LATROBE – When asked about Stefan Logan’s performance as a wide receiver, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin blamed himself, saying “I kind of stifled that development.”
OK, so who takes credit for the incredible catch Logan made deep down the sideline during Wednesday afternoon’s practice?
Of course, Logan deserves the credit, but he deflected it back to Tomlin.
“Coach said it’s time to step up,” Logan said after making the top catch of the 2010 training camp on a throw from Charlie Batch.
Batch hung the ball up deep, and Logan, who said his legs were too tired to run under it, dove with full extension and caught it with the end of his fingertips.
“I knew I’d have to lay out for it,” Logan said. “As coach likes to say, put it on tape.”
Logan, a converted running back, has put several kick returns on tape, particularly last year when he posted the best full-time kickoff return average (26.7) for the team in 20 years. But acrobatic catches are new to his resume.
“I’ve never put anything like that on tape,” he said. “It was a nice catch, but I was out of it. When I hit the ground I landed on the ball. I told myself when I hit the ground, ‘Hey, be tough and get up, go back to the huddle, and come out for the next play.’”
The crowd appreciated all of it and gave Logan what may have been the loudest ovation anyone’s received this summer.
Not bad for a 5-foot-6 return man who worked out at running back all offseason. But, really, there’s only one aspect of the game at which Logan must excel this preseason: “He’s going to make this team or not make this team based on what he does as a kick returner,” said Tomlin.
That’s how Logan grabbed a spot last year. Facing a numbers crunch, the diminutive ex-CFL player made the 2009 Steelers roster as a return man because A.) The Steelers had very little competition there, and B.) He averaged 37 per kickoff and 21 per punt, including an 80-yarder for a touchdown in the preseason finale.
This camp’s a bit different. Logan is once again bettering straight-line speedster Mike Wallace in the return game, but there are two darting rookie receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, who ranked 10th and 11th in NCAA punt return average last season. They’ll work as return men along with Logan in Saturday night’s preseason opener.
“Those guys, they’re some good guys; good, humble guys,” Logan said. “They play hard, they fight through the plays, they’re young, and they’re picking it up as they go. They’re doing a good job. As far as the numbers game, I don’t know. I’m just out here each and every day putting it all on tape, showing what I can do as far as my mobility and letting it all hang out.”
No, the numbers game does not favor Logan. But he’s succeeded in similar circumstance, and then went on to put up some other numbers, the kind not seen since Rod Woodson was a daring, young kickoff return man in 1989.
“I leave all of that up to the coaches and let them evaluate all the players,” Logan said. “I know I’m No. 1 on the depth chart, and I intend to stay No. 1 by putting it all on the line every day.”