Pittsburgh Steelers: Practice squad options for 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01: DeMarcus Ayers /

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the players who don’t make the 53-man roster may still have a shot to stay with the team on the practice squad.

As we head into the preseason, competition is camp is different for every player. Some want just to make the practice squad, some are battling for the roster, and even some are competing for playing time. It is as much of a time for development as it is for competition.

The practice squad can be a place to develop and eventually make the roster. Look no further than the promotions of B.J. Finney, Demarcus Ayers and Cobi Hamilton last year.

Below are some players that could carve out a spot on this year’s practice squad.

Terrell Watson (RB) – Watson is a someone who has bounced around different team’s practice squads including the Bengals, Broncos, Browns, and Eagles. He has even been promoted to a 53-man roster at the end of a season. He was a stud at Azuza Pacific and could be a good candidate to be the Steelers scout team back.

Demarcus Ayers (WR) – Ayers was originally drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 draft and caught the eyes of the Steelers as a punt returner. Ayers was promoted to the roster after injuries at receiver last year. He flashed some speed and ability to separate from the defender. I don’t see him making the roster, because there is already so much depth at the position, but he has shown he is worth keeping around.

Marcus Tucker (WR) – Tucker was a tryout player last year and made the 90 man roster in camp. He was also brought in to be a practice squad player last season. What I like about him is the speed and explosion he has on kick and punt coverage. That is a skill worth keeping around.

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Phazahn Odom (TE) – Odom is about as raw of a player as the Steelers have. He has the measurables to be a move tight end despite his struggles in the blocking department. He was given a tryout by the Steelers and was signed to the 90 man roster after that. His ceiling is a reason to keep him on the scout team, even if it is just to simulate Tyler Eifert.

Matt Feiler (OL) – Matt Feiler has been around the Steelers for some time now and was actually promoted to the roster when the injury bug hit the offensive line last year. He is position flexible playing both guard and tackle and that versatility could buy him another year on the practice squad.

Ethan Cooper (G) – Cooper may be the best undrafted free agent the Steelers signed after the draft. He is a small school kid but could intrigue fans in the preseason. He is reportedly getting work at center and guard.

Brian Mihalik (T) – Mihalik was converted to tackle and has shown enough value that the Steelers signed him off the Lions practice squad last year. He was injured for a lot of the previous preseason, but it would be nice to see him develop into a serviceable tackle in the league.

Keion Adams (OLB) – Adams was the Steelers seventh round pick, and the reason is his athletic ability. It will be interesting to see how he does on special teams and that may decide whether he makes the team or not. On the bright side, he could be developed this year on the practice squad after coming from a small school.

Brian Allen (CB) – Allen is a raw prospect, but his measurables are there. He stands in at 6’3″ and has the speed to complement his length. He is a converted wide receiver, and so his tackling will decide if he is the special teamer the Steelers want to keep. Otherwise, he could get more experience playing corner on the practice squad. I just wouldn’t keep him there too long as he may get signed by another team.

Jacob Hagen (S) – Hagen was on and off the Steelers practice squad last year, but he did make some hay on special teams last year in the preseason. The Steelers are likely to keep only four safeties this year; so, a scout team safety seems like a reasonable need.

Next: Analyzing the Steelers WR battle

The preseason is a place where more players could earn a practice squad role; so, keep a close eye on the names you don’t recognize.