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Offseason Program

What's the catch?

As the NFL evolves in terms of how the game is being played, running backs and tight ends are changing what's being demanded of defensive backs, and the DBs are returning the favor.

"Now you have tight ends and running backs that are athletic enough to run routes like a (wide) receiver, fast like a receiver," veteran safety Morgan Burnett maintained. "I feel as a safety or any defender out on the field, you have to be versatile.

"I honestly believe that's what the game is coming to, you have to be versatile on the defensive side of the ball."

That's a transition that works both ways in the estimation of veteran running back Stevan Ridley.

"Man, the game's changing, and the more you can do, the more you can do," Ridley observed. "That's on both sides. They ask a lot more out of (running) backs nowadays. You gotta be able to run, catch. You gotta be able to block. You gotta be able to do it all.

"So these DBs, it's only natural that they're asking them to do more, switch around, be more versatile."

Defensive backs are now required to tackle as well as cover, thanks in no small part to the impact of running backs such as the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell.

"You look at No. 26, he does it all," Ridley assessed. "He's as good a receiver as he is a runner and a blocker, all of that. So really for us, as a (running backs') room, you have to be able to do it all. That's the emphasis you have to have to be able to make it in this league. You have to be able to do all three phases.

"(Bell) is who he is, a perfect example of a guy who does it in all three phases and does it well."

Ridley is a sixth-year pro with a 1,000-yard season on his resume (he gained 1,263 yards on the ground for the Patriots in 2012) and has averaged 4.2 yards on 714 career regular-season carries.

But he's never caught more than 10 passes in a season and he hasn't been credited with any receptions since he had four for the Jets in 2015.

Bell, has caught 312 passes in five seasons.

The rest of the running backs on the Steelers' roster have caught a combined 41 (Ridley 27, Fitzgerald Toussaint eight and fullback Roosevelt Nix six).

Jaylen Samuels has been added into that mix as a fifth-round draft pick with a track record for catching the ball out of the backfield at N.C. State.

Ridley is of the opinion it'll be incumbent upon all of the backs to adapt, adjust and make catching passes a more viable option.

"You gotta go in there and try to fill that role to the best of your abilities," he said. "We watch and learn and try to get the job done, that's all we're going to do. One day at a time we try to come in here and be the best players we can be for this team.

"We gotta keep pushing."

Ridley signed with the Steelers last December and matched his 4.2-yard career average per attempt with 108 yards on 26 carries in two games.

He's looking forward to his first training cap with the Steelers, and to seeing what the Steelers can become.

"It's a stacked team, very talented guys, a lot of veterans, a lot of young guys who are talented," Ridley insisted. "There's nothing that we're lacking. We just gotta put it together and become one unit.

"I think we have a bunch of great individuals. That's gonna take us some chemistry and some timing but I think we have as good a chance as anybody to do something special this year."

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