LATROBE, Pa. - What a difference a year makes. Last year second-year linebacker Terence Garvin was an undrafted free agent hoping to catch the eyes of his coaches during training camp in the same manner he did when he was first signed as a 'tryout' during the team's rookie minicamp. This year, he has some experience under his belt and has fast-tracked the learning process.
"It's really like night and day," said Garvin. "Last year I didn't know what to expect. I was coming in just trying to do anything I could. Now I am trying to make plays. I understand more of the defense and what is going on and why we are doing it."
He knew the odds were stacked against him, and he had to make an impact. The defense was crowded, and he was still learning the nuances of Dick LeBeau's scheme. At that point, special teams were his calling, his zest and knack for it finding him a spot on the 53-man roster.
"He did a good job with what we were asking him to do in camp and the preseason," said linebackers coach Keith Butler. "He was trying to learn what we were asking of him in the defense. The first year is difficult.
"He managed to be a good special teams player for us and it bought him time on this team to show us his skills. We know he is a good football player, we are just trying to utilize him the best we can."
Garvin played in 15 games last year, including one start against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 22. He finished the season with 11 tackles and nine special teams tackles. This year, though, it's time to take the next step. Garvin admits he is more comfortable in the defense, especially after an offseason of studying what linebacker Lawrence Timmons does and learning everything he could from Butler.
"He is learning what he is doing within the framework of the defense," said Butler. "It's coming to him. The game is slowing down for him. He is a good athlete, football player and he is making plays.
"He needs to do that in the preseason and be reliable. Last year he made some mental mistakes as to where he needs to be and he needs to show that he has erased that from his game. You want guys that are hard to keep off the field. We have a lot of linebackers. There is a lot of competition. When you have competition it raises the level of everybody. He has done that for us as a linebacker unit."
Photos of the Steelers Inside Linebackers during the 2013 season.
Right now Garvin does have a lot of competition. He is second on the depth chart behind Lawrence Timmons, but he knows there is always going to be someone right on his toes, so he has to continually work hard.
"You just have to compete every day," said Garvin. "You can't worry about stuff you can't control, you just have to worry about what you can control and what you can do. I am out there showing what I can do and control and play hard every play.
"Every day in practice, every play is a big play. You never know what is going to happen. I am starting to understand I should have done this because of this reason, or shouldn't have done this because of that. I am starting to understand the defense a lot better. I am trying to get better every day."