For the second time in as many weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed a wide receiver to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. Last week, it was Tevin Jones, from their own squad. This time, it was Deon Cain, who after spending his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts on the Reserve/Injured List had been on their practice squad last year.
His signing was prompted by the injuries suffered by JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cain’s friend, Diontae Johnson. Both wide receivers are in the concussion protocol stemming from hits that they took on Thursday night playing against the Cleveland Browns.
Cain is a big, tall, fast prospect, but there is a reason he hasn’t been blowing up the league in spite of his great physical attributes. But the Steelers, by circumstance, are prepared to give him his chance, at least provided that they will be down two of their top wide receivers.
In the event that both Smith-Schuster and Johnson are forced to miss Sunday’s game, the team will be limited to just James Washington, Johnny Holton, Jones, and Cain at the wide receiver position for the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s not exactly murderer’s row to sneak into that group and get playing time. Jones just made his NFL debut on Thursday, and Holton had not even caught a pass before that game, either. So there could be a chance for Cain to get on the field—in fact, it would almost be hard for him not to, with only four receivers to dress.
“I just want to find my way on the field”, he told reporters yesterday, according to Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I haven’t even been at practice yet, so once we get to practice, they can definitely get a good feel for me and I can get a good feel for them. I’m very excited for this opportunity”.
As mentioned, the young wide receiver has intriguing physical traits, but it’s not unique for such players to struggle at the top level of the game. And without a starting quarterback to work with, things will make it all the more difficult. For both him and Mason Rudolph.
Cain actually spent most of the year on the Colts’ 53-man roster before being waived earlier this month, which is why he was available for the Steelers to sign off their practice squad. He caught four passes for 52 yards, all of which came in the first five games. His first two receptions came in the season opener for 35 yards.