LATROBE -- Ramon Foster made his way back to St. Vincent College after burying his mother, who died unexpectedly last week at the age of 49.
Foster thanked his teammates and coaches for helping him through a situation that obviously is still weighing heavily on him. But the Steelers' left guard said he wanted to play and talk football, because "that's the only way to do it in this situation."
So Foster tried to lighten up the conversation when he was asked if he had heard whether anyone was playing well.
"Chicken Nugget," Foster said.
"The young guy, what's his name?" Foster paused to think. "Chris. Chris Elkins. Yeah, he went against one of the older guys and did pretty good. I was proud to see that the first day in pads."
Elkins is an undrafted rookie from Youngstown State by way of Beaver Falls High. He stood out in the one-on-one line drills Monday, so the coaches challenged him with their best defensive lineman, Cameron Heyward, and Elkins stopped Heyward not once but twice.
"Yeah, he did pretty well," Heyward admitted. "But it was the first day."
Against Heyward, Elkins won with exceptional hand placement and superior leverage.
"He's short and stubby, so it was hard to get under him," Heyward said.
Elkins is listed at 6-4, 300, but he's not that tall.
"I'm 6-4," said Maurkice Pouncey. "So there's no way he's 6-4."
Pouncey was asked for his opinion of Elkins, a backup center/guard.
"I like Chicken Nugget, man," Pouncey said. "He goes out there and busts his butt every day, has great leverage, puts his hands inside. He beat a lot of guys yesterday in pass rush."
Why do the offensive linemen call Elkins "Chicken Nugget"?
"I'm sure you've seen the size of a chicken nugget," Pouncey said.
Elkins, who said he's 6-2 1/4, was asked what he thought of the nickname.
"Ah, whatever," he said. "At least they're calling me something."
Elkins helped lead Beaver Falls to two WPIAL Championship Game appearances, and said his picture-perfect technique was perfected at Youngstown State.
"Coach (Eric) Wolford and Coach (Carmen) Bricillo," Elkins said. "Apparently they did something right."
Elkins was asked about Monday's performance, but his mind was on the just-finished Wednesday workout.
After playing left guard for the third line in team scrimmages, he went up against monstrous rookie defensive tackle Daniel McCullers and was finally defeated.
"I didn't have as great a day today," Elkins said. "I didn't mess up any assignments, though."
ADAMS SEES IMPROVEMENT
Mike Adams, the third-year tackle who's trying to find his way back into the starting lineup, said he's making strides under new line coach Mike Munchak.
"Yeah, definitely," Adams said. "He's been harping on me about a lot of things in the pass game. We're getting better at those things every day. We work real hard on those. I'm excited to work with him and having a good time."
What specifically does Munchak want Adams to improve?
"Consistency with footwork in the passing game, keeping your feet moving and not leaning on guys," Adams said. "Being tall that's a habit I've got to break. Just things like that, small technique things that make a huge difference."
Adams was the second-team right tackle on Wednesday.
Rookie tight end Rob Blanchflower stood on the sidelines Wednesday with a boot on his left foot, the result of a high ankle sprain that Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said will cost Blanchflower at least a week of playing time.
Look for a more comprehensive rundown tomorrow in The Morning After.