This weekend’s Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie minicamp will have most attention on the team’s draft picks. First-round pick Broderick Jones and his first NFL practice snaps. CB Joey Porter Jr. and his unusual length. TE Darnell Washington, who everyone is finding out is really, really big.
But the bulk of the group is made up of tryout players. There’s 33 of them and speaking with reporters Saturday, Mike Tomlin explained what he’s looking from that group in order for them to make the team.
“I think the thing that you look for when you’re talking about a tryout guy is the things that you can’t coach,” he said in audio shared by 93.7 The Fan. “The pedigree related things, the things that they bring. If it’s above the line, meaning if it’s at a professional level, then you consider them. I think that’s where we start first.”
Due to a smaller than expected UDFA class, just six names signed, Pittsburgh has a larger tryout group than most other years. The 33 names mostly comprise a collection of rookies but there’s a handful of more veteran NFL players. There’s QB Bryce Perkins, who started one game for the Los Angeles Rams last season, TE Nick Boyle, now converting to long snapper, and LB Quinton Bell, a former 7th-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
For Tomlin, he’s looking for guys who look like they belong in the league and have earned a contract.
“You look at movement, speed, body control, their ability to drop their weight, change of direction, things of that nature per their positions,” he said. “And so really it’s a lot of pedigree-related things from an evaluation standpoint.”
The tryout names run the gamut from bigger ones like Boyle and Perkins to FBS rookies to those who played at smaller FCS schools. There’s even kicker Alfredo Gachuz, invited after a Mexico camp tryout weeks ago. Another interesting story is Texas Tech DL Gabe Oladipo, a track and field star who hasn’t played in a football game since high school and only joined the Red Raiders’ team last season.
While most of these tryout names won’t be signed, Pittsburgh currently has five open roster spots and often signs at least one tryout invite. Last year, they signed a whopping four of them. Some of those spots may be reserved for XFL players. Hakeem Butler was reportedly invited to minicamp but isn’t practicing with the team; perhaps he’ll officially be signed early next week. There’s also OT Chidi Okeke, who would be logical tackle depth on the Steelers’ roster. And Perkins makes sense to bring onboard as the fourth quarterback given the team almost always takes four to St. Vincent College.
Still, that would leave two spots left for the rest of the group. We should find out if anyone signs a contract as early as tomorrow or if not, by Monday or Tuesday.
You can check out our post earlier today that offers info on all the Steelers’ tryout players.