Chris Oladokun was selected 221 spots behind another player at his position by the team that took him. Kenny Pickett was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first pick of the draft in April. Oladokun was their last.
But as Oladokun scanned the Steelers’ locker room, he felt more like a first-rounder than a Mr. Irrelevant.
“Something that I do strongly believe,” he said, “is that I do belong here.”
The Steelers’ other rookie quarterback is the “fourth wheel” in what initially was billed as a three-man competition. It would take a series of calamities for Oladokun’s name to begin to be on the periphery of any discussion about the Steelers’ starting quarterback situation for the foreseeable future, but Oladokun is taking the correct approach for a player taken 21 spots from the bottom of the 262-pick draft.
He also insists he can make the season-opening 53-man roster.
“Obviously, we have a very competitive quarterback room,” Oladokun said after an organized team activities session this spring. “I look to embrace my role in any capacity, whatever that is, whether I am the first one taking snaps or the last guy on the totem pole.
“However I can make not only the (position) room better but the (whole) team, that’s what I look to do. I’m embracing that role. It’s something that’s going to be important for me heading into this year. You are just personally developing: on the field, off the field and giving yourself the best chance to make the ‘53.’ ”
Pickett pronounced himself “joined at the hip” with Oladokun. They bonded as rookies with shared experienced and not via some class system where first-rounders don’t fraternize with those taken in the last round.
By all accounts, veterans Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky have been similar in treating everyone in the quarterback room as equals.
“They are all supportive of one another,” quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan said. “Both Mitch and Mason, as the veterans, have been very receptive to the rookies and helping them out.
“All four of them want to be the starter. All four of them have that vision.”
That includes Oladokun, who last autumn was a starter at FCS South Dakota State. It was the third college he played for after signing with USF out of high school and transferring to Samford for the 2019-20 seasons as the successor to Devlin Hodges.
Chris Oladokun is well aware of the parallels between his story and the one authored three years ago by Devlin Hodges. https://t.co/EQFa9yxdkH
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Last season, the 6-foot-1, 213-pound Oladokun opened scouts’ eyes during South Dakota State’s run to the FCS final four. For the season he completed 62.3% of his passes for 3,164 yards and had 27 touchdowns (two receiving) and seven interceptions in 15 games.
Oladokun made nine starts at Samford in addition to two seasons in the USF system.
“Being at three universities definitely helps out with me building new relationships and learning new offenses,” he said.
The Steelers added an assistant quarterbacks coach this season, David Corley, something Sullivan said should most help Oladokun in his development.
“He’s not getting as many of the reps. His reps are minimal,” Sullivan said of Oladokun, “so to have that extra voice … that’s a great opportunity for David to be able to fill in some of the holes with Chris to assist him.”
To begin camp, Oladokun’s on-field role probably won’t appear all that different than the other “fourth arm” quarterbacks the Steelers cycle through over the years. But as a draft pick — particularly one the team did not have to take following the selection of Pickett — Oladokun’s longterm prospects with the organization seem on firmer footing than the typical QB4.
“A lot of these guys I am teammates with now, I watched playing growing up, so it’s really cool sharing the field with them,” Oladokun said. “It’s about improving in our quarterback room: me, Mitch, Mason and Kenny just getting to know each other and building on every single day and developing.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .