If there is one position that has a chance of sticking as a rookie training camp addition, it would be running back. Sticking doesn’t necessarily mean the 53-man roster, of course. Sticking could mean landing on the practice squad, which could turn into a promotion later in the season, or the next year.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, Josh Harris was a training camp addition last year and managed to beat out his competition to land a spot on the practice squad, which later opened up an opportunity to spend time on the 53-man roster. This season, he has a real chance of sticking to the roster.
Two years ago, Alvester Alexander was in the same situation, coming in late to the team during training camp, only to nudge past his competition and win the running back slot on the practice squad as an undrafted free agent.
Yesterday, the Steelers added running back Jawon Chisholm, al 6’1”, 205 pounds of him, after waiving Ross Scheuerman injured. Chisholm was one of a handful of undrafted free agent rookies that the Steelers invited to minicamp, but they signed Cameron Stingily instead.
Stingily is a big, lumbering back, and he seemed to impress the coaching staff in that regard, having been told to keep himself going north and south whenever he has the ball. He provided a contrast to the lean Scheuerman.
Chisholm is now the fourth player that the Steelers have signed this year after having invited them for a tryout during rookie minicamp, the other two not yet mentioned being nose tackle Mike Thornton, signed immediately, and guard Collin Rahrig, signed toward the end of OTAs, if I recall correctly.
But the question is, does he have a shot of sticking around? It figures to be difficult, considering he’s likely coming into a situation in which he is starting sixth of the depth chart, and there may not be enough roster spots to go around at the end, but it is possible, at least temporarily.
To his advantage, Harris is currently sitting out with an injury, and DeAngelo Williams has been held out for a couple of days, so he was able to get some work in yesterday. But his main competition for the immediate future will be Stingily.
With Le’Veon Bell serving a two-game suspension to start the season, the Steelers figure to carry three running backs on the 53-man roster, with another on the practice squad. Harris is the favorite to serve as the third running back on the roster with Bell out of the picture during that time.
That means it will likely be down to Stingily and Chisholm when it comes to claiming the practice squad spot. And even that may not last long. Even if the Steelers decided to keep Harris on the 53-man roster once Bell was reactivated, they would have no need for a fifth running back.
If Chisholm really wants to stick, he needs to maximize his versatility and simply outplay Harris, while proving that he is capable of playing special teams, even if it only means a spot on the practice squad for the year. If nothing else, he got off to a good start yesterday.