On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers made it apparent that they liked what they saw out of two rookies who recently went undrafted and attended minicamp over the weekend. The Steelers have signed running back Cameron Stingily and defensive lineman Mike Thornton to three-year contracts. Financial terms of the deal(s) were not disclosed.
Stingily played in 12 games (three starts) as a senior tailback for the Northern Illinois Huskies in 2014, recording 895 yards and 13 touchdowns (rushing). His touchdown total was the second-most rushing touchdowns in the MAC behind only Jarvion Franklin of Western Michigan. During his 2013 season, Stingily was second on the team and fifth in the MAC in rushing with 1,119 yards on 203 carries (86.0 yard-per-game average). Teamed up with Jordan Lynch, Stingily gained the second-most single season rushing yards by teammates in NCAA FBS history. Stingily was named the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-high 266 yards on 37 carries, with two scores, at Kent State. His 266 yards were the most by a Huskie running back since 2006.
Stingily began play as a linebacker, but Northern Illinois fans loved him best as a big, bruising tail back. His conversion came after a torn achilles his freshman year, resulting in him redshirting and bursting onto the scene on the opposite side of the ball in 2013. Stingily is a bruiser at the line and a very physical downhill runner. At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Stingily had 2,095 career rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns with a5.16 average (yards-per-rush).
The Steelers have been looking for a Jerome Bettis-type back for awhile now; someone who embraces contact, shrugs off initial tackle attempts and battles for the difficult yardage. Stingily fits the bill. He hits the holes hard and lowers his pads, giving him leverage against arm tackles especially within the scrum. His breakaway speed is not fantastic, but he is hard to bring down in one-on-one situations in the open field. Stingily is more of a battering ram that wears down defenses, especially in the second half of games, rather than an option in the passing game. His physicality allowed him to give Northern Illinois a great goal-line and short-yardage option, and this is something Pittsburgh could use on their roster. Stingily was projected to be drafted by a team with a power running system but did not get selected. The Steelers could utilize him as a tailback or fullback in their offensive scheme.
Thornton was voted one of the Georgia Bulldogs football team’s permanent defensive captains in 2014 and was the Frank Sinkwich Toughest Player Award winner after playing in 13 games and logging 30 total tackles. In 2013, Thornton recorded a career-high three tackles (with a sack) at Clemson. At 6-foot-1, 295 pounds the defensive lineman posted decent Pro Day scores: a 5.04 40-yard dash time, a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.71 seconds and pressed 225 pounds a total of 26 times.
Thornton grew up a middle child with six siblings, offering him the opportunity to see a much bigger picture beyond what immediately faced him. Thornton was considered a top recruit out of high school but had to hone his skills in a backup role at Georgia. By the time his senior season came around, Thornton was working under his second defensive coordinator and third defensive line coach. “Mike’s been a guy who’s been working like mad to get an opportunity…,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in an interview with OnlineAthens.com. “I’m glad he’s being able to be productive enough to feel like he can lead, and he does have some good leadership skills.”
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