I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: More than one rookie undrafted free agent will make the 53-man roster this season.
First and foremost, there are opportunities. There are at least four undrafted free agents from the Steelers’ current class that could have a greater than average chance of making it just because of the position that they play.
The name that most excites people is inside linebacker Matthew Thomas. While he has some off-field issues, he is capable of performing on the field at a draftable level. He makes a lot of plays. The problem is that he misses them, too.
Then there is Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, the only outside linebacker they’ve added this offseason. Defensive linemen Greg Gilmore and Casey Sayles should both be in position to battle for the sixth roster spot between Daniel McCullers and Joshua Frazier. And Quadree Henderson knows his path to the roster is as a return man.
Given these among others, such as running back Jarvion Franklin, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least two of these players end up on the 53-man roster.
And yet with all that said, it’s really not something that has happened too often lately. While the Steelers’ recent college free agent classes have admittedly been lacking in quality, the fact of the matter is that it hasn’t been an easy road for rookie undrafted players to make the team’s roster.
There have been first-year players to make it, like Mike Hilton, but they are not rookies. Johnny Maxey is the last rookie undrafted free agent to spend time on the 53-man roster, and that was after injuries during the season. Tyler Murphy in 2015 also spent a very brief amount of time on the roster. Terence Garvin in 2013 is the last true rookie undrafted free agent to spend a full season on the 53-man roster.
And all of the names mentioned above have competition, probably not considered the favorites. Frazier will be favored for a roster spot, for example, as will Keion Adams. Thomas might have the best shot, but that’s only one name, and he will have to earn it on special teams.