Garvin caught coaches' attention before hit

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin had been as anonymous as any NFL position player can be prior to last Sunday night.

But now just about everyone associated with the sport knows who Garvin is, including the league officials who mete out punishment for on-field infractions.

The NFL has fined Garvin $25,000 for a block that seriously injured Bengals punter Kevin Huber -- and fueled debate on the delicate balance the NFL has tried to maintain between protecting players and maintaining the integrity of the game.

But to hear Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau talk, Garvin may not always be known for the vicious hit that ended Huber's season.

“I think he's got a good future,” LeBeau said. “I'm pleased with the way he works. He has continued to improve. I think he's just done an outstanding job.”

Garvin is the only Steelers rookie who has played in every game this season, and he made team in late August as an undrafted rookie. That might not mean as much in some organizations, but the Steelers have signed a number of such players through the years who became significant contributors if not stars.

The list includes 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison as well as Willie Parker, who still has longest run in Super Bowl history, to name a few.

Garvin has not solidified his spot on the 53-man roster by any means, but the player who first had to try out for the Steelers before getting signed for offseason practices has been making an impression on his coaches ever since joining the organization last May.

“There were about three straight practices where he intercepted one or two balls every practice,” LeBeau said. “He showed that ability and instinct to find the ball and get it.”

He also flashed that ability in the practices that coach Mike Tomlin derisively refers to football in shorts. But Garvin continued to stand out during training camp, and he played his way onto the Steelers as a special teamer.

He has done well enough in that phase of the game to earn some snaps when the Steelers go to one of their sub packages on defense.

“You give a young guy an opportunity to make plays on special teams and he's done that and has been consistent and productive,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Guys that usually do it in that phase usually have the potential to do it on offense.”

That is another way of saying the Steelers don't view Garvin as just a player who can hurl his body around on special teams for them.

Garvin played safety at West Virginia, and the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is playing -- and learning the nuances of -- inside linebacker for the first time of his career.

Garvin has added about 15 pounds since signing with the Steelers, and Tomlin said the team is leaving its options about where he plays in the future.

“I think it's a blank canvas with him,” Tomlin said.