There are 32 teams in the NFL, each consisting of 53 players on their roster, plus members who are also on injured reserve and some scattered lists. What this all adds up to is roughly 1700 players active and eligible to play on Sundays at any given time.
Every year, the NFL drafts over 250 college rookies, and signs another few hundred players as college free agents. This pool of 600-plus players accounts for hundreds of roster spots around the league every year, replacing players who were on rosters the year before, even accounting for players who choose to retire.
It’s the cycle of the league, moreso than any other major professional sport in the United States, in part because it’s the only one that doesn’t have a minor league or ways for teams to protect their players without leaving them on their 53-man roster.
This means that hundreds of veteran players lose their jobs every year, and most of them never get it back. Guys like Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, Brian Allen, Nat Berhe, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Stevan Ridley. All of these players, to the best of my knowledge, last played for the Pittsburgh Steelers within the past two seasons but were never offered another job, either after their contract expired or they were released at the end of the preseason.
So who is the veteran most at risk of losing his job on the Steelers’ current roster? According to Brooke Pryor, writing for ESPN, it’s Ryan Switzer, who is looking to enter his third season in Pittsburgh, and his fourth overall since being selected in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. The Steelers acquired the wide receiver via trade in August of 2018.
“The veteran wide receiver and return specialist finished the season on injured reserve because of a back injury and lost his return spot to rookie Diontae Johnson”, Pryor writes. “When he was healthy, Switzer had eight punt returns for 13 yards — averaging 3.6 yards per return — and nine kick returns that averaged 18.4 yards. Both were career lows”.
“With Johnson taking over return duties and the addition of receiver Chase Claypool, Switzer’s role is evaporating”, she went on. “However, the wide receiver was one of three skill players seen in a video catching passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the two are known to be close friends”.
As it currently stands, the Steelers have four locks at wide receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and rookie second-round pick Chase Claypool. Other candidates outside of Switzer include Deon Cain, Saeed Blacknail, Quadree Henderson, Amara Darboh, and Anthony Johnson.
If I were personally picking, depending upon the standard for what a veteran is, I think there are better candidates. If a player with an accrued season is to be considered here, then someone like Kerrith Whyte or one of the quarterbacks—either Devlin Hodges or Paxton Lynch—would be the better choice. The Steelers are not going to keep four quarterbacks, and both of them will not make it.