We are now at a point during the offseason in which we find ourselves looking at training camp just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.
If you go by signing bonuses, then the most notable player that the Steelers signed as an undrafted free agent rookie would be offensive lineman Ethan Cooper (#64). For the moment, however, he has been spending his time so far in training camp working seemingly exclusively with the third-team offensive line.
Not that much should be read into that fact so early into the proceedings, as the hierarchy of many positions, but especially the offensive line, is routinely in flux at this time of year. Teams all around the league have to work with different combinations with regularity to see what works.
It is quite possible that Cooper could be lining up with the second-team offensive line by the time that the Steelers resume practices on Wednesday, with today being a day off after four consecutive days of practices—and two in pads.
Still, Pittsburgh has a rather deep offensive line at the top, or so it is believed. While they have their starting five offensive linemen already entrenched, they also have their top three reserves seemingly already cemented in place as well, and with the depth at other positions this year, it would seem unlikely the team would carry a ninth on the 53-man roster.
So when it comes to players like Cooper and the other young offensive linemen on the roster who are scraping and clawing for action, we are more realistically talking about getting an opportunity for some seasoning on the practice squad. Which history shows us is not such a bad thing.
Two of the Steelers’ primary reserves from last season, who started a combined six games, spent a year on the practice squad before making the 53-man roster, those being second-year B.J. Finney and fourth-year Chris Hubbard.
Players like Cooper would do well to listen to what they have to say about how they carved out their own career paths, because chances are they will have little choice but to take a roundabout course en route to a spot on a roster.