Beginning this season, NFL teams are permitted to elevate two players from their practice squad each week without signing them to the 53-man roster, and without their going through waivers, though each player can only be elevated twice per season in this manner.
As part of the Covid-19 CBA addendum, teams were also given the permission to ‘protect’ four players on an expanded 16-man practice squad, beginning on Tuesdays at 4PM. The transaction wire for this Tuesday is now in, and the following are the players the Pittsburgh Steelers have protected for week seven: RB Wendell Smallwood, RB Trey Edmunds, WR Deon Cain, and DE Henry Mondeaux.
None of these names are surprises, as all of them have been protected previously during this season. They have favored protecting players with veteran experience, and obviously any position that is dealing with injuries is going to get attention as well.
With Diontae Johnson working his way from a back injury, Cain makes a lot of sense. He played in the game very briefly but did not record a statistic. In the event that Johnson should miss a second consecutive week, he will surely be elevated again.
Head coach Mike Tomlin noted that fullback Derek Watt “experienced some hamstring discomfort throughout the game” on Sunday against the Browns. He missed the team’s week five game against the Eagles due to a hamstring injury suffered in week three. Trey Edmunds was elevated to the roster for the week five game and played both on special teams and on offense as a blocker, throwing a key block on a Chase Claypool rushing touchdown.
In fact, he made history on Sunday in becoming the first player in franchise history to be elevated from the practice squad for a game. But since both Edmunds and Cain have now been called up once before, that also means that they can be elevated once more by the Steelers this year. If they are to be active for a third game, they will have to be signed to the 53-man roster, and would have to go through waivers if released, as neither are vested veterans.
Smallwood, however, is a vested veteran, and he is a player that the Steelers have been protecting on a weekly basis, as is Mondeaux as an extra defensive lineman. With Daniel McCullers having signed with the Bears, he is even more valuable now. Calvin Taylor is the only other defensive lineman on the practice squad.
Unlike the elevation status, there is no limit to the number of times any one player on the practice squad can be protected during the season, but any team can sign them from the practice squad prior to the Tuesday deadline (or Wednesday when teams play on Monday). In recent weeks, the Steelers had been protecting edge rusher Jayrone Elliott, but with Watt nursing an injury, they went with Edmunds. The other protected players from this week have been the same as in the past couple of cycles.