They were the bugs that just kept plugging.
Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were the unheralded pass catchers, afterthoughts in the 2019 Patriots receiver group that featured, at various points, Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, and fellow rookie — and first-round draft pick — N’Keal Harry.
Meyers and Olszewski, both undrafted, never cried, “Woe is me.” Instead, they found strength in each other, even though they were battling each other for long-shot roster spots. As the big names came and left, Meyers and Olszewski kept showing up and showing out.
Meyers remembered cutdown day, when Olszewski handled the news that he was going to be released like a professional. Olszewski told Meyers, his roommate at the time, he’d go back to Texas and dig ditches (his actual former job) and work hard until he got his next opportunity. Olszewski didn’t have to wait long as the Patriots changed their minds in the 11th hour and kept him.
“We fought through a lot together. It was hard, at one point they bring guys in, big names. I mean, AB, Thomas, and Josh Gordon,” Meyers said this past week at his locker. “I mean, so we stuck it out together. He kept me lifting me up and I tried to keep him up, too.”
Meyers said the two decided to ignore the revolving receiver door and concentrate on quietly handling their own business.
“We always thought of ourselves as just two little cockroaches,” said Meyers. “When everything hit the fan and everything felt like the world was ending, we were just going to stick it out and then be tough together. So, he definitely helped me a lot just having him in my corner. And, like I said, I tried to be in his the best I could.”
Both emerged as standouts and fan favorites, with Meyers becoming one of the Patriots’ best all-around threats and Olszewski morphing from college defensive back to All-Pro punt returner, whose carefree style often gave Meyers pause for concern.
“It matches his personality. He’s a real no fear, I’m going to get it done by any means player,” said Meyers. “But it did look scary being his teammate. Landing however and taking on guys twice as large. So, it was scary, but like I said, I respect Gunner a lot, as a man and as a player.”
Though Olszewski is now doing his thing in Pittsburgh, Meyers said the bond the two share is strong, even if they don’t get to have their daily chats anymore.
“I still check in to make he’s doing all right,” said Meyers.
Phillips make trip
The weekend started out on a good note for the Patriots as versatile safety Adrian Phillips made the trip to Pittsburgh, according to a slide show the team posted on social media.
Phillips left last week’s season opener with a rib injury and was limited all week in practice, though he seemed unaffected by the ailment during the portions of practice media was allowed to watch during the week.
Phillips’s presence would help in the defense of dangerous Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth, who caught five balls for 75 yards in the Week 1 win over the Bengals.
New England downgraded Joshuah Bledsoe to out as the second-year safety deals with a groin injury.
The other four players on Friday’s injury report, left tackle Trent Brown (ankle), running back Pierre Strong (shoulder), linebacker Raekwon McMillan (thumb), and cornerback Shaun Wade (ankle), have a chance to play.
The Patriots did not elevate any players from the practice squad, so Strong could make his debut with third-down back Ty Montgomery on injured reserve. Strong was an outstanding runner and receiver in college.
No fine for Holland
A league source confirmed that Dolphins safety Jevon Holland was not fined for his high hit on Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in the opener. Roughing the passer was called on the play, in which Holland appeared to launch himself and hit Jones in the helmet while another Dolphin hit him low. Jones suffered a back injury on the play. Jones had X-rays after the game that came back normal and he is on track to play against the Steelers … Nick Folk has hit 55 consecutive field goals inside of 50 yards, the second-longest streak in NFL history behind Ryan Succop’s run of 56 from 2014-17.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.