The Pittsburgh Steelers have been disproving conventional wisdom with more free agency activity over recent years. They’re moving fast this year so let’s meet the free agents.
The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to be following roughly the same bell curve of activity they have recently during free agency.
In the tails they re-sign easy vets and backup/throw-everything-at-the-wall type players, your Ricardo Matthews or your Darrius Heyward-Bey down to undrafted free agents or practice squad players.
The bump in the middle of the curve is where they twist and turn to keep existing stars and take a swing at a Ladarius Green.
Da Windy City
Right now, we’re in a tail. The bump in the curve does favor the early part of free agency though so don’t fall asleep. That said, the Steelers have taken care of some of the easy signings like Greg Warren, Roosevelt Nix, and Chris Boswell. They’re circling Lawrence Timmons apparently.
But the Steelers have already signed several names so far who did not appear in black and gold last year. How? With Bell and Brown coming up, how are they spending money?
Well all that restructuring and budgetary contorting general manager Kevin Colbert has been up to for seemingly a decade has finally paid off and the Steelers have some cap room, well more than $30 million, according to Spotrac.com.
So that’s the how, but what about the who?
Mike Matthews, C
Yes, that Matthews family. His father was Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and his grandfather played in the NFL. His uncle and cousin, each going by Clay Matthews, have done pretty well on the other side of the ball. Also, his brother, Jake Matthews, plays for the Falcons currently.
Mike Matthews went undrafted out of Texas A&M and was cut last year by the Browns. He lacks size but if he can get some weight and muscle he has the other tools.
Kyle Friend, C
Kyle Friend is actually a Pennsylvania native from out Harrisburg way. From the burg to the burgh, with Temple in the middle, Friend has completed his football tour of the great state of Pennsylvania.
Friend has a great career in Temple and was one of those sixth round-undrafted free agent project players. He ended up signing with the Jets, where he got some practice squad time. He’ll need some technique to go with his strength if he wants to stick around.
Trey Williams, RB
Trey Williams is among the more experienced of the bunch. He’s been in the NFL since 2015, but this will basically be his 6th team’s practice squad. He was an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M.
Williams is lacking in height at 5’7″. but the Steelers are lacking in running back depth so he may well stick.
Lavon Hooks, DT
Lavon Hooks is another young addition looking to work his way up. He missed the final cuts at Green Bay last year, which was his rookie year. The defensive line is another are where the Steelers are solid at the top position but have little if anything beneath it.
They’ll be looking for a young defensive lineman and the 6’3″, 312 pounder out of Mississippi will get a shot.
Jason Fanaika, DE
Jason Fanaika is 6’3″ and 270. No relation to Allen Faneca, though we’d welcome a similar success, or even a lot less. Fanaika is a strong player, but lacks the quicks necessary to play in the NFL.
However, with Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward they’re more looking for a capable plug in for injuries or taking a breather. They’re always looking for special teams help too and Fanaika has some decent straight line speed.
Roy Philon, DE
Roy Philon is another defensive end joining the team. He’s a little bit bigger though at 290 lbs. He could possibly be developed into one of those DT/DEs the Steelers like so much. And if the name sounds familiar it’s because he’s tried out for the team before.
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In 2014, as an undrafted rookie out of Louisville he played four preseason games with the team. After stops at Chicago and Detroit he’s back to give it another go.
Akil Blount, LB
Akil Blount is a bit of a legacy signing if that name looks familiar to you. It’s usually proceeded by Mel rather than Akil. That said, Akil went undrafted out of Florida A&M and was eventually waived by the Dolphins last year.
He’s got good size, though his height might make him more suited to the middle. He’ll need to show he can play against NFL level competition to stick around.
Devonte Johnson, CB
Devonte Johnson, like the other additions, was an undrafted free agent looking to make a team. He spent some time with the Falcons but didn’t get to play in any games. He comes out of Weber State and stands 5’10”, weighing 185 pounds.
He’s likely being looked at more as a special teams player but that’s a good place to start.
So there they are. The new free agents thus far. No big names obviously.
However you never know who might develop from a futures contract (Alejandro Villanueva) or from an undrafted free agent (Eli Rogers) or even some other team’s practice squad, such as James Harrison for example. More to come on free agency, I’m sure.