Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: DE Casey Sayles
Stock Value: Up
I’m not sure how many are going to agree with this, but at least for the time being, I’m going to argue that Casey Sayles’ stock value is going up. Primarily because I’m interested in seeing how much of a difference his experience playing in professional football games in the Alliance of American Football might make between his second and third offseasons (his first offseason was with the Rams in 2017).
Sayles was with the Steelers all offseason a year ago, but lost out to a spot on the practice squad to Lavon Hooks, who was also there the year prior. Both of them are back and competing with Daniel McCullers, rookie Isaiah Buggs, Conor Sheehy, and fellow 2018 returnee and AAF refugee Greg Gilmore for the fifth and sixth spots on the defensive line.
It figures that three of the players named above will be with the organization in some capacity, including one on the practice squad. The favorites to make the 53-man roster are probably McCullers (considering that he has been there for five years already) and Buggs, the sixth-round pick, with Hooks being the most popular darkhorse candidate.
But I would put Sayles right after them, based on his quality play in the Alliance of American Football, where he was one of the better run-stuffing defensive linemen in the league for the Birmingham Iron, the team with whom the Steelers were an affiliate.
Pittsburgh was quick to re-sign him after the AAF folded (Gilmore was brought back a bit later on). Perhaps that’s an indication of how much they liked him. They did say that the players they signed were ones they were likely to have signed to Reserve/Future contracts after the 2018 season anyway.
Hooks looked the best of the B Group here last season, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s plateaued, now in his fifth offseason and two years on the practice squad. Sayles is in his second year in Pittsburgh and got the chance to play professionally earlier this year. I could see him making headway, but we’ll really start to tell when the pads come on.