The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers, along with the rest of the NFL, will attempt to stock their practice squads this year as much as possible (up to six players) with veterans.
Explanation: Under the modified 2020 CBA, teams may keep a 16-man practice squad, and up to six of those players may have any level of accrued seasons and playing experience. This opens the door for veterans who do not make the 53-man roster to be kept around. With the risk of losing starters to the reserve/Covid-19 list, having a veteran on-hand rather than relying upon a rookie would be useful.
The Steelers have already brought in two veteran players since training camp opened in Wendell Smallwood and Curtis Riley, at running back and safety, respectively. Neither of them are guaranteed to make the roster, even if they should be able to compete, but the reality is they were unsigned throughout the entirety of the offseason until Pittsburgh brought them in. They would be ideal candidates for the parameters of this exercise.
The Steelers are not the only team facing similar circumstances. It’s likely that every team in the league has at least one or two position groups that are largely made up of rookies or very young and inexperienced players, and which would benefit from having a sort of safety net of a veteran on the practice squad who could be called in at a moment’s notice.
While the fact that veterans are now allowed to be retained on the practice squad will inevitably mean that we will see some veterans signed to practice squad, I don’t think that means that we are suddenly going to see 192 veterans signing to these deals (32 teams times six veterans per team).
The bottom line is that teams keep the players whom they think will help them the most, for whatever reason. Players like Smallwood and Riley were not even under contract throughout the offseason. There is a reason that guys like Stevan Ridley never signed another contract after the Steelers were done with them—their time was up.