Pitt safety Ray Vinopal should be on Steelers' radar

PITTSBURGH -- If Ray Vinopal needed any affirmation of how well his workout on Tuesday went he got it when Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake made it a point to shake his hand at the end of it.

Vinopal helped himself at the University of Pittsburgh’s Pro Day, registering 26 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press and running the 40-yard dash in what he said was between 4.49 and 4.56 seconds.

Vinopal needed a strong showing after not getting invited to the NFL scouting combine, and the 5-foot-10, 198-pounder delivered one in the indoor practice facility that Pitt shares with the Steelers.

“I definitely think people didn’t expect me to put the numbers up I did and I think they’re comparable, if not better, than anyone else who was in Indy," Vinopal said. "To come out and perform is a weight off my shoulders.”

The strength and speed that Vinopal showcased in front of scores of NFL scouts -- along with his production at Pitt after transferring from Michigan -- could position him well in a draft class of safeties that's not considered strong.

Vinopal should be on the Steelers’ radar for several reasons.

The Steelers have a need at safety and always do extra homework on draft prospects they consider local such as Vinopal, who is from nearby Youngstown, Ohio.

Plus, the Steelers have found players who were overlooked in the pre-draft process.

They took West Virginia safety Ryan Mundy, a Pittsburgh native, in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. They picked Florida State linebacker Vince Williams in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. Neither player received an invitation to the combine.

Mundy played four seasons for the Steelers, while Williams has been a key contributor in his first two NFL seasons.

Vinopal started his final two seasons at Pitt and intercepted five passes, including two in a 2013 win over Notre Dame. He also served as a defensive captain and earned a degree in finance.

Another thing teams should like about Vinopal is his approach.

“I think I can really blitz well,” said Vinopal, who recorded 68 tackles and intercepted a pair of passes last season. “I’m stronger than mot safeties, most (defensive backs). I can come down and fill a hole and I’m not afraid to.”

Vinopal spent the last two months training in Miami, waking up at 5:30 a.m. six days a week. He received encouragement while in South Florida from former Panthers cornerback K'Waun Williams, who also has been training down there.

Vinopal is hoping to follow Williams, who went overlooked and undrafted last year before grabbing a roster spot with the Cleveland Browns. He earned a spot on Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie team.

“According to my agent I’m already on people’s radars,” Vinopal said, “and have a good standing in the safety class.”