There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: RB Stevan Ridley
Roster Vulnerability: High
Role Vulnerability: High
We obviously don’t know what’s going to happen in the draft, but I think we can at least safely say by now that the Steelers would seriously consider drafting LSU running back Derrius Guice if he is on the board for them in the first round.
That fact alone makes veteran running back Stevan Ridley’s grasp on roster spot tenuous at best, even though he finished the 2017 season as the primary backup running back to Le’Veon Bell following the injury to James Conner.
Of course, Ridley was available to be signed with two weeks remaining in the 2017 season last year, which doesn’t speak well for his roster security in the first place. Nor does the fact that the Steelers did not re-sign him until nearly a month after free agency had begun when they technically could have re-signed him the day after they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It doesn’t have to be Guice to wipe him off the roster. The truth is that any running back the Steelers draft would be competition for Ridley to be on the 53 come September. It could be a seventh-round pick, or even a priority undrafted free agent, and they will be given every opportunity to legitimately compete for the last spot, the way Terrell Watson initially made the 53-man roster a year ago.
One possible boon for him would be if the Steelers did indeed draft Guice and then would decide to pull the franchise tag from Bell, or manage to work out a trade for him to which he would be agreeable, since it would require that he sign the tag. I know some of you would like to see this happen, but yeah, don’t get your hopes up.
As I wrote after Ridley was signed, his being here doesn’t really change anything, but it’s nice to have him back anyway. He could serve as quality depth if he ends up being on the team, but it’s pretty obviously he is going to be given serious competition to keep his job, even from Fitzgerald Toussaint.