Meet the New Steeler: WR Canaan Severin
There has been a fair bit of buzz about Canaan Severin since the Steelers signed him as a UDFA this spring. I am predicting he will be one of this year’s camp darlings. He’s got everything to achieve this status, as far as I can tell—he wasn’t drafted, he’s tall, he’s fast, and there are some seriously impressive catches on his 2015 highlight reel:
When I went to look for information on Severin, pre-draft, I ran across something I’ve never seen before—nothing. In other words, Severin wasn’t profiled by either the NFL or Walter Football, and that’s pretty strange, even for a guy projecting as undrafted. He didn’t receive a combine invite and wasn’t able to work out at Virginia’s pro day because of a hamstring injury he was recovering from, which undoubtedly didn’t help matters.
But he’s in Pittsburgh now, and happy to be here, from all accounts. And given that UDFAs can sign to the team which offers them the best chance to make it, and being that wide receiver is hardly an area of immediate need for the Steelers, it says something that he chose to sign with the Black and Gold. He told Jim Wexell of Scout.com that he chose the Steelers because of their history of fairness to UDFAs.
You all have presumably noticed by now that I put a lot of stock in a player taking their education seriously, so I definitely sat up and took notice when I saw the following in a Steelers.com interview:
What is your proudest football moment or memory?
Graduating from the University of Virginia, probably. It’s one of the top schools in the world from an academic-athletic standpoint. Guys like Heath (Miller) and guys like James Farrior come through (Virginia) to the Steelers. They set the standard, the tone. The way they talk about Heath and James Farrior at the University of Virginia is the way they talk about them here. I’m proud to be at that kind of level.
Severin graduated in three and a half years with a degree in sociology. It can’t have been easy, particular with his health complications, as detailed by Dan Sager:
When he was 9 years-old, Severin’s mother passed away due to complications from sickle cell anemia. At this point, Severin learned he also had the sickle cell trait.
Severin’s condition never really impacted him until his sophomore year at Virginia. By this point, Severin, a four-star high school recruit on scholarship, had caught just five total passes in two seasons of work. Practices became exceedingly difficult, and heaviness in his legs and chest prevented him from running effective routes. At a crossroads in his football career, Severin totally overhauled his diet and workout regimen. He packed on lean muscle, his endurance improved, and soon, his statistics ballooned. Over his final two seasons at Virginia, Severin caught 96 passes for 1,337 yards in one of the most stagnant passing attacks in the FBS.
One of the hardest things about dealing with a health-related crisis such as Severin experienced is forcing yourself to do things you know you need to do when you don’t feel good. It would have been easy for him to blame his genetics and quit, but instead he found a way to work around the problem—a way requiring a good deal of discipline and self-control.
As a player, what can we expect from Severin? Nobody knows, which is why training camp is so exciting. But I was quite interested to find this profile on Real GM:
Severin, a 6’2”, 210-pound Massachusetts native, does a lot of things asked of receivers at the NFL quite adeptly. He has decent burst off the line and can shuck the pressing corner with both power and coordinated movement. He sells his fakes and jukes nicely, though he must learn to push off at the top of his breaks with more discretion. Several times I saw him innately find the holes in the zone coverage. For a bulkier wideout, he transitions from receiver to runner quickly and effectively.
I was admittedly over-smitten with Severin early on, as he was fantastic in the first two games against UCLA and especially Notre Dame, which had no clue how to cover him. He was a little too quiet in the North Carolina and Virginia Tech games, with a drop in each and visible frustration with Johns not looking his way when he got open several times. His route running is where the inconsistency is puzzling. It’s most noticeable with his hitches and curls. Sometimes he’s sharp and quick, but others he downshifts too noticeably and doesn’t get his head and body around quick enough. Still, the physicality and hands are good enough to merit a fifth-round look…with the knowledge that he might fade away quickly if the situation isn’t right. I get the sense the NFL isn’t nearly so optimistic with Severin.
Writer Jeff Risdon was clearly correct about the level of optimism in the NFL. But the positives he lists are intriguing. I also liked this nugget, from the Worster, Mass. Telegram:
Severin and David Dykeman, who coached him at Worcester Academy [high school], spoke right after he signed Saturday night.“He has done so many amazing things already,” said Dykeman, who coached the Hilltoppers from 2008-11 and is now the dean of students and athletics and football coach at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut, “and I know he’s going to make it. Canaan doesn’t know how to fail.”
Severin considered it an honor when the Steelers issued him No. 83. As he told Jim Wexell:
“I mean, the way they talk about Heath Miller at UVA is the same way they talk about him here. Heath is Heath. At UVA they call him ‘Big Money.’ His hands were top-notch. Herman Moore, kinda the same way. Those guys in our football program, those are the guys we idolize and hold to high standards, especially knowing Heath: on the field, great player; off the field, an even better person.”
Severin got to know Miller through a mutual friend at Virginia: Severin’s position coach and Miller’s quarterback, Marques Hagans.
Severin is mentioned with Miller here not only because of the number, with which he was surprised by the Steelers, but because Severin showed off big, soft hands at the Steelers’ rookie minicamp.
Welcome to the Steelers, Mr. Severin. We look forward to seeing you at training camp, and while we won’t be able to yell HEEAATTHH! anymore when No. 83 does something amazing, I’m really hoping you’ll demonstrate on the field that the number was assigned to the right person. It seems as if you’ve already got that covered off of it.