While the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is still fleeing from the sky as it falls to the earth over the clobbering that they took at the hands of the New England Patriots, they still found time to share their rage after rookie outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, waived on Saturday with a mind toward re-signing him to the practice said, was claimed by the New York Giants.
The Giants had one of the earliest picks in the waiver order, so it’s quite possible that there were multiple teams who put in a claim for Skipper. The Toledo product registered five sacks, including two forced fumbles, during the preseason, and also showed capabilities on special teams.
It was a mistake for the Steelers to believe that they could release him, as reality has born out, and sneak him onto the practice squad. They were obviously concerned about this possibility after they kept him on the initial 53-man roster. But it’s not the first time they’ve taken the gamble with a player they like and it won’t be the last.
The vast majority of the time, whatever player fans are up in arms about worrying about being claimed skate through without issue, but Skipper is, by my count, the 20th player since 2009 that the Steelers have either had claimed off waivers whom they wanted to keep or whom was signed off the practice squad. The thing is, they usually find their way back to availability.
Skipper is actually the second player player claimed this year, the first being wide receiver Diontae Spencer, who was picked up by the Denver Broncos. A veteran of the CFL, he was signed as a Reserve/Future player earlier this year and made some plays as a return man in the preseason. He lined up for eight returns last night but did not get the opportunity to field any more than one, which was fair caught.
Take Al-Hajj Shabazz, a 6’1” cornerback, who spent the 2016 season bouncing from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and back. The second time he was cut from the roster, the Houston Texans claimed him off waivers. But he was released a couple weeks later, and after he cleared waivers again, Pittsburgh re-signed him to the practice squad. He was on the Baltimore Ravens’ injured reserve in 2017 and hasn’t played since.
Brian Mihalik was a former defensive end who converted to tackle. He spent time with the Steelers in the offseason in 2016 before getting injured and waived. He was ultimately brought back in 2017, and the Detroit Lions claimed him off waivers after he was cut at the end of the preseason. He’s currently a free agent.
2016 sixth-round draft pick Travis Feeney was added to the Steelers initial practice squad, but the New Orleans Saints signed him from there in December. They kept him through to the end of the season but released him in OTAs in 2017. He played for the AAF earlier this year and then had a one-day stint in the CFL.
Darryl Richardson was a running back who spent time on the roster in 2016, as well as the practice squad. After being promoted to the 53-man roster in November, he was released toward the end of December, where he was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This is a bit of a different circumstance, but the Steelers had former sixth-round wide receiver Justin Brown claimed off waivers after they released him in February of 2015, signed by the Buffalo Bills. In this case, obviously, they had no intentions of keeping him.
Arguably the most successful player to have been claimed off waivers from the Steelers was 2014 fifth-round offensive lineman Wesley Johnson. He was kept as the ninth lineman that year but was released during the season to make a roster spot.
The New York Jets claimed him, and he spent the next four years there. He remains in the league, though is currently on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad, his fourth different team after the Steelers released him. He has been active for 51 games, including 24 starts.
The other major player of note is defensive end Josh Mauro. An undrafted rookie in 2014, the Arizona Cardinals signed him off the practice squad, and he remained with them through the 2017 season, similar to Johnson with the Jets. He spent 2018 with the New York Giants and is currently with the Oakland Raiders. He has 107 career tackles with three sacks in 60 games and 31 starts.
Nick Williams was a seventh-round pick in 2013. He spent his rookie year on injured reserve and was on the practice squad in 2014 when he was also signed, this time by the Kansas City Chiefs. The defensive end lasted through 2016 with them. he spent 2017 out of football, but is currently with the Chicago Bears.
Also that year, guard Adam Gettis was signed to the practice squad in October after having been cut by Washington in August. The Giants would sign him off the practice squad in late December.
In 2013, offensive tackle Joe Long, who was originally signed to the Steelers’ practice squad in November of 2012, returned there in 2013 until the Bears signed him toward the end of December that year. Also that year, 2012 fourth-round nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu was claimed off waivers at the end of the 2013 preseason by the Cardinals.
2012 seventh-round wide receiver Toney Clemons was waived and signed to the practice squad that season. He would end up being signed from their practice squad in late November that season by the Jaguars.
Now here’s a name. Thaddeus Gibson was a fourth-round outside linebacker in 2010, the number five. After Aaron Smith got injured, they didn’t want to put him on injured reserve, so they waived Gibson to add another lineman in November.
He was claimed by the 49ers, but played in two games and was released the following August. He has not played in a game since 2011 in the NFL, though he played some in the CFL after giving up on the NFL by 2014.
The last name that I have in my memory bank is Ra’Shon Harris, also known as Sunny. Yet another defensive end, he was a sixth-round pick in 2009. He didn’t make the roster that year, and the Carolina Panthers claimed him, but was waived himself on October 1.
The Steelers had their chance to claim him back, but not initially. He was re-signed to Carolina’s practice squad, but then Pittsburgh signed him from there a couple of weeks later. He remained with the organization until the roster cuts the following year, again claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills, but later released. After the Steelers had Al Woods signed off the practice squad, they re-signed Harris to their practice squad for a third time.
Then there’s Woods. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Saints, he did not make the initial roster and the Steelers signed him to the practice squad after he cleared waivers. As mentioned, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him and he played there that year in 2010. He would later be waived and claimed twice in 2011, the second time by the Steelers, where he would remain until 2014, when he hit free agency.
Crezdon Butler was a fifth-round pick at cornerback in 2010. He spent his rookie season on the 53-man roster, but was waived at the end of the preseason in 2011, where he was claimed off waivers by the Cardinals. He ended up on injured reserve and spent the 2012 season on three different teams. He kicked around through 2016 before moving to the CFL, where he still plays.
Late that season, wide receiver David Gilreath was waived in order to make room for offensive line depth. He was on the practice squad prior to being called up when Antonio Brown injured his ankle. He would be claimed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
All the way back in 2009, the Steelers signed linebacker Curtis Gatewood to their practice squad in November. Washington, who was the team to originally sign him as an undrafted free agent in 2008, would sign him from the practice squad in December. He spent less than a month in total with the team.