Now that the 2020 training camp has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: DL Daniel McCullers
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: For the first time in his seven-year NFL career, Daniel McCullers was cut. However, under the new practice squad rules, the Steelers were able to re-sign him there, so he remains with the team, only at a much lower payscale and obvious restrictions regarding how he can be activated to play.
Originally drafted in the sixth round in 2015, Daniel McCullers was never actually an underachiever. His career for the average defensive tackle drafted where he was is at or above par for what would typically be expected.
Nevertheless, for many, it feels as though he underachieved relative to his potential. It often felt as though his coaches, particularly former defensive line coach John Mitchell, and teammates felt that way as well, believing that he was capable of more than he was actually delivering.
After drafting two young defensive linemen over the past two years in Isaiah Buggs in the sixth round in 2019 and Carlos Davis in the seventh round in 2020, however, he was finally let go. This presumably means that they liked what they saw out of Davis, especially given that Henry Mondeaux, when waived, was described as a fringe roster candidate.
The Steelers do save several hundred thousand dollars by releasing McCullers, who was set to earn a base salary of $1.5 million this year. That’s not a heavy price to pay in a vacuum for what his potential role would have been, but the team is in a bind cap-wise, so every scrap counts at this point.
Perhaps the biggest reason that McCullers’ tenure on the 53-man roster, assuming that it is indeed over, is the fact that he had multiple opportunities to compete for a starting job, first in 2016 and then in 2020, and he failed both times—to a rookie Javon Hargrave and then to a veteran Tyson Alualu who was new to the nose tackle position.
As stated, however, he is still with the team, and as should be obvious by now, practice squad players can and do end up affecting the season every year. This year, they may play an even bigger role than normal thanks to the direct and indirect effects of Covid-19.