The Pittsburgh Steelers were among the NFL teams last year who participated in the international player program, being awarded English rugby player Christian Scotland-Williamson, who played the tight end position with the Steelers last summer.
International players have special advantages that allow them to participate with minimal risk, for both themselves and their teams. They do not count on the 90-man offseason roster, for one thing, so it doesn’t take a roster spot away from a player who is more familiar with the game.
Additionally, team can choose to carry an 11th player on their practice squad during the season provided that it is an international player, who is afforded an exemption. That is what the Steelers did with Scotland-Williamson last year, and according to Kevin Colbert, the team’s general manager, they plan to continue working with him.
While he was speaking to local reporters on Wednesday, he was going down the current makeup of their offseason roster, which can include up to 90 non-international players, pointing out that they at the time had 63 players.
“I think right now we are at 64 players on a 91-man roster, but we’ll have our international designation,
Scotty will be back with us next year as a free practice squad player so right now I think we are at 64”, Colbert said, per the transcript provided to us by Will Graves of the Associated Press. “So, you take away seven picks, there are still some things we want to do free agency-wise and then the college free agents so really that gets us to where we are and how we came about with how we are going to approach the Antonio Brown situation”.
Scotland-Williamson did not get many opportunities to contribute during the preseason. Though he dressed for every game, he only caught one pass for five yards in the first game. In fact, it was the only target that he saw all summer. The 6’9” athlete did play a total of 38 snaps during the preseason, including two snaps in the victory formation.
He is among the current Steelers who are participating in the NFL’s externship project, where he will be working with Under Armour this offseason. The others are fellow tight end Jake McGee (who spent the year on injured reserve), safety Malik Golden, and the recently signed Malik Williams at running back.