The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 training camp will get underway later next week and as we count down the final days until the team arrives at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, it’s also worth discussing a few under-the-radar players ahead of the first practice taking place at Chuck Noll Field a week from Friday. Today we’ll discuss my three under-the-radar offensive players ahead of the start of training camp and none of them were draft picks. All three are currently considered to be very long shots to ultimately make the team’s 53-man roster.
G Fred Johnson – The next Ramon Foster? Sure, that’s a little strong, but there’s no doubt that Johnson enters the NFL with a few similar traits that Foster had when he came out of Tennessee. After initially playing some at right tackle at Florida, Johnson, who measured in at this year’s scouting combine at 6071, 326-pounds, ultimately found a permanent home at right guard. While not the most athletic specimen, Johnson’s above-average technique as a run and pass blocker at Florida made his play easily stick out on tape. He pulled some to the left at Florida as well with good results most of the time. On paper, the Steelers are set when it comes to offensive line spots on their 2019 53-man roster. However, one injury to interior player between now and the start of the regular season could result in a spot being available for Johnson to grab. During training camp and the preseason it will be interesting to see if Johnson stays exclusively on the right side and if he gets some limited work at left guard. Johnson received the second highest signing bonus of this year’s undrafted players signed by the Steelers so that tells you quite a bit about how they felt about him.
WR Diontae Spencer – Can Spencer become the Steelers 2019 version of Stefan Logan? It’s hard to know for sure right now but after reportedly having a strong showing during the team’s offseason practices, Spencer, who to date has had a very nice CFL career, is almost sure to get a chance to make some explosive plays during training camp and the preseason. While Spencer is easily one of the shortest players on the Steelers current roster at 5076, he might just be the fastest player currently under contract as well. From 2016-2018, Spencer registered 3,123 receiving yards on 258 receptions in the CFL and only a few players had more of each in that span. He had 13 receiving touchdowns and registered 23 total plays that gained at least 30 yards. Spencer was also an accomplished punt and kickoff returner the last three seasons in the CFL. He averaged 11.5 yards per punt return from 2016-2018 and 22.6 yards per kickoff return. Two of those punt returns were returned for touchdowns. Spencer’s path to a 53-man roster spot likely includes him needing to win the punt returner job, which right now belongs to fellow diminutive wide receiver Ryan Switzer. Spencer will also need to make quite a few big plays out of the slot and down the field to warrant him being kept. He’s a long shot entering training camp, but it’s not totally out of the question that he might can stick as a No. 6 wide receiver if he has a very impressive summer showing.
TE Trevor Wood – Yes, I really did put Wood on this short list. Of all the backup tight ends the Steelers currently have under contract behind Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble, Wood, who finished his college career in 2018 at Texas A&M after starting it Arizona in 2014, might just be the best blocker of the bunch. While he wasn’t used hardly any as a pass catcher in college, as evidenced by his 11 total receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown, he was utilized quite a bit as a second tight end and as a run blocker. His run blocking wasn’t all that bad after a deeper scouring of his tape. The fact that Wood also played a little on special teams early on in his college career also can’t be totally dismissed. Forget the fact that Wood is also listed as a long snapper by the Steelers as he’s 100 percent tight end. Sure, fellow tight end Zach Gentry, the Steelers fifth-round draft pick this year, probably has a better chance of making the roster than Wood, but if he doesn’t develop quickly enough as a blocker, there’s a chance another tight end makes 53-man unit instead of him. If Wood can stay healthy throughout the summer and excel as a blocker, at worst he might land on the practice squad to start the 2019 season. There’s a little more to Wood than originally thought when the Steelers first signed him as an undrafted free agent.