New Faces 2020: S Tyree Kinnel

There isn’t much else to do while we sit here and wait for news about whether or not there will even be training camp, so it seems as good a time as any to bring back this series, in which we look to introduce some of the new players that the Pittsburgh Steelers have added to the mix since the end of the 2019 season.

The team added some notable pieces in free agency, which was important, because they didn’t have much to work with in terms of draft capital due to previous trades. They also made liberal use of the XFL’s closure, signing about as many players from there as the rest of the league combined. Even while claiming that they didn’t have a lot of roster room, they still signed a good number of rookie college free agents as well, enough that they had to release three players just to make room for them.

With the discussion of Carlos Davis, we have now wrapped up our introductions to all draft picks, free agents, and trade acquisitions the Steelers have brought in since the start of the offseason, but there are plenty of other players of lesser profile that we have to get to as we move forward, and as we await the start of training camp. We’ll start with the players that they signed from the XFL in April.

Safety Tyree Kinnel was a part of the first wave of signings from the XFL that were officially announced, a group that also included defensive end Dewayne Hendrix, who played for Pittsburgh, and linebacker and long snapper Christian Kuntz, who spent time in camp last year.

Of the three, Kinnel ostensibly has the best chance of making the roster, who Kuntz can always punch his meal ticket by way of special teams, even if they already have two special teams depth contributors at inside linebacker in Ulysees Gilbert III and Robert Spillane.

A 2019 undrafted free agent, Kinnel played his college ball at Michigan, where he lined up with Devin Bush, among others. Over four seasons, he accumulated 154 tackles and intercepted two passes, one of which he returned for a score. He also managed a sack and had five passes defensed, with nine tackles for loss.

Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals, he managed a handful of tackles and two passes defensed during the preseason, but did not make the 53-man roster, and acknowledged that he regretted signing with the Bengals.

He went on to play for the DC Defenders in the XFL, during which he registered 17 tackles in five games before the league folded as a resulted of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Steelers swooped in and signed him. After signing, he told M Live that Pittsburgh had talked to him last year as a potential seventh-round pick (though they ended up drafting a safety in the sixth round). He signed officially on March 30 and has been learning the defense since then, as one of the more prominent newcomers to the safety position behind the four returning players.

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