New Faces 2020: S John Battle

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.

Barring the Steelers adding any new faces, which is actually a reasonable possibility, as it always is in training camp, the last one that we are going to talk about this year as training camp ramps up is another name that has been in the building almost the entire year.

After their 2019 season ended, Pittsburgh signed two players to reserve/future contracts who had not previously been with the team. One was wide receiver Anthony Johnson, whom we talked about yesterday. The other, and the subject of this article, was safety John Battle, and both players remain with the Steelers, even surviving the cuts from 90 players to 80, at least so far.

A first-year player out of LSU, Battle was a three-year starter for the Tigers from 2016 through 2018. While there, over four years, he recorded 143 total tackles, including four and a half for a loss, with a sack and a half to his name, recording five interceptions, three in his senior season, to go along with 11 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles.

At the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, he posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.67 seconds, measured in at 6”, and weighed in at 201 pounds. Outside of his arm length and hand size, his profile and athletic numbers were generally undistinguished, and that combined with his resume resulted in his going undrafted.

The New York Jets were the first team to sign him after the 2019 NFL Draft, and he would go on to be waived in June. Battle would then spend the 2019 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their practice squad, but they did not sign him to a reserve/future contract at the end of the season.

That is when the Steelers came in and inked him to a deal. So far, he has remained safe, even while the team has released XFL safety Tyree Kinnel, and the safety-capable Arrion Springs after he was cleared from the reserve/Covid-19 list.

With Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds leading the group, the Steelers also return Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen from last season. Antoine Brooks in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft and the recently-signed veteran Curtis Riley have been the only additions to the safety group this offseason since Battle was signed in January.

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