For the Pittsburgh Steelers, their focus is squarely set on making one final playoff push. And there are plenty of teams in the same boat. There’s nine non-division leaders sitting at 8-6 or 7-7, a win or less possibly making or breaking their season.
But there are many, many teams already packing it in. Teams whose seasons essentially ended a month ago but now, are finally mathematically eliminated. Their focus isn’t on the playoffs but the offseason. Before the season officially comes to an end, those organizations are looking around the league, poaching futures talent off the roster for a cup of coffee.
That trend seemed to begin this week. The Green Bay Packers plucked WR Allen Lazard from Jacksonville. The Buffalo Bills took the 49ers Victor Bolden. And the New York Jets snagged OT Eric Smith from the New England Patriots. Even teams in the hunt, Miami and Seattle, made similar moves.
It’s always impossible to predict but the Steelers could be one of those candidates to be poached. After all, they’ve had one of the most consistent practice squads of the season. Good health has created very little movement. Eight of the 11 players on it right now began the season there.
The only new faces are Matthew Thomas, who spent all year on the 53 until he was released a few weeks ago, RB Ralph Webb (who could get cut once James Conner is healthy and Trey Edmunds is sent down), and CB Herb Waters, who you probably forgot was a Steeler while his own roster photo still shows him in a Packers’ uniform.
Teams rostering the player trying to be poached have the opportunity to keep him, provided they elevate him to the 53 man roster. But the Steelers roster seems full right now and they already created a spot by placing Marcus Gilbert on injured reserve. If a team comes calling, the Steelers are probably going to have to let him go.
And there is intriguing talent on the roster. Keion Adams still has some upside as a pass rusher and the team could use that competition next year if Bud Dupree isn’t retained. Tight end Bucky Hodges showed brief flashes in camp and the preseason while R.J. Prince and Patrick Morris are interesting prospects up front for Mike Munchak to keep molding. There’s Thomas himself, a disappointment after entering the season with relatively high expectations, but a guy you want to see develop into his sophomore season.