A small but significant—and vocal—part of the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base spent the better part of their Sunday and Monday up in arms over a couple of personnel decisions made by the front office in an effort for, as head coach Mike Tomlin described it, “find the best combination that’s going to help us win this week”.
In an effort to strengthen their depth at the running back and defensive end positions, the Steelers signed running back Jordan Todman and claimed defensive end Caushaud Lyons off waivers, supplanting rookie fourth- and sixth-round draft picks, cornerback Doran Grant and outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo.
As with the man that they claimed off waivers, Grant and Chickillo were subject to the waiver process, and there was much consternation within the aforementioned segment of the team’s fan base that one or both would be claimed, and that they would be lost to the organization.
The day passed, however, and 4 PM arrived with neither player having been claimed. The Steelers subsequently placed both men on the practice squad, with Chickillo replacing fellow outside linebacker Shayon Green and Grant taking the place of the now excess baggage at defensive end in Ethan Hemer.
While neither Grant nor Chickillo were claimed, however, it would be inaccurate to attempt to portray the circumstance as inevitable. Both players were at risk of being claimed, albeit not significant risk, but I would contend more so than the average waived player at this time of the football year.
One need only look at the Steelers themselves to get a glimpse of that. The defensive end that they claimed, Lyons, is a rookie undrafted free agent from a Division II school who is regarded as raw in his technique and understanding. That is not typically a player that you would assume has a high probability of being claimed off waivers.
Grant and Chickillo both showed that their understanding of the game was in a more advanced stage, with Chickillo’s case in particular being apparent. While neither played a dominant game—Grant recorded a handful of pass deflections, Chickillo a few run stops and pressures—there was obvious potential for development, which is why they made the 53-man roster in the first place.
And if they could make one 53-man roster, logic would suggest that they could make another. They are not players who were waived simply because the front office thought they were unable to play. There are any layers that go into such decisions.
The fact that they were released the day after the 53-man roster stabilized assuredly played a role in lowering their risk of being claimed. By far the vast majority of roster reshaping occurs on the day after, in which approximately 700 players instantly become available.
It would not be a surprise to learn that this factor played a role in their initially making the roster. But be that as it may, the bottom line is that the two rookie draft picks are back with the organization for the time being. I suspect that Grant may be back on the 53-man roster sooner or later this season as well. For practical purposes, no harm, no foul, at least for the time being.