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Former Pitt RB Qadree Ollison Back Home with the Pittsburgh Steelers



Former Pitt football Qadree Ollison is on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad

PITTSBURGH — Qadree Ollison spent four successful seasons with Pitt, featuring as one of the better running backs for the program in the 21st century. He is now back in the city, five years after playing his last collegiate down, as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers signed Ollison to their practice squad last Saturday.  The Jacksonville Jaguars had signed him to a reserve/future contract in February but waived him last Tuesday.

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Ollison in the 5th Round of the 2019 NFL Draft, where he had a successful rookie season, rushing 22 times for 50 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. He spent three seasons in Atlanta, playing 19 games, with 44 carries for 158 yards, five rushing touchdowns and five catches for 19 yards. Ollison spent last season with the Dallas Cowboys, playing in three games and recording no carries.

Ollison had an interesting career with at Pitt, spanning four seasons from 2015-18. He had to assume starting rushing duties as a freshman after fellow running back James Conner tore his MCL week 1 in 2015. Ollison would have 212 carries for 1,121 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, along with 14 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, en route to earning ACC Rookie Offensive Player of the Year honors.

He spent the next two years behind Conner and also Darrin Hall, before having the opportunity to display his talents as a senior in 2018. He rushed 194 times for 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Hall joined him with more than a 1,000 yards himself. Ollison and Hall became the first ever duo in Pitt history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.

Ollison finished his Pitt career with 2,859 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns, good for seventh most and sixth most in program history, respectively.

“Pittsburgh for me always felt like a second home for me,” Ollison said after practice at UPMC Sports Rooney Complex on Monday. “I went from high school and kind of became a man here. Coming back five years later, like I said, it’s a full circle moment. It just feels right. Definitely.”

Ollison thought he potentially had a shot to join the Steelers in the 2019 draft, but they chose to pick Benny Snell in the Fourth Round, who is no longer with the team.

He is also back on the Southside where he practiced for four seasons with Pitt and is now there with the Steelers. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin joked with him, saying that it took him five years to get from practice field three to practice field two, because Pitt practices towards the back of the facility and the Steelers towards the front.

Ollison said that Tomlin supported him and the rest of his teammates a great deal in college. This relationship helped him to become the man and player he is today.

“Coach Tomlin, you guys know, he supports that other side of the building being the Pitt Panthers,” Ollison said. “Sometimes, he’ll come out, say what’s up to us, watch a little bit of practice. He’s always been around. Having him next door, really showed me how to be a pro, how to train like a pro, practice like a pro. It’s good to be in practice in a familiar setting, familiar city. It’s like a full circle moment for me.”

Ollison isn’t the only former Panther on the team. Quarterback Kenny Pickett, who starred as a Panther himself, is the starting quarterback heading into the 2023 season and also a team captain.

The first person that Ollison contacted when he got the news was Pickett. The two played with each other for two seasons from 2017-18, where Pickett helped Ollison rush as well as he did in 2018. Ollison loves seeing how Pickett progressed from a freshman to now the leader of an NFL franchise looking to win a Super Bowl.

“Yeah, at practice, that was the first time I took a handoff from him since…he even said it, “Just for old time’s sake,” Ollison said. “So, I went and took a handoff for him. Having somebody here that I played with, that was a teammate of mine and now the face of the franchise. It’s amazing honestly.”

Joining the Steelers is something that Ollison takes great pride in. He has learned a great deal in his short time with the team, the culture and why winning permeates through every player that steps through the practice facility every day.

“I think the best thing about the Steelers and the whole organization is just like, everybody is focused on the same thing and that’s winning,” Ollison said. “So you kind of hear about it, like how, I don’t want to call it serious, but just how the culture, how strong the culture is, the standard, like all of those things. You hear about it, and I’ve been hearing about it and getting to see it and experience it, you see why it’s such a great organization and why they’ve won so many Super Bowls and games over the years. It’s an amazing environment and culture to be in.”

Ollison takes great pride in playing for Pitt. He joins a long line of greats at the position most recently, like LeSean McCoy (2007-08), Dion Lewis (2009-10), Conner (2013-16) and Israel Abanikanda (2020-22) and believes that the running back unit at Pitt is one of the best in the country.

“Pitt we take a lot of pride in a lot of our running backs,” Ollison said. “I’ve been saying since college that Pitt is ‘RBU.’ Everybody called me crazy, but it’s good to be back. It’s good being here.”

Coming back to familiar territory is a huge benefit for Ollison. He won’t have to waste time figuring out where to go or any of that nonsense. He’ll have his full attention on growing as a player, improving every day as a member of the Steelers going forward and making Pittsburgh his home for the foreseeable future.

“Just putting my head down and working hard every day,” Ollison said on his plan going forward. “Just being ready for whenever the opportunity comes. It’s a long season. There’s going to be a ton of opportunities. So whenever that opportunity comes, just being ready to capitalize on the opportunity.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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