Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter expressed such forward optimism about his rookie draft pick, sixth-rounder Travis Feeney, earlier in training camp that he feared he would have to make the 53-man roster, because he believed strongly that another team would claim him off waivers and the Steelers would lose him.
That may be a bit of hyperbole, as we see annually that the fear of losing players ticketed for the practice squad is more often than not unfounded. Just last season, the Steelers released a sixth-round pick, as well as a fourth-round pick, with neither being claimed off waivers. So I wouldn’t be frightened to release Feeney with the hope of sticking him on the practice squad.
Be that as it may, the first step toward Feeney getting anywhere was of course simply getting back on the practice field, and he was finally able to do that yesterday for the first time in a good while, hopefully preparing himself to see at least a bit of playing time, if only on special teams, on Thursday at Heinz Field against the Eagles.
While Alex Kozora did report that Feeney was tackled by a robot yesterday, that seemed to be the low point of the day for him, as he had a decent practice overall, and won his share of reps, while demonstrating the speed and athleticism that got him drafted in the first place in spite of the fact that he was viewed as a player without a true position.
Kozora summed up his first practice back was “impressive”, calling him “explosive, fluid in coverage, and consistently won as a pass rusher”, though obviously against a lower level of competition, especially with two of the Steelers’ top four tackles sitting out practice with hopefully minor injuries.
Regardless of what he does, of course, he is going to have a difficult time making the 53-man roster simply due to the extraordinary number of linebackers that the Steelers have in camp, both at the inside and outside positions, with perhaps a dozen, if not more, that could be deemed as ‘rosterable’ players.
His quickest route to a roster spot would be to simply blow things up on special teams and give the coaches no choice but to keep him. He has the speed and athleticism to be a major asset in that aspect of the game, which is what Porter talked about when he mentioned his worry over losing him to waivers if he didn’t make the 53-man roster.
However the rest of the month unfolds, it is good to see Feeney healthy and getting off to a good start in practice, even if he managed to get tackled by a non-human opponent—non-sentient, for that matter. But as long as that is his lowest low-point from this point forward, he could very well have a future—even if that ends up coming with another team.