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Undersized, undrafted, undeterred

He took a circuitous route in college, three colleges in six years, actually, and was snubbed twice in the pre-draft process and again in the three-day, seven-round NFL Draft.

But former West Virginia cornerback Beanie Bishop Jr. has landed where he knew he had a chance to eventually, and he's neither surprised nor merely along for the ride.

"We talked during the pre-draft and all of those things," Bishop said of ultimately signing with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent. "I knew there was a potential of me coming here."

Bishop also knows the opportunity beckoning at nickel cornerback, a position at which the Steelers lack an incumbent.

"That's a spot that I can play in and that's a need for the team," Bishop maintained.

It isn't a one-sided evaluation.

"I'll say this, I like the depth we have at the position," General Manager Omar Khan has observed in the aftermath of the draft. "There are some young guys in there that are going to compete and have the traits to be really good nickel corners. I really like that group.

"I can't tell you how excited we were to have an opportunity to sign Beanie Bishop after the draft. We had him in here for a visit. When he was here we talked about our defense, how he would fit in, really felt like he was a guy who could come in here and compete. I think he'll have a great opportunity to help us this year at nickel corner, and he adds some special teams value."

Bishop, 5-foot-91/8 and 180 pounds, wasn't overlooked during a 2023 season that culminated in his being named a Second-Team Associated Press All-American (along with Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell; Cooper DeJean of Iowa and Kool-Aid McKinstry were the first-team selections).

It may have taken a while for Bishop to accomplish what he had set out to in college, but after four years at Western Kentucky and one at Minnesota Bishop put on tape what he desired to during his lone season at West Virginia.

"Western Kentucky out of high school was my only FBS offer," Bishop explained. "One of my coaches told me I should go play (in a) Power 5 (conference). Transferred to Minnesota, that was a school that was dealing with the school stuff, a lot of the schools wanted me to graduate. Kind of had a down year, didn't really have the production that I had the year before or the production that I wanted.

"Decided I wanted to go to a conference where they passed the ball a lot and would have an opportunity to return kicks and punts, that's what led me to West Virginia."

Bishop wound up leading FBS with 24 passes defensed and four interceptions for the Mountaineers.

He also returned four kickoffs and two punts, one of which went for a 78-yard touchdown against North Carolina.

All of that got Bishop an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game but not the Senior Bowl and not the NFL Scouting Combine.

"It kinda surprised me," Bishop acknowledged. "The guys that I was training with all left, and everybody texted me, 'Oh, I'm surprised you didn't go to the Combine.' But that's just another chip, another thing added to the fire.

"I know a lot of guys that went undrafted and signed with teams, especially through the (Steelers') organization. Mike Hilton wasn't drafted. James Harrison wasn't drafted. Just guys like that I kind of look at and know that I have a great chance."

Draft analyst Dane Brugler of The Athletic gave Bishop a 7th Round-Priority Free Agent grade and ranked him as the 39th-best cornerback available back in April.

"Bishop as an explosive athlete with outstanding spatial instincts to trigger and disrupt at the catch point," Brugler assessed. "He was outmatched at times by the size on the outside and is better suited for inside nickel work.

"His scrappy mentality carries over to the run game and he gets his man on the ground."

Bishop considers himself capable of more than getting his man on the ground in the running game.

"I love to tackle and I love to be a physical guy," he insisted. "I like to impose my will on guys, (wide) receivers, tight ends, running backs, quarterbacks, whatever it is. That's like a strong suit of my game.

"I always play with a chip on my shoulder. It's just a mentality."