My opening line for this piece was going to be about how it’s weird for fans to be excited about some guy that was just signed off of another team’s practice squad, but then I remembered all of the practice squad players that we get excited about—especially over their risk of being signed by another team and becoming a star.
It hasn’t yet happened that the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost a player from the practice squad who went on to become a Pro Bowler, but there are a few they’ve lost or allowed to let go who have gone on to have successful careers. They’ll be seeing one in a couple of weeks in A.Q. Shipley, the small-armed starting center for the Arizona Cardinals.
Two weeks ago, Pittsburgh signed not one, not, two, but three players off of other teams’ practice squads, even if one of them, Tuzar Skipper, was originally one of their own and on the initial 53-man roster. But it was the other two who have made an early impact in their careers.
Both running back Kerrith Whyte and wide receiver Deon Cain recorded explosive plays on their first touches. Whyte only ended up playing seven snaps, but he got six carries out of that workload, and rushed for over 40 yards.
The Steelers ran their staple power counter run on his first carry, and he was able to use his speed and elusiveness to pick up a 21-yard run, one of the team’s longest plays of the day. It was a good introduction between both parties.
“They did an excellent job for me to run behind them”, Whyte said in describing his first play on the field for the Steelers. “I was very thankful for that. After that first play, you get that first hit, you get into the game. I felt good after that first run”.
The rookie late-round pick had been with the Chicago Bears, initially on the 53-man roster for the first three games, though without dressing, and subsequently on the practice squad, before the Steelers signed him just a couple of weeks ago.
He immediately came in and not only got several carries, but also was installed as their kick returner. At least for the moment, there is no indication that they will be taking him off those duties, in large part because they don’t have many other options.
“We all have our strengths. We all bring something different to the table”, he told reporters yesterday about their five-man backfield. “I try to use my speed to the best of my ability. It’s something I’ve had all my life. God blessed me with that, so I just try to use that to my advantage”.
His speed is what makes him unique in their platoon right now, and what brought him to the Steelers’ attention. Now with a game and another week under his belt, he could certainly be in line for more opportunities going forward, provided that he produces.