I’ve been one to harp on the Pittsburgh Steelers lack of recent success when it comes to UDFAs. For a franchise which prides itself on finding diamonds in the rough, from Donnie Shell to James Harrison to Ramon Foster, they’ve struggled over the past four seasons.
That in mind, let’s look at the Steelers’ initial batch of UDFAs this year and where they ended up when all was said and done.
Garrett Brumfield/OG – Earned some praise from Foster in the spring but wound up stuck running with the third team for all of camp. On the ground too often and looked overpowered. Unceremoniously cut outright over the weekend and doesn’t look like he’ll have any sort of NFL career.
Ian Berryman/P – Finished on his best note with a good showing in the finale against Carolina but never gave Jordan Berry a serious push and was part of final cutdowns. He may resurface on a tryout circle or futures contract down the line but he’s one of a dozen rookie punters trying to get a second look.
Fred Johnson/OG – The gem of this class. Johnson is still raw and has to work on his technique, his hand use and punch to avoid getting his chest exposed, but he made the team as the 9th offensive linemen. Great size, strength, and showcased a ton of versatility. Could be another in a long lie of offensive linemen gems this team has found.
Jay Hayes/DL – One of two UDFAs to be cut following rookie minicamp. Haven’t heard his name since and I assume his NFL career is over as quickly as it began.
Chris Nelson/DL – The other UDFA cut following the big shakeup coming out of rookie minicamp. Hasn’t been signed by anyone since. Signing bonus of $10K which is chump change but one of the largest bonuses the team handed out after the draft. So clearly a miscalculation.
Travon McMillian/RB – Made it through training camp but was one of the easiest cuts, a bottom ten player on the roster, earning a D grade in our training camp recap. He lacked burst and didn’t offer anything as a blocker, receiver, or on special teams. Finished the preseason with -1 yards and released on Saturday, losing out to Trey Edmunds for a practice squad spot.
Alexander Myres/CB – Steelers got unlucky here. Myres never appeared in a training camp practice, dealing with some sort of illness. He was held out the first three days of camp before being waived, placed on NFI, and then released with an injury settlement.
Dravon Askew-Henry CB/S – Logged a decent amount of snaps and worked as third team slot corner this summer but wasn’t good enough to make the cut, released outright as the team trimmed the roster down to 53. There may be just enough talent to get a callback somewhere but it won’t happen in Pittsburgh.
Trevor Wood/TE – Got a lot of burn with the injuries at TE but didn’t show much of anything besides a decent set of hands. Easy cut. Also worked a bit as a long snapper though never appeared there in a game.
Matthew Wright/K – Accurate kicker who showed a bit more leg in-game as he did in practice. Adrenaline helps. But was never going to make the roster with Chris Boswell enjoying a successful camp. Talented enough to earn some tryouts and with some good luck, perhaps a roster spot when injuries happen late in the year.
Of that list, only one player – Johnson – made the 53 man roster. None of the rest even landed on the practice squad. Without checking the rest of the league, I’m guessing that’s not a great figure.
But there are a couple caveats and positive signs. Ola Adeniyi, a UDFA from last year, remains on the team and should see more than the nine defensive snaps he saw last year. Then there’s Tuzar Skipper, who for all intents and purposes should count as a UDFA given he was part of rookie minicamp (on a tryout basis) and went through every part of the offseason as the rest of the players signed immediately after the draft. Then there’s Johnson who has the makings of a bright NFL future.
At least there’s progress. And if these three players can stick around, the Steelers will be on track as one of the NFL’s top franchises in finding UDFA talent.