The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 season has already been over for a couple of weeks, and they have already been signing players to new contracts. Some of those, like the one handed out to Jordan Berry, the punter, are run-of-the-mill one-year deals, but there is also the more vague ‘Reserve/Future’ contract that is given out typically to inexperienced players.
A Reserve/Future contract is simply a regular contract that is used to sign players prior to the start of the new league year that does not officially count against the salary cap until the new league year begins. Technically speaking, anybody can be signed to such a contract, but there are obvious reasons why certain players would not do so.
When the Steelers start signing players people have never heard of, like James Summers and Darnell Leslie, the questions inevitably arise: what is the point of signing these players? Do they ever find anybody worth mentioning from this group? The answer is yes.
Most recently, in fact, the Steelers had three players make the roster full-time this past season after previously having been signed as a Reserve/Future player, the most notable of the bunch being Mike Hilton, who emerged as the team’s starting slot cornerback.
Hilton was on the Steelers’ practice squad for the last several weeks of the previous season and was given a Reserve/Future contract in the first wave of signings after their playoff exit. Also in that group was Matt Feiler, who was just re-signed this offseason. Kameron Canaday, their long snapper, was also a late signing in February.
Other notable players currently on the roster who were initially or subsequently signed to Reserve/Future contracts are Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Xavier Grimble, L.J. Fort, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Roosevelt Nix, as well as Chris Hubbard and the aforementioned Berry.
There are some notable and even familiar names on the Steelers’ current list of futures signings. Safety Jordan Dangerfield is among them, who has been around for a while. I believe he is out of practice squad eligibility, so like Feiler a year ago, he will have to make the team.
Marcus Tucker, the wide receiver on the practice squad, stands a good chance of making the 53-man roster this year as well, with Eli Rogers injured and Justin Hunter unlikely to be re-signed. Tight end Jake McGee also from the practice squad, is somebody to keep an eye on as well, as is cornerback Dashaun Phillips.
We could dig deeper into past rosters and point to players such as Steve McLendon, Isaac Redman, and others, but the point is that talent can be found among these signings and make up an important portion of any team’s roster. Sometimes it’s hard to know it’s hard to know who might emerge, so there’s no sense in dismissing the group.