The Pittsburgh Steelers began their rookie minicamp yesterday, during which the team’s new draft picks, undrafted free agents, and first-year players all participate as a sort of introductory session into the new league year, and into the world of professional sports.
In addition to the above-named group of players currently signed to the Steelers’ offseason roster, however, there are close to 20 other names floating around camp at this time: the names of players hoping to take the spot of somebody already on that 90-man roster.
While it is uncommon for a tryout player to work his way onto a quality roster, let alone eventually make a team’s 53-man roster and become a contributor, there is very recent precedent in the Steelers’ own locker room, as we pointed out yesterday, with that precedent, Terence Garvin, still on the team after two years.
Truth be told, the Steelers don’t quite have the level of depth and talent to their roster that they once had. And since the offseason roster was expanded from 80 players to 90 a few years ago, it has become easier for tryout players to get their foot in the door.
In terms of raw numbers, the Steelers could still use some help at certain positions on their roster, both when it comes to the offseason roster for practice purposes, and just generally to add to the competition in those areas.
There does seem to be a pattern in that with respect to the players that the Steelers chose to invite to their minicamp this year, as I see a high percentage of defensive backs, running backs, and wide receivers represented on the list. There are some offensive and defensive linemen as well, although they did a better job of addressing those areas with their pool of undrafted free agents.
The Steelers have a unique temporary need at the running back position in light of Le’Veon Bell’s three-game suspension. While they signed veteran DeAngelo Williams to be the primary ball-carrier for that time, the team still needs depth.
The two carryover options from last season are scatback Dri Archer and Josh Harris, who was an undrafted rookie last season that was added to the offseason roster late in the proceedings. The Steelers signed running back Ross Sheuerman after the draft after failing to select one.
Adding to the competition, three of the tryouts players this weekend are running backs Josh Bell, Jawon Chisholm, and Cameron Stingily. Given the numbers at the position, it shouldn’t surprise to see one of these players earn a contract.
To me, the most intriguing of the defensive backs invited to minicamp on a tryout basis is Kevin Johnson, who just so happens to bear the name of a first-round cornerback from Wake Forest. This one is from Eastern Michigan, and he could add competition and depth to a now young group.
Despite drafting Sammie Coates during the draft, the Steelers invited a couple more wide receiver to tryouts. Even with Coates, Pittsburgh is really four men deep at the spot, and they carried six last year, so that suggests there’s room available. Plus, they need the bodies for practice.