Young re­ceivers im­press in first game with Steel­ers; Rams closer with Don­ald

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Dan Scifo

Damoun Pat­ter­son knows a strong per­for­mance in his first pre­sea­son game won’t be enough to guar­an­tee his fu­ture with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers.

The rookie wide re­ceiver feels he must con­tin­u­ally prove him­self to the coach­ing staff and his team­mates — and he’s not the only young re­ceiver who faces that chal­lenge dur­ing train­ing camp.

“I came in as a try­out guy, so I never knew what to ex­pect,” Pat­ter­son said. “I think it’s all about at­tack­ing the game and stay­ing hun­gry.”

James Wash­ing­ton, the Steel­ers’ sec­ond-round pick, has also been forced to prove his worth. Wash­ing­ton, who won the Bilet­nikoff Award as col­lege foot­ball’s top re­ceiver in 2017, is cur­rently listed last on the Steel­ers’ depth chart and has reg­u­larly worked with the sec­ond-team of­fense.

“I’ll never ask peo­ple to be pa­tient,” Steel­ers coach Mike Tom­lin said. “I’ll ask them to work while they wait and he’s do­ing that. The op­por­tu­nity is go­ing to come, I’d imag­ine.”

Pat­ter­son wasn’t sure if he would re­ceive an NFL op­por­tu­nity in the spring, but the for­mer Youngstown State stand­out over­came long odds to land in camp with the Steel­ers.

Pat­ter­son was in­vited to at­tend the Steel­ers’ three­day rookie mini­camp on a try­out ba­sis in May. There, Pat­ter­son im­pressed coaches enough to be­come one of just two of the 55 in­vited play­ers to leave with a con­tract.

“(Tom­lin) al­ways says he doesn’t care how you got here, just come and be will­ing to make plays,” quar­ter­back Josh Dobbs said. “If you do that, we have a spot for you. He’s done that, and hope­fully he can con­tinue to do that.”

Dobbs and Pat­ter­son con­nected for a 29-yard touch­down in Thurs­day’s pre­sea­son win over the Philadel­phia Ea­gles. Pat­ter­son cel­e­brated the score with a flaw­less stand­ing back­flip.

“I’ve been do­ing (a back­flip) since I was younger,” Pat­ter­son said. “That’s my spe­cialty.”

Pat­ter­son said most of his team­mates weren’t aware that he could land a stand­ing back­flip. Ac­ro­batic feats aside, he led all re­ceivers with six catches for 77 yards and a touch­down against the Ea­gles.

Dobbs isn’t sur­prised by Pat­ter­son’s suc­cess. He said the two con­nected on the same touch­down play while run­ning the twominute of­fense dur­ing spring work­outs.

“He’s been do­ing that all camp, so I have a lot of trust in him,” Dobbs said. “He con­sis­tently runs by guys, he’s quick in and out of his breaks, he makes con­tested catches, and that’s what we were able to take to the field.”

The same can be said for Wash­ing­ton.

Wash­ing­ton made two catches in the pre­sea­son opener for 44 yards, in­clud­ing a heads-up 35-yard re­cep­tion from for­mer Ok­la­homa State team­mate Ma­son Ru­dolph. Ru­dolph’s hard count drew Philadel­phia de­fend­ers off­sides, and he re­sponded with a big play down the side­line to Wash­ing­ton.

MCVAY: RAMS HAVE ‘UR­GENCY’ ABOUT NE­GO­TI­A­TIONS WITH DON­ALD » Los An­ge­les Rams coach Sean McVay said the team has in­creased its “level of ur­gency” in ne­go­ti­a­tions with de­fen­sive end Aaron Don­ald.

Don­ald, a three-time first-team All-Pro, is hold­ing out of train­ing camp for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year as he seeks a con­tract ex­ten­sion. His rookie con­tract will end af­ter this sea­son, but be­cause he didn’t re­port by Wed­nes­day, he will be a re­stricted free agent af­ter the sea­son in­stead of an un­re­stricted free agent. The Rams could also use the fran­chise tag on Don­ald, who is set to make $6.9 mil­lion this sea­son.

“Let’s put it this way, there’s an in­creased di­a­logue,” McVay said Satur­day. “We feel pos­i­tive about the direc­tion that these things are go­ing. But it’s still kind of in the same boat, but I know there is a huge level of ur­gency from our side in terms of how im­por­tant he is, want­ing to be proac­tive about try­ing to find a so­lu­tion, get this thing done and we’ll see if we can get that sit­u­a­tion han­dled.”

Gen­eral man­ager Les Snead said Wed­nes­day that the Rams and Don­ald, the 2017 de­fen­sive player of the year, are in the “same ZIP code, area code, ball­park” re­gard­ing a con­tract ex­ten­sion.

Don­ald has recorded at least eight sacks in each of his four sea­sons with the Rams.

MATT ROURKE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pitts­burgh Steel­ers’ Damoun Pat­ter­son, right, catches a touch­down pass next to Philadel­phia Ea­gles’ Rasul Douglas dur­ing the first half of a pre­sea­son game Thurs­day in Philadel­phia.

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