The Pittsburgh Steelers have now lost another member of their organization yesterday after the Saints officially signed rookie sixth-round draft pick Travis Feeney from the team’s practice squad. Feeney had spent the entirety of his rookie season on the practice squad, with no immediate signs of upward mobility (e.g. a promotion to the 53-man roster) prior to the Saints’ acquisition move.
Earlier this week, on Monday, it was officially announced that the Texans were awarded first-year cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz off waivers after the Steelers released him from their 53-man roster in order to make room for an extra kicker—who still remains on the roster—when their starter suddenly showed up with an abdominal injury.
Neither player was, of course, much of a meaningful contributor with respect to the 2016 season. Feeney, as mentioned, was never on the 53-man roster. Shabazz spent several games on the 53-man roster, but mostly contributed on special teams.
Feeney’s loss, however, comes at a time in which the Steelers are virtually assured to be facing a period of transition at the outside linebacker position following this season. While second-year former first-round draft pick Bud Dupree is obviously going to be a mainstay in that group, much of the rest is yet to be determined beyond this year.
Of course the headline of that list has to be fourth-year former first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones, who has more or less reached the point at which many holdouts are now considering him a bust as a former 17th-overall draft pick.
Not only has Jones never solidified himself as a starter, he has also been demoted, and virtually benched. The team already elected not to pick up his fifth-year option prior to the start of this season, and there is no compelling reason to believe that he will be back next year.
Whether or not the team’s best outside linebacker, James Harrison, returns to the team next year is more up in the air, I think, but that is dependent upon whether or not he chooses to retire. And one has to imagine that there will be inevitably diminishing returns from here on out.
While Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats are both under contract for next season (or will be exclusive rights free agents, in the case of the former), they appear to be, at a high point, rotational players. Feeney would have at least added another intriguing piece to the depth puzzle.
Feeney struggled to make an impact in training camp and the preseason, but he also spent a lot of that time dealing with injury, and his work in the preseason was ultimately limited. While the general consensus on him was that he desperately needed to add weight, beat writers yesterday commented on some strong practice performances.
In situations such as these, it is rare that a fringe player lost ever amounts to much of a gain for the team acquiring him, let alone much of a gain for the team losing him. But that doesn’t mean that it is preferred when it doesn’t happen. The team has some pieces that they have lost in their recent history providing valuable depth for other organizations.