The Pittsburgh Steelers made several roster moves yesterday to tweak their 53-man roster and establish their initial 10-man practice squad, and many of those moves have certainly drawn a hefty amount of conversation—much of it angry.
But unquestionably the least discussed move in that group was the acquisition via the waiver wire of defensive end Caushaud Lyons, an undrafted rookie free agent who originally signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was with the team from the draft all the way through the final roster cuts on Saturday.
Perhaps the Steelers did not really need another defensive end. They already had four on the roster, with another on the practice squad. But starter Stephon Tuitt is still working his way back from an ankle injury in preparation for being ready for Thursday night.
Since the league moved to a 10-man practice squad, the team has not been shy about its preference to carry eight defensive linemen. They carried six on the 53-man roster last year and kept another two defensive ends on the practice squad. When both were signed by other teams, they were both replaced by other defensive ends.
The acquisition of Lyons not only gives the Steelers another body to practice with while Tuitt recovers, it also gives them the eight defensive linemen that they have proven that they prefer to have, which suggests that this may not be a temporary one or two week move until Tuitt is fully back up to speed.
The rookie does sound like he fits the profile of a typical John Mitchell late-round defensive end signing. Raw but athletic is his billing, as has been the story for many of the team’s recent defensive end selections under Mike Tomlin, with Mitchell’s heavy supervision.
Listed at 6’5” and 295 pounds, Lyons ran a 4.87 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, in addition to a 30.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump. Additionally, he was regarded as the strongest player on his team, the Division II Tusculum. He benched 475 pounds and squatted 600.
Lyons was a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award in 2014, given to the best Division II lineman in the nation. He was also productive during his four preseason games with the Buccaneers, logging four tackles—officially—and a sack in about 100 snaps of playing time.
Pro Football Focus gave him an overall positive grade with a slightly negative run grade and a slightly positive pass rush grade, crediting him with eight additional quarterback pressures outside of the sack. He is also credited with six total tackles and only one missed tackle.
Of course, we will not rely upon PFF to do our evaluations, as we will be taking a look at his showing with the Buccaneers later today, courtesy of Alex Kozora. But what we currently know of him offers at least some intrigue. It is possible that he could battle L.T. Walton to remain on the 53-man roster, with the loser being waived and sent to the practice squad, though Lyons figures to lose that battle as the raw prospect that he is.