While the Pittsburgh Steelers may not have snared the most exciting list of undrafted free agents that they have been able to find in recent years, the nature of the undrafted portion of the roster building process is such that you often don’t know who will quietly rise up the depth chart.
Within the list of undrafted free agents that the Steelers signed this year is the name of a wide receiver, Canaan Severin, though, and he could be an interesting player to watch. He already has some prior Steelers connections—he went to Heath Miller’s alma mater and got to know him through his position coach, who was Miller’s quarterback at UVA, according to Jim Wexell, and also got to know Ryan Clark through shared experiences with sickle cell trait—for whatever leg up that might give him. He was given Miller’s #83 this offseason.
That number, of course, would likely not stick if he indeed ends up making the 53-man roster. The widely respected tight end just retired this offseason after playing for 11 years in the black and gold. It is highly unlikely that his number gets recycled that quickly, but during the offseason, with 90-man rosters, these things tend to be necessary.
Where the interest with Severin starts is simply his size. The 6’2”, 212-pound wide receiver is not particularly fast, running a 40-yard time in the 4.5 range, but he knows how to play to his size, which helps make up for his long speed and difficulty at times to gain a lot of separation.
One thing that he doesn’t lack is confidence, as he recounted the thoughts going through his mind as he realized earlier this month that he might not get drafted at all. “You sit there saying, ‘How do you not (get drafted)’”, he pondered recently after a rookie minicamp practice session, according to Chris Adamski for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Listing some of his collegiate bona fides, such as an 11-catch, 153-yard showing against Notre Dame, a three-touchdown performance against Louisville, and solid numbers consistently lining up across from Jalen Ramsey down in Florida, Severin believes he can play at the NFL level.
Part of the reason he believes this is because he has already been exposed to the pro-style offense. He noted that he had two coordinators while at UVA who had previously or went on to work in the NFL, including Bill Lazor, who was the offensive coordinator of the Dolphins in 2014 and 2015, and is now in the division as the Bengals’ quarterbacks coach.
With the suspension of Martavis Bryant, there is an opening for at least one wide receiver position on the 53-man roster, one would think, behind the Steelers’ top four options. But Severin is far from alone, as other prominent contenders include rookie seventh-round selection Demarcus Ayers, a return specialist, and a pair of 2015 undrafted players in Eli Rogers and Shakim Phillips. Whoever loses the battle for a roster spot, there will likely be one or two kept on the practice squad.