They’re still NFL longshots.
But they’ve taken their first step to making it in the league.
Four tryouts in this year’s rookie minicamp were offered contracts. Running backs Cameron Stingily and Brandon Brown-Dukes, wide receiver Marcus Tucker, and cornerback Donald Washington.
As much as I can gather, that’s as many players added in 2016 than the last four years combined.
Terence Garvin serves as the gold standard for tryout players in Pittsburgh but in sheer volume, the number of players added onto the 90 man roster are few.
Stingily and defensive tackle Mike Thornton were the only two last season. None of the 20 tryout players earned a contract immediately out of camp in 2014, though running back Jordan Hall was signed in the middle of June. Garvin was the lone call-up in 2013 and in 2012, though it appears only five players were even brought in for a tryout, no one left with a deal.
It may not be a memorable group but it sure is a select one.
In the interest of transparency, there were more tryouts in 2016 than any of those previous years. But to see four added speaks to either an above average talent class of that pool or a below average group of futures’ contract talent. Three of the players cut had signed back in January. And the tryout class did have some “names,” in Stingily, with the team last year, and Washington, a 29 year old corner who spent three years in the NFL.
By accounts from several players, tryout players feel as welcome as draft picks during the three day minicamp. Treated with respect, given a fair shake. This is what running back Jawon Chisholm, a tryout player added to the 90 man roster mid-way through camp, said about his experience with the team and specifically, Mike Tomlin.
I tweeted that out and almost immediately, Ramon Foster, a UDFA in 2009, vouched for the sentiment.
Though this extended weekend may seem like just a formality, an uneventful bridge to training camp, there’s a unique chance for these players to come in and either get noticed for the first time or earn a second-chance few players ever get.