The Pittsburgh Steelers experienced injuries to their top running backs and wide receivers the week before last, which prompted them to scour the league for reinforcements. They came up with a couple of practice squad players on other units in wide receiver Deon Cain and running back Kerrith Whyte.
The pair of them played a whopping 17 snaps of offense between them combined, but they produced 78 yards of offense—or 104 if you include penalty yards earned. Whyte finished the game with 43 rushing yards on six carries, while Cain caught a 35-yard pass and also drew a defensive pass interference call worth 26 yards.
Head coach Mike Tomlin offered praise for both of the newcomers during his pre-game press conference earlier this afternoon, noting that they “got plays from a lot of unique places. Some new guys, some inexperienced guys”, referring to the pair.
“Can’t say enough about the efforts of guys that kind of get on the moving train and put their hand in the pile and contribute, guys like Deon Cain and Kerrith Whyte”, he said. “Just really impressed with their ability not only to learn, but to become part of the group and answer the bell a few times when called upon”.
Cain was originally drafted in the sixth round in 2018 by the Indianapolis Colts, but he spent his rookie season on the Reserve/Injured List. He made the 53-man roster in 2019 and caught a few passes, but was waived after they played the Steelers and had been on the practice squad since.
Whyte was a seventh-round pick by the Chicago Bears. He spent the first three weeks on the 53-man roster, but was not afforded the opportunity to contribute. He was subsequently waived and had remained on the practice squad, like Cain, after clearing waivers. Now both are in the Steelers’ plans.
“I think it’s important this week that we kind of take a step back and making sure that we’re infusing them into some cultural things”, he said. “They’re getting an understanding of services provided, how we can help them, that we get to know them even more, aspects of their game, so that we can utilize it in situational or matchup-like moments”.
“I think there are certain things that you’ve got to get done immediately when you get a guy on board, and that’s just get them ready for the immediate, what it is he needs to do that weekend”, he went on. “Once you’ve got him in a stadium, I think it’s prudent and appropriate also to take a step back and make sure that we’re growing and growing in the right ways, getting to know them, and them us, so that they can continue to do what they did last Sunday”.
There likely will continue to be a role for Whyte this week with James Conner unlikely to play. JuJu Smith-Schuster is also perhaps on the outside looking in, which will keep Cain in play for another week. It’s not clear what their roles might be once the positions return to full health, but they’ve shown good results early, which keeps them in the conversation.