I’m not sure that there are many depth players who have had a more interesting NFL debut than did Henry Mondeaux on Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially among defensive linemen. Originally undrafted in 2018 out of Oregon, he cycled through the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs before landing in Pittsburgh last year, spending the season on the practice squad. He was called up on the 53-man roster last week.
And he dressed over Isaiah Buggs as the fifth defensive lineman. And he made his debut playing…on the kick return team. That’s not exactly the standard place for defensive linemen, but okay, at least it’s the return team, serving as a blocker. And depth guys have to play special teams.
Later on in the game, he finally made his non-special teams debut on…offense? That’s right, he got on the field near the goal line as a fullback, who along with extra tackle Jerald Hawkins helped spring Benny Snell for a touchdown.
Mondeaux would later play about half a dozen snaps on defense, of course, but unfortunately his most notable snap in the game was for jumping offside and netting an encroachment penalty on 3rd and 1. That was at the Steelers’ 13-yard line, and the Titans scored their lone first-half touchdown in the first half three plays later.
But where the first-year player really hauled his weight was on special teams. As I said, he played on the kick return unit. He also served on some of the field goal blocking units, though not on the field goal unit, which has a pretty established lineup at this point.
But he also played on coverage. Though he didn’t work his way onto punt coverage (another unit that is usually pretty well-defined and is more important to work together as a group—he played on kick return coverage. In fact, he logged more snaps on kick coverage (6) than on any other special teams unit.
That’s the same number of snaps that he played on defense. He played 17 overall snaps on special teams, so in all, he logged 24 snaps in his debut—in all three phases. Not exactly the typical first game of a player’s career, and not exactly what you would expect for a player of Mondeaux’s nature.
Of course, it’s not uncommon for teams to use defensive linemen as fullbacks. Even the Steelers have done this, I believe last year Tyson Alualu logging a snap there. They are, after large, physical men used to moving people around.
What his debut tells us more than anything else is that the Steelers coaches have a great deal of respect for his athleticism and versatility. You don’t see many 3-4 defensive linemen on kick coverage, let alone playing kick coverage and fullback in the same game.