Travis Feeney gives Steelers first-round athleticism at sixth-round price

Linebacker Travis Feeney’s eye-popping performance at the NFL combine made his fall to the sixth round curious.

Feeney thinks he knows why it happened.

Multiple shoulder surgeries at Washington scared off some teams.

"That's what I'm thinking why. You never know," Feeney told ESPN. "Kind of just unpredictable.

"I'm glad I did [fall]. I'm in the right place."

Feeney followed up an eight-sack, All-Pac-12 second team performance his senior year with a monster combine, running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and posting a 40-inch vertical leap. Feeney did this at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. For context, those are better numbers than top-10 pick Leonard Floyd, also an edge rusher of a similar build. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Floyd jumped 39.5 inches and ran a 4.6. The only linebacker to outrun Feeney was Ohio State's Darron Lee. Before the draft, CBS Sports' Rob Rang called Feeney a fourth- or fifth-round pick, possibly higher with his explosiveness.

Pittsburgh got him at No. 220 overall.

"We're excited," general manager Kevin Colbert said.

Someone close to Feeney said several teams started calling around the fourth round of the late-April draft, including the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks, but the calls stopped at intrigue. Feeney's camp assured teams the shoulder was not a long-term issue.

The original surgery at Washington didn't fully correct the shoulder injury, the person said, forcing Feeney to eventually get second opinions on it. The Steelers' medical opinion on Feeney's shoulder is uncertain.

Feeney, who returned to Indianapolis in April for a medical recheck, said his left shoulder feels stable and he's focused on strengthening the muscles around it this offseason. He's eyeing a role on special teams, which is where all late-round rookies should begin.

Couple the athletic explosion with Feeney's playing style and the Steelers feel they got a potential gem. Colbert said he would have drafted Feeney earlier, but the Steelers didn't have a fifth-round pick and he didn't know why Feeney dropped.

"He flies around," Colbert said. "He puts his body in some reckless places and does so without concern."

Feeney will need to add weight to play outside linebacker in the NFL, and he played multiple positions at Washington, going from safety to traditional linebacker to pass-rusher, thus affecting his sack numbers. But Feeney believes the versatility helps him pick up defensive concepts.

And to think, a sports hernia injury affected his combine prep. Perhaps those numbers -- including a 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump -- would have improved. Feeney had hernia surgery shortly after the combine and missed his pro day as a result.

He got the numbers and is coming for more.

"I was going to crawl there if I had to," said Feeney about Indianapolis. "I wanted to prove them wrong."

Now he's got 219 reasons to do that.