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 enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
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: R.J. Prince
Roster Vulnerability: High
Role Vulnerability: High
As was the case with Keion Adams yesterday, any first-year player who has never been on the roster before is going to be at high risk of failing to make the roster based on what happens in the draft of any given year. Today’s topic in that regard is another player the team seems to like, 2018 college free agent R.J. Prince.
The North Carolina product—where he was teammates with Ryan Switzer—was an invitee to the team’s rookie minicamp last year, where he earned a contract to the 53-man roster, with the Steelers turning around and waiving another college free agent lineman that they had signed immediately after the draft.
Though primarily a tackle at 6’6” and 311 pounds, the Steelers became enamored with Prince’s potential versatility and ended up stretching him out. In fact, he primarily would play guard for the team. Though he didn’t do so in the preseason, they even gave him some work in practice at center, if memory serves.
I have read that the coaching staff likes him a lot, but the offensive line room is already pretty packed even after they traded away a starter in Marcus Gilbert. But in spite of the depth, I could still see an interior offensive lineman being drafted in the event that Matt Feiler wins the starting right tackle job, as he is their number two interior reserve.
In that sense, the draft does directly affect his ability to make the roster, because he needs to have that versatility to do so. He is already well behind on the outside with Alejandro Villanueva, Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, and Zach Banner ahead of him, so his best bet is maximizing his interior reps.
Already on the roster among interior linemen in addition are Patrick Morris, who was also a 2018 college free agent, J.C. Hassenauer, a recent signing from the defunct AAF. The Steelers already have 12 linemen, but figure to add three more later this month.