Outside of the embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots, a lot has happened roster-wise over the course of the past several days for the Pittsburgh Steelers, beginning on Saturday and ending yesterday. Some people have questions about what took place and why, so I’ll recall everything that has happened and explain why things worked as they did.
We’ll start off on Saturday when the Steelers elected to waive rookie outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper. Clearly the most expendable player on the roster as the number 10 linebacker, they chose to replace him on the 53 by promoting Johnny Holton, who played on both offense and special teams in the game, while Skipper would have been a healthy scratch.
Likely, the team chose to wait until the end of the week to do it believing that it would be less likely for him to be claimed. They left a practice squad spot open for him after they promoted Holton rather than filling it with somebody else, indicating that it was intended for him provided that he cleared waivers.
Unfortunately, he did not, and this affected the subsequent roster moves that were made. After they were able to get a fifth-round pick for Joshua Dobbs, knowing that Devlin Hodges was still available to them, they suddenly had two spots to fill: one on the 53-man roster and one on the practice squad.
Had Skipper not been claimed, my belief is that he would have been signed to the practice squad, and Hodges would have been on the 53-man roster as the number three quarterback, which is the team’s typical course of action.
Having lost Skipper, however, they chose to bring back Jayrone Elliott, another outside linebacker who was able to make a splash late in the preseason. Here’s the part that matters: Elliott was not eligible for the practice squad.
That’s probably why he was one of the first names to come out regarding his release. They knew they had Skipper ahead of him, so they could do nothing with Elliott to keep him. In order to be eligible as a player with more than two accrued years of experience, a veteran will have had to have never been active for nine or more games in a season, but he did this multiple times, including in 2017 in which he was active for 14 games.
Wanting to replace that linebacker spot with a player they were comfortable with, the Steelers didn’t have much choice. They signed Elliott to the 53-man roster, since it was the only way they could re-acquire him, and that left the practice squad spot open for Hodges.
Since nobody else ever showed any interest in him, and he will never be in a position in which he has to be on the roster unless Ben Roethlisberger or Mason Rudolph get injured, or they have a meaningless regular season finale, he is presumably safe there for the time being. But I believe they only took this course of action following the Dobbs trade because of Skipper’s loss and the need to carry Elliott on the 53.