O'HARA: What do the Steelers think of Ziggy Ansah?

Posted Aug 11, 2016

From the top of the organization to the trenches, the Pittsburgh Steelers had rave reviews for Ziggy Ansah.

LATROBE, Pa. – From the top of the organization to the trenches, the Pittsburgh Steelers had rave reviews for Ziggy Ansah.

The Detroit Lions’ Pro Bowl defensive end has progressed from raw prospect to dominating pass rusher in the three years since being drafted fifth overall in 2013. The comments by the Steelers indicate how highly regarded he is by opposing players and player personnel executives.

In the two practices between the Lions and Steelers at Saint Vincent College, Ansah displayed the power and explosive quickness that he used to register a career-high 14.5 sacks last season, third most in the NFL.

“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Alejandro Villanueva, the Steelers’ projected starter at offensive left tackle, told reporters before Wednesday’s practice.

“I’m really glad I got a chance to practice against him yesterday (Tuesday).  He’s a great player. I’m glad we’re not going to see him in the regular season.”

Quarterbacks are off limits to contact in practices, so there were no actual quarterback sacks in the practices Tuesday and Wednesday. But Villanueva was able to gauge Ansah’s ability in the various practice drills – from one-on-one battles to team drills.

“He did some things he could have done in 11-on-11,” Villanueva said. “I knew I was going to see him (in practice). He’s got one of the fastest get-offs I’ve seen in football.

“He’s a different type of pass rusher. He’s a physical player. He’s got length.”

Villanueva’s praise of Ansah carries more weight considering that he practices regularly against a defense that had 48 sacks last year, third most in the NFL.

The Steelers were not in position to draft Ansah when he left Brigham Young for the draft in 2013. The Steelers had the 17th pick overall and took Jarvis Jones of Georgia, one of the top college pass rushers.

Jones has yet to make a mark in the NFL, partly because of injury issues. Jones has five sacks in three seasons. He started 15 games in 2015 and had only two sacks.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert referred to Ansah as an “elite” pass rusher, and said practicing against him for two days would benefit the Steelers’ offensive line.

“Any time you get to work against a top pass rusher in a practice setting, it’s great,” Colbert said. “We don’t have that type of pass rusher right now.”

Typically, Ansah was reluctant to talk about himself when he spoke to a group of reporters after practice. Ansah talked mostly about the benefit of practicing against a Steelers offensive line that regularly works against the 3-4 scheme used by its team’s defensive line. The Lions’ base defense uses a four-man line.

“We had a good day,” Ansah said. “Everybody did. It’s a different environment, a different scheme. Their defense plays a 3-4. We play a 4-3. It goes hand in hand. We’re helping them, and they’re helping us with their blocking scheme. We did a pretty good job with the one-on-ones, and especially in the two-on-twos, when we had to run games.

“We have a tremendous group of guys who are willing to work every single day. I just come out every day to be the best I can be and help this team in any way I can. It’s great to have a great line out here.”

Ansah did not participate in the last couple of drills. He and head coach Jim Caldwell said he was not kept out because of an injury. Ansah said he expects to play in Friday night’s preseason opener against the Steelers.

“I’m looking forward to playing on Friday," Ansah said.