At this point in the offseason, we find that training camp is just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.
While the Steelers were without any selections in the fifth round, and only drafted late in the sixth round, they did add three more players in the 2016 NFL Draft in the late rounds, starting with linebacker Travis Feeney, who is an interesting if not curious selection for a generally linebacker-heavy team.
Collegiately, Feeney also played inside and even in the secondary, but he finished his career coming off the edge, and that is where the Steelers, according to outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, intend to use him, even if there are already five players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Though his Combine numbers might not full reveal it due to injuries that he dealt with at the time, Feeney is a highly athletic player for his position with excellent speed that drew the team’s intrigue, and might perhaps hint toward the envisioning of a specialist or hybrid role for the sixth-round draft pick if he ever manages to merit it.
Such a journey, however, must by necessity start with making the 53-man roster, and that will be no easy task. His surest bet would be to make himself indispensable on special teams, as the Steelers find themselves in the need of replacing some core special teams players who left in free agency.
His most direct competition is likely second-year former sixth-round outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, who served as the team’s fifth outside linebacker last season. He made the initial 53-man roster last year only to be released and moved to the practice squad a day later. He was promoted a few weeks into the season and remained there.
It will help him none, however, that he has seemingly been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury that has dogged him throughout his college career. He reportedly missed much, if not most, of the Steelers’ spring drills as a result of that.
Put simply, he will have to draw attention to himself in a good way during training camp and especially in the preseason, particularly on special teams, in order to land on the 53-man roster; on the other hand, a stint on the practice squad is a very real possibility, especially considering a predicable future need of outside linebackers in 2017.