NFL Trade Rumors recently published a review by Logan Ulrich that picked out one undrafted free agent from every team that we should look out for heading into training camp. Ulrich prefaced the review by stating the following:
“About a third of all NFL players come Week 1 will be undrafted free agents. In this issue, we pinpoint one rookie free agent from every team to watch in 2022.”
Upon reading this, I didn’t realize that nearly one third (or 500 of 1,700) of players on active rosters come the start of the regular season come to their teams via UDFA. Pro Football Network supported this statement upon further research, stating that 30% of players in the NFL are undrafted free agents according to their studies on rosters around the league. Therefore, it only right to look at all NFL rosters and the UDFAs they bring in to see which ones have the best shot of cracking the 53-man roster.
In the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ulrich believes USC CB Chris Steele is the one player from Pittsburgh’s UDFA class we should be paying attention to heading into training camp and the 2022 preseason.
“Dane Brugler had a draftable grade on Steele, though he had a draftable grade on Bryce Watts who has already been released by Pittsburgh. Steele has a good mix of size and speed, but some mental aspects of the game elude him, per Brugler. Still, there’s an opportunity on Pittsburgh’s depth chart as they’re far from settled at corner.”
Brugler is well-respected in the draft industry and Steele does bring some pedigree to the table as a former five-star recruit coming out of high school that started his career at the University of Florida before leaving the program to go to USC, playing three seasons for the Trojans and started 23 games during that time. Steele finished his college career with 94 tackles, three TFLs, 12 PBUs, and three INTs before declaring early for the 2022 NFL Draft as a junior.
Still, while Steele has the pedigree and decent athletic profile (6’0 3/8”, 187 lbs., 4.48 40, 10’6” broad, 37.5” vert), he lacked the splash plays you like to see from a player of his caliber coming out of high school, struggling at times at the catch point and failing to break on passes quick enough to contest passes. Alex Kozora, who completed the UDFA profile on Steele, stated that “even the games where on paper, he looked good, weren’t all that impressive. My friend and NFL Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein agrees with Kozora’s statements, ranking Steele as a priority free agent in his draft profile, and states his lack of long speed and short-area burst could limit his effectiveness at the next level.
While Pittsburgh’s CB room may lack proven stars, it does have some quality depth compared to last season. The team signed Levi Wallace this offseason to pair opposite of Ahkello Witherspoon, who the team re-signed this offseason. These additions could figuratively kick starting outside CB Cam Sutton back inside, where they also have Arthur Maulet and versatile DB Tre Norwood, who played in the nickel last season as a rookie. Pittsburgh also has James Pierre and Justin Layne as quality special teams contributors who too are long man corners that have had moments where they have shown promise.
This isn’t to say that Steele has no chance of beating out a Layne, Pierre, or Maulet for a roster spot. Rather, there are several other UDFAs on the roster like RBs Mataeo Durant and Jaylen Warren or EDGE Tyree Johnson who likely have better chances of making the roster based on the depth chart at their respective positions. Still, Steele is a logical guess for Ulrich who must do this exercise for all 32 teams due to his pedigree and athletic traits, so it will be interesting to see how Steele holds up when the Steelers Depot crew goes down to Latrobe later this summer to watch him in-person compete for a roster spot once training camp and the preseason get underway.
What are your thoughts on CB Chris Steele? Do you think that he is the one UDFA on Pittsburgh worth watching out for in 2022? Would you choose another UDFA for this list? If so, which one and what would be your reasoning? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!