there just trying to get the guy down. As a person smiling, loving, caring. I am a dad. Once I get between the white lines it all changes. There is a switch that goes on and off."

That switch is helping Dangerfield make a career being a special teams standout. Sure, he is like every player in the league who wants to be a starter. But he understands the numbers game and is more than willing to fill the role that is currently his.

"Everybody wants to be a starter on offense or defense and that is still my dream, to be a starter," said Dangerfield. "But I like my role. I think they know what I can do here. You are a starter on special teams. There is sometimes more pressure because you aren't getting 60 snaps, you are only getting maybe 20 a game. You have to be perfect on each of those plays.

"I love the pressure. You only get one play. You don't have time for any mess-ups. You have to go out and deliver on that play. We only get a handful of plays, a certain amount of plays every game, depending on how the game goes. You have pressure to be perfect on that play."

This year Dangerfield was tied for seventh in the NFL with 12 special teams tackles, a testament to how hard he goes preparing in the offseason through the effort he gives on game day.

"You have to be ready to compete every year, show what you can do on teams when camp comes around," said Dangerfield. "You have to take steps forward and no steps backwards. It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of time. It takes a lot of mental focus too. You can easily let yourself slip out of it. Everybody wants to be a starter on offense and defense, but on special teams you have a role, you have a job to do. You have to do that job really well.

"I know I am good enough in this league. I know I am able to play defense. But there are only 11 guys on defense. Coach (Mike) Tomlin said everybody is a starter. You have to prepare like you are a starter every week. You have to just keep working while you wait. My work is special teams. I put my all into that.

"I like it. I know my spot. I know my lane. I love special teams. Being able to live my dream doing that. I have been dreaming about this since I was seven years old so it's a blessing to be running down there on kickoffs. Being able to help the team that way. I don't take it for granted. I put my all into it. I try to help the team any way I can."

Dangerfield said he challenged himself going into the 2019 season to take his game to the next level. He didn't want status quo. He wanted much more.

"I just felt like we needed an extra push on special teams, someone to get that splash play," said Dangerfield. "That miscellaneous play Coach Tomlin always talks about that can change the game. We faced a lot of adversity this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball, so we were just trying to pick things up in that area.

"We should have had a few more splash plays, whether it was blocking a punt, taking a punt return back, taking a kick return back. Just making that splash play to change the game. I feel like we should have had at least one of those plays every game. I wouldn't say I feel satisfied, but I was happy with the job we did."

One of the splash plays that really stands out in Dangerfield's mind is Diontae Johnson's 85-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.

"It was fun being out there on that punt return Diontae had," said Dangerfield. "I think the last one the Steelers had was back in 2015. Just being on the field, helping him get in the end zone, that was a great feeling for me and the team.

"It changes the momentum. It helps out the whole team on defense and offense. It puts us in the game."

And being in the game is something Dangerfield loves. He came into the league as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Buffalo Bills from Towson. And keep in mind this is a player who has been involved in 20 transactions since 2013. Yes, 20. From being waived and out of the league, to being on practice squads to finally making the 53-man roster in 2018 where he has stuck ever since.

"That is the mental thing, knowing your role and taking it seriously," said Dangerfield. "I knew I had to take special teams seriously. I came in undrafted, no all-star game, no combine. I knew I had to put a lot of extra work into special teams. I knew I could play defense, but I played special teams all through high school, all through college. I felt like I had that in my resume already and it helped out a lot.

"I still have that hunger. I still have that mentality that I can be a starter in this league. I just have to stay in my lane and play my role until my time comes.

"All I have to do is look back whenever I need a little motivation. I just look back on my journey. It can be a slow morning, meetings are dragging. I just think in my head you are lucky to be here. I was without football for a few months. I think about that and it motivates me every day."

And for Dangerfield, what else motivates him is staying with the Steelers. He will become a restricted free agent on March 18, but his goal is to remain right where he is.

"I love Pittsburgh. I feel like Pittsburgh is home," said Dangerfield. "God willing it can work out."

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