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.
Since the Steelers could announce their roster cuts any day now, and I could be writing about a player as a new face in an article that publishes after he is cut, I’m hoping to stem the tide and start publishing the new faces column earlier, swapping places with the training camp battles series.
Even though the Steelers said before the draft that they didn’t expect to sign a lot of college free agents due to the fact that they added so many former XFL players, they still ended up adding 10 undrafted free agents, which required that they release three players from the 90-man roster to make room for them.
Three of the 10 undrafted free agents were linebackers, as should have been no surprise, as they lost three linebackers from the 2019 53-man roster in the offseason, due as salary cap casualties. They ended up drafting one outside linebacker, then signed one as an undrafted free agent, as well as two inside linebackers.
We have already talked about John Houston out of USC. The other inside linebacker brought in was Leo Lewis, a 23-year old out of Mississippi State. Listed at 6’2” and 242 pounds, he spent five years with the Bulldogs, including a redshirt year.
By the time he graduated, however, he was a four-year starter, compiling 235 tackles, with 14.5 for loss. He also had three sacks, two forced fumbles, two recoveries, and six passes defensed, though he never managed to pick off a pass.
In spite of the fact that he has good size for the position, he didn’t show the sort of physicality that you would expect, and he doesn’t have the athleticism to counterbalance that deficiency, even if he had solid range, and moves pretty well.
The Steelers have two established starters at inside linebacker and two second-year players who have been successful on special teams. Ulysees Gilbert III, a sixth-round pick last year, has a lot of athletic upside. A player like Lewis would have to earn his spot on special teams—which is really hard to do without a preseason.