Exclusive with Ethan Cooper, Offensive Lineman, Steelers

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As a local (IUP) guy, you signed this year as an undrafted free agent with the Steelers. Why Pittsburgh?

I have a close relationship with one of the head guys in scouting – a former IUP guy and he talked to me about signing. When the draft got into the later rounds I knew I wouldn’t be drafted and the Steelers reached out to me. Other teams did as well but I thought Pittsburgh was the best option.

What made you feel so?

Just how they’re run – the rich tradition they have, and the fact they have a great offensive line coach in Munch. There was no better opportunity for me – it was the best situation for me to learn and develop as a player.

Did your agent try and steer you elsewhere?

My agent left it up to me – it was 100% my decision he said and he supported whatever decision I made. He just wanted me to weigh all of my options.

Did the fact the 40% of the Steelers starting offensive line are undrafted free agents, as are many other Steelers like Harrison, help influence the decision too? 

Absolutely. I researched the teams as a free agent and definitely noticed that, Munch gives everyone – including undrafted free agents a chance. A fair and honest chance is all you want.

What do you need to do to make this roster, from your perspective?

Just continue to develop. Don’t flatten out. I have to show progression every day. Even if it’s just one percent a day, after 100 days I’m 100% better. It’s a grind and this is the best situation for me to develop.

Anything specific about your game you feel you need to focus on most?

I’m super critical – I have to get better in every area. I have a lot more growing to do. I’m not focusing on any one area. Im probably better as a run blocker – but I have to get better as a run and pass blocker. My college coach told me potential is just wasted talent. I want to develop every day and not waste my talent.

In looking at some of the guys in offense, both Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger are guys that are patient on the backfield and require more from the blockers at time. How does that change our approach as a lineman?

I don’t view it as any tougher. If you do your job it shouldn’t matter how much time the quarterback or running back needs. I’ve watched Bell – he is a patient runner. But that means as an offensive lineman you can never be wrong because he will always find and hit the hole. And Ben’s dynamic – he can make something out of nothing. That lets you know that if you keep competing he can make something happen.

Any vets take you under their wing so far and give you extra advice?

All the vets have really taken me in. I’m the only new offensive line guy they brought in. Every day, Ramon, Pounce, Dave…they help me out a lot, They help show me how to carry myself as a professional and how to critique myself. A lot of helpful hints. I pick their brains as much as possible. They’ve done it at the highest level – I want to get all  can from them.

Speaking of the line – tell me a bit about the humor and joking around in the locker room…

There’s no one guys that stands out. The locker room is great – they’re all down to earth – all happy to be there. It’s a big brotherhood. There’s no one joker in the room – just a band of brothers.

Has Coach Munchak helped you out yet in any specific way?

You can ask him any question – he makes you feel 100% comfortable asking. From being better on the field to taking care of my body. He’s the perfect coach for me – very detail oriented. And it’s easy to relate to him – he’s done it.

So – first day on the field with the team – how hard was it to stay focused and not get too carried away?

I felt comfortable  but it was humbling. Guys I watched on TV I’m now playing on the field with. But out there – I tried to make it all business. Take it all in. At first I was anxious, but they made me feel comfortable. They all care about each other. As soon as I was out there, the intensity made me feel comfortable.

Any last thoughts for fans?

I’m just happy to be a Steeler and ready to compete for a roster spot!

Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades To order, just click on the book:

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