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. Taken a bit of a break but following up with a new futures report today.
Dewayne Hendrix/DE-OLB Pittsburgh – 6’3/4 275
Hendrix was brought in for relatively obvious, surface-level reasons, choosing to play college for the Panthers, but his NFL fit is a little harder to figure out. Is he an undersized defensive end, kicking inside in sub-packages? Or is he a big edge rusher in the same vein as Bud Dupree, minus the rare athleticism.
Before we think about that, let’s revisit Hendrix’s early days. He’s not a Western PA native, growing up in Illinois, and didn’t even begin his college career on the South Side. A top, four-star recruit out of high school, with 22 offers, he chose Tennessee and became a Volunteer. But his time down south was short lived. As a freshman in 2014, he logged just two tackles in seven games and transferred after the season. His reason? Not an issue of playing time but an issue of if it was the right “fit.”
“I just wasn’t happy,” Hendrix said per the blog Saturday Down South in 2015. “I was happy with my playing time, I just didn’t like it here. It just kept getting worse as the season went on.”
He was granted his release from the school but per NCAA rules, had to sit out 2015. Though it doesn’t appear they made an offer out of high school, Pitt offered him a spot for the 2016 season.
That first year at Pitt ended quicker than it did at Tennessee. Named a starter for the opener versus Villanova, he broke his foot and was lost for the season.
He came back in 2017, putting together a full season though the production was underwhelming. 21 tackles, five for a loss, and three sacks across ten games. His senior season in 2018 was his best, 29 tackles (5 TFL) and 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
At his 2019 Pro Day, he turned in a 4.80 40 with a 28.5 inch in the vert, 9’7″ broad, and 23 reps on the bar. That average testing and middling college stats predictably caused him to go undrafted. Miami picked him up as a UDFA and he did well, registering three preseason sacks. Here’s a look at the first one against Atlanta in Week 1.
That summer surge was enough to land him on the practice squad but in-season roster churn spit him out in early October. He spent the next two months with the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Like so many players the Steelers signed this offseason, Hendrix’s most recent stop came in the XFL as a member of the St. Louis Battlehawks. He picked up four tackles and a sack in the five weeks before the league came to a screeching halt and Pittsburgh inked him to a futures contract on March 30th.
As we said at the top, it’s unclear exactly where the Steelers intend on playing him. Even in the era of blurred schemes, Hendrix isn’t an obvious fit. My best guess is he’ll be a big edge who can move around the Steelers’ front and play with his hand down or even kick to three tech in nickel. Pittsburgh knows a lot about unknown pass rushers making noise, check out Ola Adeniyi in 2018, Tuzar Skipper last year, and if Hendrix has a similar summer to the one he did in Miami a year ago, he’ll earn some camp buzz.