The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Which practice squad player from last season has the best odds of making the 53-man roster in 2019?
When the Steelers’ 2018 season ended, they signed everybody from their practice squad to Reserve/Future contracts except for Matthew Thomas. That’s a total of 10 players, including the international player, tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson.
The other nine players consisted of linemen R.J. Prince and Patrick Morris, wide receivers Trey Griffey and Tevin Jones, tights end Bucky Hodges, defensive lineman Lavon Hooks, outside linebacker Keion Adams, running back Ralph Webb, and cornerback Herb Waters.
Outside of the latter two, the other players all spent the entirety of the season on the practice squad and were also previously with the Steelers in the offseason. Water was signed after Brian Allen was promoted to the 53-man roster, while Webb was signed after Trey Edmunds was brought up.
Playing the odds, one could argue that Hodges and Hooks have the best shot of making the next step, because they are the two players at positions who lost players without being replaced. The offensive line also lost a starter via trade, but gained another with a player returning from injured reserve.
In Hooks’ case, while Tyson Alualu and Daniel McCullers were re-signed, L.T. Walton was not, so there is still a vacant spot along the defensive line. He had a very solid preseason, which included a pair of sacks. Though he is also already 27.
At the tight end position, the Steelers lost Jesse James in free agency, which is a pretty big departure, considering the number of snaps he has played over the course of his four years here, particularly the last three. They haven’t signed anybody to fill that role, so for now, Hodges is naturally the ‘next man up’. It also helps that he showed pretty well for himself in the preseason as well, including some blocking.
But we’ll have to revisit this off after the draft to see what they address and how.