2018 Steelers Training Camp Preview – Undrafted Free Agents To Follow

In less than two days, the Pittsburgh Steelers are set to report for their annual training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The following day will be their first true session of the 2018 season. This year’s training camp presents some of the most intriguing players and storylines in recent memory. What can be said about this year is that it very wide open. Each position presents an opportunity for a drafted or undrafted rookie to make an impression on the coaches, and perhaps land a spot of the 53-man roster.

Here is a list of notable undrafted free agents with the greatest potential of making the practice squad or active roster.

Matthew Thomas – ILB – Florida State

Thomas recorded the highest SPARQ score among available linebackers in this year’s NFL Draft. To say the least, he is an incredible athlete with natural abilities, which were on full display during the NFL Combine; the type of abilities which should have made him a high draft picks had things gone differently in his collegiate career. The biggest obstacle Thomas will be facing during this training camp will be himself, a struggle which he openly admitted in his interview in May  Thomas’ collegiate career had been plagued by personal issues and injuries, yet his measurables were desirable enough for the Steelers to take notice and sign him as an undrafted free agent. Considering the Steelers failed to draft a true Will linebacker, Thomas’ possesses the type of athleticism missing in both free agent signee Jon Bostic and third-year players Tyler Matakevich. Of all the players to follow, Thomas is definitely the most intriguing because of his story, as high expectations have been set for him to make the active roster. The question is whether or not Thomas will rise to the occasion.

 

Jarvion Franklin – RB/KR – Western Michigan

Franklin is one of the most accomplished undrafted free agents the Steelers have had in a long time. As a freshman, he was awarded Freshman All-American, MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and MAC Rookie of the year by accumulating 1,551 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns. In three of his four years with the Broncos, Franklin rushed for over 1,000 yards. By the time he ended his collegiate career, Franklin had accumulated 4,867 rushing yards and 52 rushing touchdowns. With all these accolades, part of why he went undrafted was due to his combine performance. The other reasons related to his lack of physical play, despite his size, and lack of explosiveness. The competition at running back is likely to be the most fierce, as he will be going up against backup running back James Conner, fifth-round pick Jaylen Samuels, veteran running back Stevan Ridley, and practice roster player Fitzgerald Toussaint.  The realistic path for Franklin to take is making the practice squad, yet he will definitely try to show the Steelers coaches that he is durable and that he can play at a higher tempo.

Olasunkanmi Adeniyi  –  OLB – Toledo

At 6’1, 250lbs, Adeniyi’s compact frame may remind fans of all-time Steelers great, James Harrison. Adeniyi is one of those players that plays faster than his 40-time suggests, possesses underrated quickness, great use of hands and football IQ that made him one of the best defensive players in the MAC conference. As it stands, the competition standing in his way of a potential backup spot on the main roster are 2017 seventh round pick Keion Adams, practice squad player Farrington Huguenin, and current roster backup Anthony Chickillo. Though it is unlikely that he will beat out Chickillo for his spot, his skill set could make him a more desirable fit for the practice squad than Huguenin.

 

Damoun Patterson  – WR – Youngstown State

Patterson is arguably the biggest sleeper coming into training camp. With the Steelers roster spoiled with a wealth of talent at wide receiver, Patterson’s presence to many seems unnecessary; after all, he was signed after rookie minicamp back in May. At 6’0 190lbs, Patterson is a quick-twitched, effective route runner with deep-threat abilities. In his two years at Youngstown State, Patterson accumulated 1,039 receiving yards on just 52 receptions; his junior year, he averaged over 24 yards per catch, which ranked him among the best in his conference. Though it seems unlikely for Patterson to make the main roster, considering the possibility that long-time practice squad receiver Marcus Tucker could graduate, it could leave a spot open for Patterson to make the practice squad if all works out well.

 

Quadree Henderson – WR/KR/PR – Pitt

Patterson is arguably the biggest sleeper coming into training camp. With the Steelers roster spoiled with a wealth of talent at wide receiver, Patterson’s presence to many seems unnecessary; after all, he was signed shortly after rookie minicamp back in May. At 6’0 190lbs, Patterson is a quick-twitched, effective route runner with deep-threat abilities. In his two years at Youngstown State, Patterson accumulated 1,039 receiving yards on just 52 receptions; his junior year, he averaged over 24 yards per catch, which ranked him among the best in his conference. Though it seems unlikely for Patterson to make the main roster, considering the possibility that long-time practice squad receiver Marcus Tucker could graduate, it could leave a spot open for Patterson to make the practice squad if all works out well.

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