Press Conferences

Steelers select Ayers in the seventh round



Demarcus AyersWide ReceiverHouston5-11, 190Lancaster, TexasLancaster High School7th Round – 229th Overall**

Finished his Houston career third on the program's chart for career kickoff return yards with 1,613.

Named to The American's first-team as a receiver and return specialists…started all 14 games, leading The American and finishing sixth in the nation with 98 catches for 1,222 receiving yards (18th-most)…his 98 catches were eight-best on the school's single-season list and his 1,222 receiving yards were ninth-most…added 28 punt returns for 290 yards (10.4 average) and a touchdown...led all receiver with nine catches for 82 yards vs. Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, and threw for a 20-yard touchdown pass…had a career-best 161 receiving yards on eight catches and one score in win vs. Navy…hauled in a career-high 13 catches for 127 receiving yards in win vs. Memphis…rushed for his first career touchdown and returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown, finishing with six catches for 93 yards in win at Tulane.

Saw action in all 13 games, making eight starts…tallied 33 catches for 335 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 34 kickoff returns for 592 yards…had two grabs for 29 yards and returned four kickoffs for 50 yards in the Armed Forces Bowl victory…caught 10 passes for 95 yards at Cincinnati…generated 90 receiving yards on seven catches to go along with three kickoff returns for 81 yards vs. UCF.


2013 SEASON**
Served as the primary kick returner and started the final three games at receiver…earned The American Co-Special Teams Player of the Year honors, and was a first-team selection as a kick returner…led the conference (12th in the nation) with a 27.6 kickoff return average (37-1,021)…his 1,021 kickoff return yards set a program freshman record and were second-most in team history…posted 100 kickoff return yards or more in five games, and his 12 kickoff returns of 30 or more yards were second-most.

Generated 1,337 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 184 carries as a senior, along with six catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns, leading Lancaster High School to a state title game…threw for 1,823 yards and 22 touchdowns (10 interceptions) in senior campaign…named MVP of the 2012 IFAF U-19 World Championship, as he led Team USA with seven catches for 155 yards and a score in title game victory vs. American Samoa…totaled 445 rushing yards (44 carries) and five touchdowns, along with 21 catches for 364 yards and six scores as a junior…was the school's starting point guard in basketball.

Son of Mark Ayers and Bernice Edwards.

Post-Pick Press Conference

Danny Smith Re: Demarcus Ayers
This is a dynamic kid, Demarcus Ayers. I'm excited about it, very excited about it. He is an excellent punt returner. We had him rated number one on our list as far as returners were concerned.  Not taking into play, wide receiver skills in this setting, he is outstanding and he does a great job. He has a lot of special skills. We are excited about it.

Was he ranked number one as a punt returner on your list?
Yes, I did as a punt returner. We have a list that is consisted of combination guys, that's what we call them. It consists of kick (return) guys, punt (return) guys; we got kick returners and punt returners. We had him listed as a number one punt returner. I know you get into these meetings and you don't know what to believe, what to say, who's telling the truth, that's my list, there he is.

Re: Punt returner:
I'm not concerned about that to be honest. We have a lot work to do. He is a punt returner for us and we will have to see what he can and can't do.

Re: Punt returner:
Punt returners much more so.

Re: Antonio Brown as a punt returner:
You asked the wrong guy that question. I'm coaching that position. I am a team guy and this is a team organization if there ever was one. I have experience in that being that I haven't been in five organizations. In direct answer to your question, you want to put the best player there. I can tell you that last year we went with the Jacoby Jones experiment. At that particular time, we made that decision to make that change. After that meeting, Antonio Brown came to my office very distinctly and said, "Danny, I don't like it."

My honest comment was, "Antonio Brown, I don't like it either but that's what we are going to do."

That's what we did. It didn't work and we went back to Antonio Brown. You can never have enough of these kinds of guys. You can never have enough of punt returners. We are not ready to give this kid the position by no means. He is a seventh-round draft choice but I think he has an excellent skill level. He will be competitive at the position. I'm not a guy that's a part-time guy either. You put a guy back there with the capabilities and just put him in critical situations and you expect miracles. I don't think that happens really often. I think special skill you have to use, you have to work it, you have to commit, you have to develop guys and they have to practice. That's a roundabout way to answer your question. You asked the wrong guy as far as. I'd love Antonio Brown back there. What we will do with it is we will see as the season progresses.

Is wide receiver an option?
We have him as a wide receiver/punt returner. But you would have to talk to the office of coaches in particular for his wide receiver skills. I learned a long time ago when they talk about special teams, I talk. But when they talk about wide receivers, I don't.

Is Eli Rodgers in contention?
Eli Rodgers is in the mix. Eli Rodgers is in the building, Eli Rodgers has a pair of Steelers shorts so he thinks he is a Steeler but I have yet to see him in a game. He's a suspect at this time. We'll see.


Re: Decorating a player:**
You keep using this term decorated but who decorated these guys? You read something in the media and they are all decorated. None of them are decorated in this league. They haven't run down on a kick yet so they haven't done a thing. We'll decorate him after he makes a tackle against the Washington Redskins on Monday night. I like him a lot. The kid is a physical kid. He is a tough kid, he has good size. He runs well and he will hit. We have to develop his special team skill. It puzzles me a lot of the time when we take different guys, and I don't mean this particular kid, I gave you my response for this kid. But as soon as we drat a linebacker, not just a Pittsburgh Steelers, but as soon as a linebacker is drafted at the National Football League, automatically they are special team guys. There are a lot of guys who cannot do that. Then the next step is if he is a two-down linebacker, we take him out on third-down. Okay, then he is a good special teams player. He can't cover a hook of pass coverage, so let's give him more distance on a kickoff or a punt and he will get that. In a way it is a special skill. This kid runs. He's physical, he's big, he's strong, he hits. There are great qualities coming in. I'll decorate him once he makes a couple tackles.

Robert Golden is number one on the depth chart at safety. Is he still going to be a big part of the special teams?
Honestly I haven't looked at that depth chart. I really haven't. Where we stand there, again, I'm not trying to be a wise guy or be evasive. I can talk to you about my depth chart. I can't talk to you about the defensive depth chart because I don't know. I don't study it. I have other things to do with my time. It won't affect his play on special teams wherever he's at.

Re: Evaluating whether a player can be a good kick returner:
It really is. I brought a list. When I evaluate a returner, I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of things. We're not just talking about the whole education of all of this thing for all of us. I look at their hands, their quickness. Do they muff? Are there fumbles? What's their decision making? What's their vision? What's their ability to avoid? Do they break tackles? Are they fearless? Are they tough? Will they outrun coverage? Do they have TD speed? Are they sideline returners? Are they middle returners? Can they make cuts at full speed? Are they a must gather guy? Can they make the first guy miss? Do they only get what's blocked? Do they have the ability to create? And I plus and minus all of those qualities. Then after I plus and minus those qualities, I reach a conclusion. That's how I come up the list and rate. This kid had more of those qualities as a punt returner than anyone else I evaluated.

Is straight line speed overrated in a returner?
It matters honestly. It really does. Forty times matter, but maybe they matter too much. There's a play speed in this league. This kid plays fast. If I showed you the tape I put together on this kid, you wouldn't think that that's a matchup of the time he does. To be honest with you, and I'm a little bit old fashioned in a lot of ways, I don't know where when we started in one of the most crazy things in all of football, whether it be in high school or college or professional football, we wear about 15-pounds of pads with helmets, shoulder pads and pads and girdles and thighs and knees and then we time these guys in track shoes and their underwear. I don't know where we went wrong with that. If I had to do it, I'd time them in full pads. I'm just trying to translate. That's what I mean by play speed. This kid plays faster than his 40-time. Maybe that's his vision. Maybe that's quicker decisions. I think if we took a lot of guys at 7/11, they would run fast, but if the cop is chasing them they would be a little faster. I think some of our players are like that. Don't make the insinuation that they're all getting chased by the cops. I didn't say that. I'm just saying in that environment when you have a defensive guy or punt team chasing these guys, they're pretty quick. This guy falls in that category.

How long did it take you to come up with your evaluation list?
I've used it for years to be honest with you. I put it together years ago as a tool to evaluate guys. You look at guys and say he can do this and he can do that. A few years back, I said what are the important qualities in the offseason? Let me come up with traits that we're looking for, that I'm looking for, that I think make good returners. Like I say, there is a number scale on it that I use and plus minus scale that I use. So when we arrive at those conclusions, they're documented conclusions. It's not I like this kid or this kid had a good return. It's documented. Hopefully that will turn out to be effective in his particular case. Some work. Some don't.

For those traits, is it just up and down or checks a box?
It could be a number scale or a plus and minus. I do it both ways.

How will the kickoff rule change affect the kick return game?
You ask can guys coach that stuff? Is it important to me? People say it's not as important and there are a lot more touchbacks. I'm not going to bore you with the facts and the figures. We're going to get into a situation at some point next year. And I'll use the illustration that the Cincinnati Bengals were in when we beat them in the playoffs. You have an 18-16 game. You have 30-seconds left on the clock. You're defending a field goal. That kick coverage is pretty important. That return by them and the field position that they get is going to determine the outcome of that game and whether they go to the next round or not. That's a pretty important kick whether it's the only one we had that year or whether it's the fiftieth one we had that year. There are going to be times where they are very, very relative. And then there are issues that are not. My opinion of it? I don't have one. I'll be honest with you. I wasn't in the meeting when they changed the rule. They didn't ask me my vote. I don't spend a lot of time forming an opinion. That's the rule. That's what we're going to do. That's just the way I go. Mr. Rooney didn't come to me and say, "What do you think?" So I don't give a lot of time thinking about it.

Are you excited for the beginning of the season?
I can't wait to play. I love when the players are here. I'm not a good office guy. I'm not a good offseason guy. I don't have any hobbies. I love football. I love coaching players. I tell them that. It's a little corny when I'm around them sometimes like that. But when they're in here, I get goosebumps and I love being around them. I love coaching. I love teaching. I love the team we have. I can't wait to get started.

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