Q: Are you a 3-4 OLB?
A: I wouldn't go so far as to say that. In college I was a 3-4 outside linebacker. Right now I'm just looking for a job.
Q: Don't the scouts from 3-4 teams prefer not to have to make a positional projection?
A: Yeah. That's one of the great things about playing at Virginia for Coach (Al) Groh. In the 3-4 alignment, we do a lot of different things that normal linebackers in college didn't do. Coach Groh, coming from a heavy NFL background, understands the 3-4 defense and really trained us up in it pretty well. So that's something I did at Virginia. He gave me an opportunity to stack the tight end, rush the passer, play out in the flat – a number of different things that linebackers and defensive ends do. I think it kind of kept me a step ahead of other people, but at the same time I'm still in a learning process, trying to figure out how to play other defenses as well.
Q: Have you patterned yourself after an NFL player?
A: My favorite player is Joey Porter. You really have to appreciate the way he plays the game of football. Every time he steps out on the field he has a certain swagger to himself; he's almost untouchable. That's the way he comes out on the field; that's the kind of image that he gives off. I'd like to try to play with that same swagger. You come out on the field and you're a competitor and when you step out there between the white lines you want to feel as if you're the best player out there. That's the approach I try to take when I come into a game.
Q: Aren't you too humble to be emulating Joey Porter?
A: Joey Porter's my favorite player on the field. Off the field, he's a little different than I am. The way he does things is a little different than the way I do things.
Q: What are your strengths on the field?
A: I think I'm a solid pass-rusher. I think I use my hands pretty efficiently and I'm able to swat down the tackle's hands and kind of bend that corner a little bit. I mean, I'm not a Dwight Freeney coming off the edge, I'm not extremely fast, but at the same time I feel I have a solid burst coming off there. I just try to make things happen off that edge. It's a great opportunity to come out there and rush the passer. Everybody in the league knows that's where you make a lot of money. I'm just trying to showcase my ability and hopefully open up some eyes.
Q: Were you a Steelers fan growing up?
A: I was a Steelers fan. I was a Steelers fan for the longest time and I'll be cheering for them in the Super Bowl.
Q: Virginia's a hotbed for Steelers fans. Is that where you grew up?
A: I did grow up in Virginia. I actually became a fan just by way of playing Madden. I needed a team to play with and I just kind of liked them. Jerome Bettis was there and it clicked with me. I started supporting them and watching them on TV. It didn't hurt that Heath Miller went there. It just kind of really confirmed my Pittsburgh love.
Q: How well do you know Heath?
A: He was a senior when I was a freshman, so I knew him and he was a really good guy, a really humble guy, and he talked to everybody on the team. We didn't hang around or anything like that, but if I ever needed something or had to ask him something, he was the type of guy to help out.
Q: Have you met James Farrior?
A: He's come back every now and then. I spoke with him on several occasions.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Northern Virginia, in Woodbridge, 20 minutes outside of D.C.
Q: Wouldn't you project best to 3-4 outside linebacker?
A: I've got to be careful with saying where I project, but I played outside at UVA.
Q: When did you become a starter?
A: I became a starting outside linebacker after my redshirt year. I've been starting since then, 43 games.
Q: What kind of sack totals?
A: Twenty-nine, second all-time behind Chris Slade.
Q: Porter and James Harrison can be mean guys. You seem too nice to be a linebacker.
A: There are two different personalities. Off the field, I'm not an angry person. But once you step out on the field, it's every man for himself; my side against the other side. If you're trying to do something on my side, you're trying to bring harm to me. I'm going to turn around and do the same thing; nothing malicious or anything like that, but the game is a physical game and in order for me to play the way I feel I need to play, I need to have that same type of passion and that aggression and that anger toward my opponent. I think that's the way I've been playing the game since I started playing the game.
Q: What's your opinion of Harrison?
A: Harrison, wow, I don't know. He's just getting it in right now. He's been in the league seven or eight years and all of the sudden last year he had a solid year and this year he just went AWOL on people. I don't know exactly how he did it or who he's training with, but I want to get the same guy because he's just burning it up right now. There's not a time when he's not bending that edge and they're bringing somebody else over there to slow him down. He's a helluva player.
Q: Mike Tomlin says nobody works harder in the offseason than Harrison.
A: That's how it's supposed to be. You want to separate yourself. Obviously it's paid off for him. He'll get a new contract soon enough.
Q: And if he asks for too much, maybe they'll look more closely at you.
A: I don't know. They've got (Lawrence) Timmons back there, too. But that would really be a dream come true.
(Jim Wexell's new book, "Steeler Nation: A Pittsburgh Team, An American Phenomenon", is available at Pittsburgh Sports Publishing.)