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Local talent Rader, Askew-Henry looking to claim their spot with the Steelers

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There are over 100 players currently competing at the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp this month including two local players that are working hard to try to crack either the roster or make the practice squad.

Kevin Rader, a 6-4, 250 lb. tight end from Pine Richland High School was signed as a free agent under a reserve/futures contract after being one of the last cuts in Green Bay's training camp last season. He played college ball at Youngstown State. from Pine Richland High School where he played against his hometown Pitt Panthers twice.

"I've been waiting for (training camp) for a while, after last year when was in between teams for most of the year. I was never at [Steelers] camp as a kid so being here and actually participating is great," Rader said. "I'm ready to get back at it and play some football and being from Pittsburgh, it's awesome being in camp with the Steelers."

While at camp, Rader has been busy sucking up as much information as he can, whether it's coming from the coaches, including tight end coach James Daniels, or other players, including veteran tight ends Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble.

"I've learned a lot so far, which is important, especially at tight end. You have to know coverages, the passing game, the run game, picking up blitzes, I can go on and on about it," Rader said. "Coach Daniels does a great job showing us all the little ins and outs about the position and Xavier [Grimble] and Vance [McDonald] have been real helpful. If I have any questions, they help me out, on and off the field."

Bo Pelini was hired as the head coach at Youngstown State in Rader's sophomore year. Rader considers that as a turning point for the program.

"I enjoyed playing at Youngstown State, especially when Coach [Bo] Pelini came in my sophomore year. That's when the program really took off. It was a good decision for me to go there," Rader said. "Coach Pelini brought Coach [Joe] Ganz from Nebraska and he taught me to read the game with the perspective of being a quarterback. Coach Ganz played quarterback at Nebraska. That really helped me learn about reading defensive fronts, coverages, blitzes."

Rader is looking forward to Friday night's opening preseason game at Heinz Field against visiting Tampa Bay. Being local, he has many high school friends and family attending the game.

Dravon Askew-Henry, a 6-0. 202 lb. safety from West Virginia was signed as an undrafted free agent. Askew-Henry is from Aliquippa. He too is trying to learn as much as he can at Steelers training camp this year.

"It's a great experience. I feel like I'm getting better every day. I'm getting to know my teammates and I'm happy to be here," Askew-Henry said. "What goes through my mind from the time I wake up in the morning is that I need to make a play. I don't care if it's on special teams, at safety, at nickel, at corner, I just want to make a play."

He credits playing at both West Virginia in college and at Aliquippa high school in preparing him to compete for a roster spot in the NFL.

"Coming from Aliquippa and playing at West Virginia against top competition and under [assistant]  Coach [Tony] Gibson, you had to be tough," Askew-Henry said. " I came here with a tough attitude and mindset."

Aliquippa is a tight-knit community, so it's no surprise Askew-Henry speaks with many Aliquippa natives that have played in the NFL.

"I talk with almost everybody from Aliquippa that played in the NFL. I talked to Ty Law right before I came to camp. I just talked to Darrelle [Revis] two days ago," Askew-Henry said. "Mike Ditka is probably the only NFL player from Aliquippa that I've never met. I know a lot about him and I hope to be able to meet him some day."

Head Coach Mike Tomlin pointed out after Tuesday's practice that players fighting for roster spots such as Rader and Askew-Henry need to be ready when their number is called.

"If one man drops out, that presents an increased opportunity for the next man who is ready. And I mean 'read,' Tomlin said. "A man has to be in the best physical condition and be able to show what he's capable of doing and take advantage of additional reps."

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