This is something that I have mentioned recently, but for a season in which the Pittsburgh Steelers have made several additions in free agency, we certainly have not spent a great deal of time talking about those players. Of course, it doesn’t help that for all but one such additions, the team added more players in the draft, and the one in which they didn’t, the free-agent addition is currently partially sidelined with a calf injury.
The Steelers have over the course of the past several seasons really replenished their depth, to the point in which it is becoming difficult for free agents to actually make the team, and that is something that even at the height of the roster was an extreme rarity to have a free agent be released.
Arguably the addition facing the longest odds of making the roster right now is wide receiver Justin Hunter, whom the team added to the group in March, before they knew that Martavis Bryant would for certain be reinstated from his suspension, and before they would have the opportunity to draft JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round.
The addition of Hunter was likely a sort of insurance policy against one or more of several realistic scenarios going south, but so far it appears as though everything has worked out toward the positive end, and that is going to make the former high second-round pick’s fight a roster spot all the more of a struggle.
Aside from the return of Bryant, and the drafting of Smith-Schuster, we have also so far seen positive signs from Sammie Coates that he is over the physical and mental wounds inflicted upon him a year ago, which had many questioning whether or not he would be a meaningful contributor this year.
Hunter understands more than anybody just how much talent he is surrounded by, saying that the Steelers have a more skilled group of wide receivers at their disposal than any of the other three teams for which he has played—and considering he has already played for three teams, the suggestion here is that he is expendable.
Which is certainly a positive dilemma to face for the Steelers. At 6’4” and with quality speed and a competent resume with sub-par quarterback play to work with, the former Titan (originally) is certainly a player worthy of entertaining with a roster spot—but perhaps not in Pittsburgh in 2017.
Things could change quickly once the pads come on, however. It is well within his capability to demonstrate that he is deserving of a roster spot even in this group in training camp and during the preseason, but right now, he is just trying to fit in and get adjusted to a new home, a new team, and a new offense.