Several weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers surprisingly signed two experienced free agent players in running back Wendell Smallwood and safety Curtis Riley just prior to this year’s training camp practice getting underway. At the conclusion of the team’s Friday training camp practice, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was finally asked to comment on the additions of Smallwood and Riley as they continue to get acclimated to the team.
“More than anything, we were interested in increasing the level of competition in this environment and the way that you do that is you bring as many capable men in as you can,” Tomlin said. “Both of the guys that you mentioned have credible NFL resumes and they’ve proven that thus far. They’ve got a veteran-like look to them and both are being positive contributors to the days that we’re having.”
Even though both Smallwood and Riley were extremely late offseason additions made by the Steelers, it’s still quite easy to carve out paths to the 53-man roster for each. Both players have special teams experience in addition to being backups art their respective positions and that certainly won’t hurt the cause of either.
Theoretically, Smallwood is likely battling fellow running backs Jaylen Samuels and Kerrith Whyte Jr. for one roster spot while Riley might just be battling fellow safeties Marcus Allen and rookie Antoine Brooks Jr. for a roster spot.
The Steelers also added another player to their roster on Friday with NFL experience in wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, who was selected in the sixth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Clemson by the Buffalo Bills. McCloud practiced with the team on Friday and Tomlin was asked about the team’s new wide receiver after the session ended.
“Like we mentioned about the other two guys, Ray-Ray is a guy with credible NFL playing experience,” Tomlin said. “And our desire is to have the most competitive environment that we can have here and so infusing a guy like that with a legitimate resume into the mix, I think aids us in that. We’ll get to know him and see what he brings to the table in terms of his skills relative to his position.”
McCloud’s path to making the Steelers 53-man roster out of training camp is seemingly a much more tougher one than the ones that Smallwood and Riley must navigate. He does, however, have the ability to return punts and kickoffs and that’s one area where the Steelers coaches will likely want to take a good look at him in.
McCloud might ultimately be best suited to land on the Steelers 16-man practice squad this year and the same might could be said about both Smallwood and Riley should either fail to make the 53-man roster.
So, we look forward to continuing to get to know them and looking at ways that they could maybe carve out a niche for themselves within what we’re doing here,” Tomlin said on Friday.