By Mike Bires
On the day the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Kraig Urbik, the big guy out of Wisconsin was immediately penciled in for a battle to determine the starting job at right guard.
So proclaimed Bruce Arians, the offensive coordinator.
Well, Urbik may eventually get the chance to challenge incumbent Darnell Stapleton once training camp begins. But for the time being, Urbik just wants to learn offensive line play Steelers’ style.
Depending on which O-linemen take part in organized team activities which resumed Tuesday, Urbik is second-team or third-team on the depth chart.
When reminded of what Arians said five weeks ago, Urbik put a halt to any discussion about landing a starting job.
“I’m not looking past tonight,” he said. “I’m not looking past our next meeting and our next practice. Right now, I’m just trying to learn the offense.
“The first thing you have to know is what you’re doing. If anything else, you can’t be running around out there like a chicken with its head cut off. You have to understand the terminology, the techniques and the plays so you can play fast.”
Learning is what OTAs are all about for rookies like Urbik, who was taken in the third round with the 79th overall pick of the draft.
An agricultural journalism major, Urbik takes plenty of notes during meetings at team headquarters. And in the evenings at the Allegheny Center apartments where first-year players stay before the 53-man roster is finalized in early September, Urbik often studies with A.Q. Shipley. A center out of Penn State, Shipley was drafted in the seventh round.
“My roommate is (defensive end) Ziggy Hood,” Urbik said. “But me and ‘Ship’ go over our plays over and over again, one or two hours every night.”
Urbik, who’s 6-foot-5 and 323 pounds, started 50 games at Wisconsin (34 at right guard, 16 at right tackle).
Obviously, he was a “need” pick. After cutting right guard Kendall Simmons, who was starting before a torn Achilles tendon in Week 4 ended his season, and choosing not to re-signed tackle Marvel Smith, the Steelers had holes to fill on the offensive line.
Urbik is expected to fill those voids and one day be a starter.
Perhaps the biggest knock on Urbik is that he’s a
little slow afoot. One scouting service called him a “plodder” before the draft. But he’s definitely huge, strong, durable and physical.
And yes, he does have position flexibility. He can play tackle if need be.
“I love him,” Arians said. “He’s a big, tough, nasty type of guy.”
We’ll see just how tough and nasty Urbik is when the pads go on at training camp.