With the news on Tuesday that the New York Giants have waived rookie outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper in order to sign safety Deone Buchanan, Pittsburgh Steelers fans are getting themselves excited over the prospect of getting the preseason star back on the 53-man roster.
After registering five sacks and two forced fumbles over the course of four preseason games, the rookie minicamp invitee made the initial 53-man roster, only to be waived shortly before the season opener to promote wide receiver Johnny Holton from the practice squad.
The Giants claimed Skipper off waivers, and he remained on their roster for the first seven weeks, though he only played a handful of defensive snaps per game, and his workload seemed to trickle to a crawl by this past Sunday.
With his release, he is now back on waivers, which means that the Steelers will have the opportunity to put a claim on him and return him to the 53-man roster (they intended to re-sign him to the practice squad after first letting him go).
But so will 30 other teams. Not that Pittsburgh has to worry about all of them, but even with a 2-4 record, their place in the waiver order is not as high as you might think.
Following Week Three, the waiver order for the regular season flips to an inverse of the league-wide standings. There are currently eight teams with a worse record than the Steelers, though one of them is the Giants, so that’s seven teams who have waiver priority over Pittsburgh.
Those teams are, in order, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Miami Dolphins, the Atlanta Falcons, Washington, the New York Jets, the Denver Broncos, and the Los Angeles Chargers. Two other teams—the Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—share the Steelers’ 2-4 record. The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule of games played in 2019. The Steelers’ strength of schedule has been more difficult than Cleveland’s and Tampa’s, so they should be eighth overall in the waiver order.
Obviously, Skipper will be more attractive to 3-4 teams than to 4-3 teams, but that doesn’t completely negate the risk. A team like the Bengals, who have drafted 3-4 edge candidates in recent years like Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson, could be interested. The Broncos lost Bradley Chubb, so that is another candidate the Steelers should be concerned about. Miami would be another. Or he could stay in the same building if claimed by the Jets.
One thing that teams will consider is special teams ability. Keep in mind that Skipper is a rookie undrafted free agent, with very little playing time. If a team is adding him, it’s probably because they have meaningful injury issues, and they will likely expect him to be a meaningful contributor.
With Anthony Chickillo’s future unsecured at the moment, it’s a virtual guarantee the Steelers will be interested in reclaiming Skipper, who likely would have made it back to the 53-man roster after being waived initially. The team later signed Jayrone Elliott as their fifth outside linebacker, but waived him due to injuries recently.
If the Steelers are unsuccessful in claiming Skipper, they will almost surely re-sign Elliott once they waive Paxton Lynch, now that Mason Rudolph is healthy. That will either come at the end of the week, or very soon, depending upon the outcome of their waiver claim.