INDIANAPOLIS – It’s no surprise that Devon Still, the centerpiece of Penn State’s defense – the No. 5 scoring defense in the nation last season – is a cousin of Art Still, the former Kansas City Chiefs defensive end who went to four Pro Bowls during his 12 NFL seasons.
The name, of course, gives it away.
And it’s no surprise that Devon Still is the cousin of former Steelers great Levon Kirkland, who went to two Pro Bowls during his 11 NFL seasons.
The voice gives it away.
He sounds exactly like Kirkland.
“I do?” said the 6-5, 303-pound defensive tackle. “Actually, I’ve never got the chance to meet him.”
Kirkland is a cousin on Still’s mother’s side of the family, so it’s little wonder Still has been a lifelong fan of the Steelers.
“Yeah, I’m a big Steelers fan, but not because of that,” Still said. “My dad’s actually a Steelers fan and he brought me home from the hospital in a Steelers jersey when I was born, and ever since then it’s just stuck with me.”
Could the Steelers again bring Still home in their jersey on April 26 to begin his life in the NFL?
“Well, they’ve shown interest,” Still said. “We have a meeting set up.”
It only makes sense that the Steelers would put in their due diligence with a player of Still’s talents. But could Still play nose tackle? Could he become the third and final “progressive replacement,” as GM Kevin Colbert put it, on their defensive line?
“I can play any position on the defensive line,” Still said.
The big man certainly doesn’t lack for confidence. Still said this moments after telling an assembled throng of reporters that “hands down I’m the best defensive tackle in this draft.”
“Because I want it more.”
Still very well could be the best defensive tackle in the draft. Some experts consider him a top-10 prospect after a season in which the Penn State captain was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and he was named to 10 different All-America first teams.
Born in Camden, New Jersey, to parents Antonio Still and Melissa Sangare, Devon Still grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and became an all-state player at Howard Technology High School.
He went to Penn State, but in the first week of practice tore his left ACL and took a redshirt.
Still came back in 2008 but fractured his fibula and broke his left ankle at preseason camp and missed all but the regular-season finale.
That wasn’t the only problem Still encountered as a redshirt freshman. One of his linemates, Chris Bell, allegedly pulled a knife on Still and threatened him after Still had accused Bell of stealing his cell phone. Bell was kicked off the team but Still came back to play in every game in 2009.
In 2010 Still replaced Jared Odrick in Penn State’s 4-3 defense. He made 12 starts with 10 tackles-for-loss and a team-high 4 sacks. Still finished the season with what the Penn State PR department called the “best game of his career” in the Outback Bowl against Florida and center Mike Pouncey.
Still had 3½ tackles-for-loss in that game and it served to springboard him to an outstanding senior season in which Still made 55 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, and 4½ sacks.
He took some snaps as a true nose tackle and scouts like his strength at the point of attack. Still proved he can hold the point while seeking out the ball and making the play, but scouts don’t like his change-of-direction skills once the ball is past him. It’s led to questions about his motor.
That would be the only reason Still could slip to the 24th pick and allow the Steelers a decision on whether a 303-pounder could grow into a 3-4 nose tackle for them. Still could also keep his weight down and give the team another first-round defensive end, otherwise known as a 5-technique, in the Steelers’ scheme.
Still explained why neither of those options would bother him.
“Coach (Larry) Johnson let me get a taste of all the different positions on the line,” Still said from the podium in Indianapolis. “I practiced end when I first got to Penn State and then I moved out to 3-technique (4-3 tackle) my sophomore year, and I played both the 3 and the 1-(technique/4-3 nose tackle). For my senior I played the majority at the 3-technique, so I got a taste of every position on the defensive line.”
And if you ask him, he’ll tell you he can play any of them better than anyone, even the esteemed members of his family. And that’s saying something.