The Steelers are well into their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.
On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.
Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? How might they tackle the NFL Draft We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.
Question: How many tryout players from rookie minicamp will be signed to the 90-man roster?
The Steelers left three roster spots open following the 2023 NFL Draft between their selections and college free agent signings. More players will inevitably be added. But that doesn’t mean it will only be three. It could be twice as many or more, which of course would cost other players their roster spots.
With rookie minicamp getting underway, the Steelers not only have rookie college free agents being brought in for tryouts, but also some veteran players, most particularly those who have just competed in the XFL’s season.
Pittsburgh has a recent history of scouring the “minor leagues” for signings, from the AAF to the XFL to the USFL. There is already a list of players who are expected to attend rookie minicamp, many of whom would not qualify as rookie or first-year players, who soon afterward could find themselves with an NFL contract.
The most notable name that we have talked about is wide receiver Hakeem Butler, a 2019 fourth-round draft pick whose career never went anywhere even though many projected him as potentially an early day-two selection. Injuries largely derailed his opportunities, leaving him with one career target to date and zero receptions. But he was one of the top receivers in the XFL this season with 51 catches for 599 yards and eight touchdowns.
The list, which you can see here, also includes some more beef for the trenches, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Two linemen are coming over from the XFL for an opportunity back into the NFL.
Though it doesn’t happen every year, the Steelers typically find at least a tryout player or two to sign from their rookie minicamp, whether they are actually rookies or otherwise. A couple of them have gone on to be contributors in regular season games, so you never know where somebody’s story will take them.