Central PA native Kyle Friend recalls path to Pittsburgh Steelers
PITTSBURGH — Starting off a camp where nearly 80 percent of the players had never practiced in front of their coaches, Kyle Friend was quite comfortable.
The Pittsburgh Steelers center and Cumberland Valley alum was one of just 11 non-rookies taking the field. He’s been a Steeler for three months. And when rookie minicamp practice broke into full offense vs. defense plays on Friday, he said, there was a fellow former midstate prep star by his side, CD East’s Ethan Cooper.
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But Cooper is a rookie. Friend is beginning his second season in the NFL and is already acquainted with the standout offensive linemen Pittsburgh puts out on Sunday during the fall. He’s essentially fighting to be Maurkice Pouncey’s backup and he already knows the all-pro center.
“He’s helped out a lot,” Friend said. “We’re there every day with the older guys.”
Friend was a first cut of the New York Jets last season as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Temple. He spent two two-week stints on the Jets’ practice squad and finished the season with the team, but was left out of their futures contract signings.
This made him a free agent for a little more than a month, until Pittsburgh called him up for a Valentine’s Day tryout. He worked out in front of a scout and signed with the team that day.
When he went down to Georgia for personal offseason workouts, he was joined by fellow Steelers. And when he came back up to Pittsburgh for Phase One team workouts in April, he reunited with former college teammate Tyler Matakevich.
Greater Harrisburg’s Ethan Cooper, Kyle Friend go through Pittsburgh Steelers OL drills
On a day where some of the league’s most inexperienced players had their learning ability tested as much as anything, Friend was relatively at home.
“I mean, I like this organization,” Friend said. “I’m just excited for another opportunity.”
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