This season, the Pittsburgh Steelers did not see a single rookie undrafted free agent make their 53-man roster. Only two—inside linebacker Matt Galambos and wide receiver Justin Thomas—even made the practice squad. But they did provide the first-ever roster opportunity for one former undrafted free agent, and a second chance to three other first-year formerly undrafted players.
Making a 53-man roster for the first time this year—at least for now, as we all know how things can change—is cornerback Mike Hilton, a 5’9” cornerback out of Ole Miss a year ago who spent about a week on the Patriots’ practice squad last year, and the final several weeks of the season on Pittsburgh’s.
A former teammate in college of Senquez Golson’s, Hilton caught the coaches’ eyes and continued to make plays throughout the spring and summer, and it was enough to earn him a spot on their 53-man roster. as of the time of this writing, however, they currently have seven cornerbacks and 12 total defensive backs on the roster, so something is likely to change very soon. Perhaps by the time you’re reading this.
In addition to Hilton, three other former undrafted free agents who have spent a very brief period of time on 53-man rosters—not enough to accrue a season—are being given the opportunity to have a second chance on a team.
The most notable would have to be long snapper Kameron Canaday. Undrafted last season, he actually won the job out of training camp for the Cardinals, but the team released him after three games and a couple of bad snaps. This summer, he edged out rookie sixth-round draft pick Colin Holba.
Running back Terrell Watson was originally a rookie undrafted free agent in 2015. He spent all of that year on the Bengals’ practice squad, and last season spent time on the practice squads of the Browns, Broncos, and Eagles. While with Philadelphia, he was called up to the 53-man roster for the final game of the season and recorded nine rushes for 28 yards and a touchdown, but they released him in May, the Steelers signing him a couple weeks later.
While in Pittsburgh, the heavy back was able to unseat a pair of veterans in Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint for the third running back spot on the roster behind Le’Veon Bell—whose absence from camp afforded him many opportunities—and rookie James Conner.
Finally, there is Matt Feiler, who had the longest trek of all. Originally an undrafted free agent all the way back in 2014, he spent his rookie year on the Texans’ practice squad. He was on the Steelers’ practice squad for most of the past two seasons, but he also served a two-game stint last season on the 53-man roster after Ryan Harris was injured.
Unless something changes—which is admittedly likely—all four of them will be given the opportunity to experience their full NFL season. Only one of the four, Canaday, has even been on an opening-day roster before.