It may be delayed gratification, but it is no doubt gratifying all the same for Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers, who was promoted from the practice squad yesterday in a move corresponding with the release of kicker Randy Bullock, who has spent the past two weeks on the 53-man roster.
It was in the buildup to the Giants game that the coaching staff was working Ayers over in practice and telling him to get into the game plan, signs that strongly indicated that a promotion to the 53-man roster was imminent, but an abdominal injury suffered by Chris Boswell late in the week threw a wrench in those plans.
Bullock was an emergency signing, and he kicked in that game against the Giants, making all three field goals that he attempted in addition to a point after attempt. Boswell’s status was still uncertain for Sunday, however, and, in fact, the Steelers had both kickers active for the game, just in case Bullock would be needed.
But the team was happy with what they saw from Boswell in his first game back after dealing with the abdominal injury, which made their extra kicker expendable. Which means that Ayers was finally given the opportunity to be promoted to the 53-man roster.
In spite of the fact that the Steelers have been essentially working with only three wide receivers on offense for most of the season at this point, it became evident that they were aware of the lack of depth that they had available to them, but they waited for the Bullock move to run its course before promoting Ayers.
The rookie seventh-round draft pick is now the sixth wide receiver on the 53-man roster, and the second that was called up from the practice squad, joining Cobi Hamilton, who has been running, along with Antonio Brown and slot receiver Eli Rogers, in the team’s ‘base’ 11 offense with three wide receivers on the field.
It is not immediately apparent how or if Ayers’ promotion will affect anything on a practical level. He is, on paper, a player who is pretty similar to Rogers, who has done little on the field to draw much criticism, so it would probably be safe to assume that he will serve as depth in the slot, where they have had none.
Ayers is capable of returning punts, but they have settled on Brown doing that after giving Rogers early looks in that department at the start of the season, so it would seem unlikely that they would turn that responsibility over to him—even if it was ostensibly the primary reason that they drafted him. Of course, I could easily be proven wrong on that point on Sunday.
At the very least, the Steelers now have some depth at the wide receiver position, regardless of whether or not he immediately factors into their plans on offense or special teams. Presumably, they have been getting him prepared for the promotion for a couple of weeks now. And calling him up now allows the team to hold his rights into next year without the risk of losing him.