What kind of role will be in store for Deon Cain tomorrow? Well, the fact that JuJu Smith-Schuster has been ruled out pretty much guarantees that he will at least have one. He will dress as one of five wide receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And now with not just another week but an actual game under his belt, he has shown the coaches and his teammates that he is capable of throwing his hand in the pile and being a positive contributor. He played something like seven snaps I believe against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he came up with a 35-yard reception on his lone official target, plus a 26-yard defensive pass interference call.
“The first moment they called my number to go into the game, I was like, ‘oh, it’s happening, it’s happening’”, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this week about seeing action for the Steelers on Sunday. He had only been signed off the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad a bit over a week prior to that. “I didn’t know what the play was”, he admitted. “I just felt good. It’s finally happening and I just tried to seize the moment”.
He did that, and in doing so, probably gave himself the opportunity to have more moments in the future. With Smith-Schuster not practicing, the paper also reports that Cain had been taking first-team reps all week.
“I’ve got a lot more reps in practice”, he said, “just getting the feel of everything. So, second week, I’m definitely expecting a lot more”.
Cain played the fewest number of snaps out of all wide receivers on Sunday, with Tevin Jones logging the third-most snaps behind the starters, James Washington and Diontae Johnson. Johnny Holton also logged a few more snaps than did he, but that was mostly in one-receiver, running formations.
I don’t think there is much worry about Holton out-snapping Cain this week, but it will be interesting to see how the workload is divided between him and Jones. Even though Jones isn’t really seen as much of a threat, or a target, they trust him, as he’s been around for a while on the practice squad and is capable of lining up everywhere, with a willingness and ability to contribute as a blocker as well.
Cain was a sixth-round pick by the Colts in 2018 out of Clemson, but he spent his rookie season on the Reserve/Injured List. He made their 53-man roster this year, making a few catches for a total of a bit over 50 yards, but he was waived after their game against the Steelers, and had been on the practice squad since Pittsburgh signed him.
Now, he has an opportunity with the team that he was last on the 53-man roster against. How temporary that opportunity is may be determined by how he performs, both in practice on the field, with each passing week.