On Monday, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed running back Karlos Williams to a Reserve/Futures contract after he first had his suspension lifted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. On the heels of that signing, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday during his end-of-the-season press conference to talk about what he’s seen out of Williams so far since he was first signed this past October.
“I really can’t, because there wasn’t a lot of evaluation opportunity there,” Tomlin said of Williams. “I think in signing him, we’re saying we’re interested in seeing what he’s capable of, not that we have an assessment of what he’s capable of. Any of these guys that come aboard during the course of this journey, particularly as we’re well into the season and we’re not practicing in pads, and so forth, to say that we have an assessment of what they’re capable of is not accurate.
“Suffice it to say that if we sign any of those guys to futures, it’s because we’re potentially interested in what they might be, and we might not have a real assessment of what they’re capable of being.”
After being signed to the Steelers practice squad, Williams was suspended for 10 games in November for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Including the playoffs, the Steelers have since played 9 games.
On Tuesday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported that he’s been told Williams has one game left on his suspension and thus wouldn’t be eligible to play until Week 2 of the 2017 regular season. If Fowler’s report is correct, the Steelers will have Williams all throughout the offseason and that includes training camp and the preseason. Assuming he makes it that far, Williams would likely have to start the 2017 regular season on the Reserve/Suspended list.
Tomlin was asked Tuesday how he goes about working with players who have been suspended such as Williams.
“It has no bearing on how I work with them,” Tomlin said. “What he’s allowed to do and available to do, we do. What he’s not, due to the circumstances of the suspension, we won’t. It really is just that simple.”
Williams, who was originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, rushed for 517 yards and seven touchdown on 93 carries during his rookie season. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season for violating the leagues substance abuse policy while he was a member of the Bills, who ultimately released him on Aug. 21.
Entering Monday, the Steelers didn’t have any running backs under contract for the 2017 season. However, that all changed on Tuesday with the signing of Williams, Gus Johnson, Brandon-Brown Dukes and Dreamius Smith, all of whom spent time on the Steelers practice squad during the 2016 season.