Following a number of interesting roster moves after final cuts for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one practice squad addition stands above some of the others in the Steel City.
The addition of former Washington Football Team receiver Steven Sims stands out as the most intriguing addition to the 16-man practice squad by general manager Kevin Colbert as the Steelers added a third-year NFL receiver with more than 700 total snaps on offense and nearly 200 more snaps on special teams.
An undrafted free agent out of Kansas in 2019, Sims quietly came on strong as a rookie in Washington that season, hauling in 34 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns while adding nine carries for 85 yards and a score. Sims also returned a kick 91 yards for a touchdown as a rookie, and followed up a strong rookie season by taking a bit of a step back in 2020.
In his second season, Sims caught just 27 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown, and ultimately fell behind on the Football Team’s depth chart, leading to his release on Aug. 31.
One team’s trash could be another team’s treasure as Sims appears to be a better version of Ray-Ray McCloud, especially at receiver, which could be quite fun in Matt Canada’s new offensive scheme.
Though he is rather small at just 5’10”, 176 pounds, Sims is pretty darn tough working out of the slot, and is rather underrated as a route runner and truly wins with his burst into and out of breaks. He appears technically sound in his routes and runs them crisply, wasting no movement into his cuts to work open.
This touchdown against the New York Giants in 2019 in the red zone was arguably the best rep I saw from him through two seasons.
That’s one heck of a route.
Look at the way Sims is able to easily transfer his weight from the outside back to the inside, bursting into and out of the cut to blow past the Giants’ defensive back and create separation in the end zone to catch the touchdown from Case Keenum along the back-end line. That’s typically the thing you love to see from slot receivers, especially at that side.
While he’s not the biggest and certainly not the fastest, what I saw from Sims in the red zone was quite impressive. He has a knack for working open and making plays in money situations.
Here against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card matchup in 2020, Sims again works out of the slot and finds pay dirt. He doesn’t do anything super flashy here to get open; he’s simply so quick into and out of his cuts that he’s able to create just enough separation for Taylor Heinicke to loft this perfectly-placed football to the far sideline for the score.
Check out the body control and footwork to tap his left foot down and drag it slightly for the score late in a game in which the WFT pushed the eventual Super Bowl champions to the limit.
In the redzone here against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019, Sims again wins with his route running and flashes great body control to get both feet in quickly along the back line. He’s so sudden in his movements that it’s hard for the Eagles’ Avonte Maddox to get his hands on Sims to try and disrupt the route. That allows Sims to work vertically an get behind Maddox, making a fantastic play in the back of the end zone against tight coverage.
When not thriving in the redzone in recent years, Sims showed the ability to take short catches and make plays in space using his speed and elusiveness.
The Dallas Cowboys found that out the hard way in 2019 on a shallow cross.
Again, nothing flashy, but it’s more elusiveness as a receiver than we’ve seen from a guy like McCloud. Sims knows what the defense behind him looks like and he does a great job stopping, turning and bursting upfield ripping through the gut of the Cowboys’ defense for the 65 yards, setting up Washington for a score.
When not making plays as a receiver, Sims has handled himself quite well as a kick and punt returner, and has a kick return for a score to his name.
Against the Detroit Lions in 2019, Sims turned what looked like a huge mental error into a score, sprinting down the left sideline for the touchdown in front of a raucous home crowd at FedEx Field.
After dropping the kickoff, Sims does a great job not panicking, picking up the football at the 9-yard line and then proceeds to make a defender miss. After that he’s simply untouched, sprinting down the sideline for the 91-yard touchdown, pushing Washington in front early in the second quarter.
While the add is intriguing on paper, it’s hard to see how he could possibly make an impact this season outside of COVID-19 or injuries. That said, should he stick on the practice squad throughout the 2021 season, keep an eye on Sims as the possible WR5 on the 2022 roster as he appears to be a clear upgrade over McCloud as a receiver and is pretty much a push as a returner.
Kevin Colbert and Co. did a great job finding value here with Sims, adding him to a deep, seemingly experienced practice squad, which should bode well for the Steelers and their depth throughout a 17-week season.