As we’ve done in previous years, we’re taking a look at those Pittsburgh Steelers under futures contracts for the 2020 offseason. We’ll focus this on the future players who spent no or limited time on the team during 2019. Back with another futures report today.
John Battle/S LSU – 6’2 206
Battle is your classic thumping safety. Good size. Power 5. That’s the type of guy the Steelers aim for in building their offseason roster.
He was a three year starter for LSU, making 28 total starts. Production was relatively modest. 143 tackles over that time with five interceptions and two forced fumbles. We profiled him last April, our Josh Carney writing the following in summing him up:
“Clearly this isn’t the type of safety you want playing the single-high role, or even a box-safety role. He has very little hit power and seems to really struggle with holding up in general. That being said, he is revered by teammates and coaches at LSU and was a strong leader on the last two LSU defenses based on reports. Orgeron and Aranda have spoken highly of him in the past as well.
Battle will also provide some special teams play as well. He was one of LSU’s top tacklers on special teams each of the last three seasons, where his tackling appeared to be much, much better, which is odd.
He’s not going to blow anyone away athletically, but he’ll work his tail off and do pretty much anything a coaching staff will ask him to do. That’s a guy I’d take on my team any day. I’m just not sure I’d spend a draft pick on him.”
A lack of athleticism is what did him in at the Combine and ultimately made him an undrafted player. He ran a 4.67, jumped just 29.5 inches in the vertical with a 7.09 three cone. With production far from wowing anyone, he’s someone I bet most teams took off their “draftable” board.
So he fell out of the draft, inking a UDFA deal with the New York Jets.
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) April 27, 2019
That stay in the Big Apple didn’t last long. He was waived about a month later in June, getting another harsh reality of the NFL. From starter in the toughest conference in college football to being chewed up and spit out by the league. Tampa scooped him up as a mid-camp add the first week of August and though he was predictably cut as they got the roster down to 53, he signed and remained on their practice squad the entire year.
But for reasons unknown to me, perhaps Battle wanted to look for a chance elsewhere, he wasn’t re-signed to a futures deal at the conclusion of the season. Pittsburgh signed him January 9th.
His odds to make the roster, like all the players we profile in this series, are low. If there’s good news, it’s the teams current total lack of safety depth. Behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds is a tumbleweed blowing across the field. There’s Marcus Allen, who couldn’t crack the roster last year until Kameron Kelly ended up in the back of a squad car. Jordan Dangerfield is going to at least hit free agency; he probably comes back but no one knows for sure. And that’s about it.
Sure, Pittsburgh is all but certain to add to the position over the next six weeks. Sign a low-level free agent, Chicago’s Deon Bush makes the most sense, in addition to a draft pick. Guys like Antoine Winfield Jr, Brandon Jones, and K’Von Wallace all seem like logical fits. Right now though? There’s a chance. Battle won’t be a rookie, has spent time in camp and a preseason, and that’ll give him a small leg up heading into Year Two. He’ll have to show off his physicality and consistency as a tackler in the preseason, assuming he makes it that far, but I won’t write him off entirely, long as his odds are.