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Former YSU wideout tries to latch on with Steelers

Just like a good wide receiver doesn’t let a pass slip through his fingers, former Youngstown State University wide receiver Damoun Patterson is not about to let this opportunity slip through his fingers.

Signed to a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers after last month’s rookie mini camp, Patterson spent part of his lunch break during one of last week’s Organized Team Activities running pass patterns with other rookie wide receivers while catching passes from rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph.

“It’s important to get my steps down and to get used to how each quarterback throws the ball,” Patterson said. “I just study my playbook, pay attention during the meetings and film sessions, listen to what the coaches say, and observe what the veteran receivers do and how they go about their work. It is so important to do your prep work and to be ready when it’s your time.”

The Apopka, Florida native’s path to the Steelers took him to the southwest, the Rocky Mountains, the midlands, Youngstown, and finally to Pittsburgh.

“I went to a prep school in New Mexico for about four or five months before walking on at Utah State,” he said. “After that, I went to Highland Community College (Highland, Kansas). Youngstown State came in to look at teammate of mine and saw tape on me and liked what they saw.”

Initially playing special teams at YSU, Patterson gradually earned more playing time during his junior year as the Penguins advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision championship game, succumbing to James Madison. Patterson led the Penguins with 555 receiving yards on 32 catches in 2017.

“I loved playing for Coach Bo (Pelini),” Patterson said with a smile. “The first year I played a lot of special teams before becoming a regular. It was a great experience playing at Youngstown State. That’s what made it possible for me to get this opportunity. Now, it’s up to me.”

One of the other receivers taking part in the after practice workout alongside Patterson was Trey Griffey, son of baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr.

Injuries

The injury bug struck the Steelers last Wednesday as offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins went down with a torn thigh muscle. Hawkins was slated to be the team’s third tackle, taking over the role Chris Hubbard admirably filled the past few seasons. During the offseason, Hubbard’s efforts were rewarded with a sizable contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hawkins will be sidelined for a number of weeks, probably months. Versatile B.J. Finney will now likely step into Hawkins’ spot.

Later in the day, tight end Jake McGee went down with a torn Achilles tendon. McGee spent the 2017 campaign on the practice squad. He was ticketed to be the team’s third tight end behind Vance McDonald and Jesse James.

Tuesday, the Steelers announced the signings of journeyman offensive tackle Bryce Hubbard and tight end Ryan Malleck to one-year contracts. Hawkins and McGee were placed on the Reserve/injured List. Malleck was on the Steelers offseason roster from February to May of 2017 before being released. Later, he was signed by the Houston Texans and played against the Steelers on Christmas Day.

Steelers notebook

The Steelers wrap up their 10 days of OTA’s Thursday. The team’s three-day mini camp is slated for June 12-14.

With Ben Roethlisberger on a “family vacation” last week, backup Landry Jones got some much-needed work with the first unit. Second-year quarterback Josh Dobbs and the rookie Rudolph also got more work.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown decided that since Roethlisberger wasn’t going to be there, he wouldn’t be there either.

Dobbs went back to Knoxville for the weekend to host more than 200 campers at his second annual football camp. The former Tennessee quarterback will be battling Rudolph for the third quarterback on the Steelers’ regular season roster.

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