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Steelers await better look at ex-Rebel Summers

Frank Summers is back in the familiar position of having to prove himself.

The former UNLV tailback was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, trying to justify their faith for drafting him in the fifth round.

Now Summers is trying to make up for lost time after missing nearly the entire season to a back injury.

This time, at least he’s not starting from scratch.

"He’s starting all over again, but the benefit of starting all over again is he knows a great deal more about the system … and how we go about our business," Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. "It’s wonderful we aren’t just getting him."

Wilson was an early Summers supporter and remains solidly behind him, which could make the difference as roster cutdowns approach.

"I really appreciate it," Summers said, "and I’m playing to prove that I’m the guy that they wanted on the field last year."

Summers and the Steelers are back on the practice field today, taking part in three days of organized team activities. Practices, which include 7-on-7 drills and situational scrimmages, will be much like they are during the season.

OTAs are used more for teaching than determining roster worthiness. Whether Summers makes the team will be determined in training camp in August and possibly early September.

But the Steelers showed early interest in Summers last year and have at least some investment. They were the only team to send a position coach, Wilson, to UNLV’s pro day.

Then they drafted Summers, but his season ended after only two games. He remained at the Steelers’ facility, however, learning the system and making sure coaches saw his face.

"It helped a whole lot," Summers said. "It was like a redshirt for me."

The Steelers have the same need for a short-yardage back they had last year when they drafted Summers, a 5-foot-10-inch, 240-pound back who routinely ran through tackles at UNLV. Summers rushed for 1,668 yards in two seasons in the Rebels’ pass-based spread offense.

Wilson said the Steelers will use Summers at running back as well as on special teams. But Summers must show he can handle the fullback spot, and be an effective blocker for Rashard Mendenhall. Summers had difficulty in that role in his brief attempts last year.

But at minicamp this month, Wilson said Summers showed promise "retaining a great deal of information" taught last season.

"We’re still real high on Frank," Wilson said. "He got hurt. That’s nobody’s fault when that happens. He has a lot to offer. We plan on trying to get that out of him."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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