The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie minicamp is set to kick off a short time from now. For most of those who will be participating, this will be their first-ever taste of real on-field action as a professional. The group will include all of the team’s nine draft selections from the past month. It will include all first-year players, such as Lavon Hooks. It will include the AAF players who are at first-year status, and the undrafted free agents they signed as well. But there will also be a number of players in game who are there only on an invitee basis.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance. One need only look at recent history to see that. While there is perhaps only one complete success story in this regard, that being Terence Garvin, a player who was signed after rookie minicamp and went on to have a legitimate NFL career lasting several years, others have gotten signed and had their opportunities.
There is one on the 90-man roster right now, that being offensive lineman R.J. Prince. He, along with wide receiver Damoun Patterson, was signed after rookie minicamp to the 90-man roster. He continued to perform well throughout the summer and earned a year on the practice squad, and is now set to compete for a shot at a spot on the 53-man roster in 2019.
As for Patterson, he almost assuredly would have been kept on the practice squad as well had he not gotten injured during the preseason, which resulted in the team waiving him. He ended up landing elsewhere while the Steelers moved on with Tevin Jones and Trey Griffey.
In 2017, the Steelers signed two players who were rookie minicamp invitees that year, I believe, those being tight end Phazahn Odom and linebacker Matt Galambos. Galambos would go on to see time on the Steelers’ practice squad that year until he was injured.
And they doubled the number in the previous year when they inked four players who participated in rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, the most notable of them being wide receiver Marcus Tucker, who would spend two years on the practice squad. Like Patterson, however, an injury would get him waived in 2018. Cameron Stingily and Brandon Brown-Dukes, both running backs, also spent time on the team’s practice squad in 2016. Cornerback Donald Washington was the other one.
And if you go back another year, you actually find Stingily again. Invited twice, signed twice. Also added after rookie minicamp was defensive tackle Mike Thornton, who was certainly fun to watch as an undersized sparkplug.
You can keep going back if you’d like. Will any of the tryout players get signed this year? The odds suggest that at least one or two of them will, based on their recent history. They haven’t had an invitee make it all the way to the 53-man roster since Garvin in 2013, but a foot in the door is the first step.