The Pittsburgh Steelers have started training camp this week, bringing in a whole slew of rookies from the 2022 draft class. While we have been familiarizing ourselves with some names such as first round pick, Kenny Pickett, and second round pick, George Pickens, there are plenty of other rookies on the squad, including some undrafted free agents.
These free agents could show that they deserve to play in the NFL, and potentially make it to the 53-man roster. Of those free agents, who should we expect to not only make the final roster, but become a noteworthy and key contributor to the team?
Legendary Long Shots
Before doing a deep dive into this, it might behoove us to look at some past players that went undrafted, but left their mark during their career in Pittsburgh. Both Willie Parker and James Harrison joined the squad in the early 2000’s, each of whom became key contributors in two championships, winning Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII. The biggest example may come from the 1970’s with Donnie Shell.
Like Parker and Harrison, Shell was an instrumental piece in being victorious in the big game, capturing a total of four Super Bowls during his tenure with the Steelers. These three men are a small sample of guys that flew under the radar and developed into solid starters in the league. For our list, we’ll be viewing four players that could make the full-time roster and shore up some areas of the team that are need of assistance as we look ahead to the 2022 season.
To begin, we are going to discuss the need for a true number two running back behind Najee Harris. While there are plenty of guys currently “in the running,” the one we will be focusing on is Mataeo Durant.
Durant is already making a name for himself in Pittsburgh as he was signed to the largest undrafted free agent running back contract in Steelers history with a $15,000 signing bonus. That alone should be a big indication as to whether he will be on the team come September, but his playing numbers help justify the front office’s decision.
Kenny Pickett had his first two completions in the last live period, one to Mateo Durant and another to Jaylen Warren. Had another throw on the run that went incomplete.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 29, 2022
During his four-year career at Duke University, Durant rushed for over 2,500 yards and added nearly 400 yards receiving, amassing 22 total touchdowns in the process. Suffice to say, we can estimate Durant being perhaps third or fourth on the depth chart, but it wouldn’t shock us if he managed to elevate himself to being the second back in the rotation.
Durant should get some opportunities during the preseason to show case himself. He was bumped down the depth chart this week when the team signed veteran running back, Jeremy McNichols. But even with that signing he should see extended playing time in the second half of the teams three preseason games.
In order for any of the running backs on the roster to have any success, they will have to rely on the big guys up front to do their job. Someone like Jordan Tucker could be a prominent piece along the offensive line to help establish a sturdy run game.
Listed at 6’6’’ and 340lbs, Tucker’s size and strength would also make him a great pass blocker. Having him on the depth chart once the regular season arrives wouldn’t catch any of us by surprise. Tucker is bundled into a large group of mostly inexperienced linemen. If he has a solid training camp, he could easily make the roster. One thing that is working against Tucker is that he doesn’t have a lot of position flexibility. He is a right tackle only.
Shifting to the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers are continuing their search for long-term stability at the cornerback position. Two names that could be slotted in are Chris Steele and Carlins Platel.
For his three-year career at the University of Southern California, Steele totaled 94 tackles with one sack and three interceptions. Couple these numbers with his 6′ tall and roughly 190-pound frame with a 40-yard dash time of 4.48, Steele has the size, speed and strength needed to be a standout in the backfield. Steele’s name has already come up a bunch of times during training camp. He intercepted Pickett on day 1, and has a nice pass break up working against Miles Boykin a day later.
During 11 on 11s Kenny Pickett started off rough with an INT to Chris Steele and getting sacked. But he did rebound with a couple plays to escape the pocket and connect on the run.
Working through the rookie growing pains. #Steelers
— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) July 28, 2022
Platel played a single year at the Division I level for the University of South Carolina, but his stats are still quite impressive: 21 tackles, a sack, two passes defended with two forced fumbles is a nice stat line. In terms of his physicals, Platel is bigger than Steele, being listed at six-foot one, 205lbs. Unfortunately, his bigger body means he isn’t quite as speedy as Steele is with a 40-yard dash time of 4.65. His greater length and strength should aid him during training camp and turn enough heads for him to make the final cut. On the first day of training camp on Tuesday, Platel had a big play for the defense intercepting Pickett to end practice.
Kenny Pickett throws the first INT of camp. Short arms a throw and Carlins Platel, a rookie from South Carolina, snags it.
Looks like that’ll end practice.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022
Just for some clarification, while there is a strong probability of all these players remaining on the roster after camp, you should not expect most of them to be day one starters. This doesn’t mean that they can’t move up the rankings and become eventual starters, or even be starters for game one, but their main duty is to come in and produce at a high-level regardless of their position on the depth chart. I firmly believe that all the players listed above have the capability to do just that.
Who do you think has the best chance to make the final roster? How successful will he be? Be sure to drop a comment with your thoughts.