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King ready to fit into role with the Steelers

When veteran defensive back Desmond King became a free agent following his release by the Houston Texans last week, he had an idea of where he wanted to land.

Having formed a relationship with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during the draft process back in 2017 when King was coming out of Iowa, he wanted to join a coach such as Tomlin with his no-nonsense approach to the game.

Fortunately for King, things worked out and the Steelers were interested, as well, making it a perfect marriage.

"I'm excited to be here. It's like a dream come true," King said Monday following his first practice with the Steelers. "I always wanted to play for Mike and the city of Pittsburgh. It was always a good atmosphere to come here and play here. I know what it's about.

"It was just the kind of player I am. It was a perfect fit for me. (Tomlin) said I'm the kind of player that needs to be in this organization. I play fast. I tackle well. I'm physical. As long as I want to win, this was the place for me to be.

King wanted to wear black and gold. And not just because those were the colors he wore while at the University of Iowa. He had a connection with Tomlin from their meetings back in 2017 at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.

"Just what kind of coach he is, somebody who is going to keep it real," King said. "He's a coach that's going to tell you when you're right, tell you when you're wrong, uplift you. At the same time, he's going to tell you what you need to improve on. I just know what kind of coach he is and the feedback other people have given me, as well."

For King, that feedback has already begun.

A first-team All-Pro as a defensive back and second-team All-Pro as a return man in 2018 for the Chargers, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, King offers versatility.

He's been a star nickel corner. He's been a very good return man during his career. And over the past couple of seasons in Houston, he's also played outside cornerback.

That versatility is something about which the Steelers have already spoken to him.

"I feel like I'm going to be a utilized guy," King said. "They see me inside. They see me outside. They can see me at safety. I' just trying to get a groove, a type of rhythm into the program and see where I fit."

He's obviously getting on a moving train, joining the Steelers a week before they open their regular season at Acrisure Stadium Sept. 10 against the San Francisco 49ers. But as a veteran who has played inside and out over his previous six NFL seasons, the 28-year-old feels he'll acclimate quickly.

"Absolutely," King said. "Just knowing what everybody has to do. That's what helps me learn the defense. I know what the corner does, the nickel does, the safety does, it will make my job easier because I know where I fit at with my responsibilities."

The Steelers' roster now includes starting corners Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson with safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Damontae Kazee. They also have rookie Joey Porter Jr. and James Pierre as outside cornerbacks, Chandon Sullivan and Elijah Riley as nickels, along with safeties Keanu Neal and Miles Killebrew.

It's a group in which position flexibility is available across the board.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

That fits King's style, as well.

In six seasons, he's recorded nine interceptions, 8.5 sacks, 33 pass defenses to go along with 427 tackles. He also has two career punt returns for touchdowns, one of which came against the Steelers in 2018.

"Everybody says I'm a natural nickel because I have a knack for the ball," King said. "I feel like I'm a football player. You can put me anywhere on the field. I'm going to make it happen."