The Pittsburgh Steelers initial 2022 practice squad is set, but this unit could always change as the season moves further along.
The practice squad is an interesting wrinkle for each NFL team as the preseason ends. Players that were not able to make the cut of their respective franchise’s final roster still have an opportunity to stick around with a club via the practice squad. All 32 teams are allowed to have 16 players on the unit, which are allowed to practice with the team and be brought up if needed.
Covid really changed the landscape of the rules for who teams can keep, as veteran players are allowed to stick around now. These members of the roster can be signed to an active roster by another club at any time, including the one they are under the current employment. The Steelers have their initial 16-man practice squad set, and it can always change as the season progresses.
Steelers decided to keep eight offensive players on the squad
Offensive line (3): William Dunkle (Guard), John Leglue (Guard), Ryan McCollum (Center)
The offensive line is still questionable on the starting roster, so anyone of these practice squad players could get a call-up. William Dunkle came over to the Steelers after they claimed him off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles after he signed there as an undrafted free agent. He did a good enough job for coaches to see some potential in him and keep him around to develop further as an interior depth piece.
John Leglue could have made the active 53-man roster, but he missed out on certain politics that plague the game. Kendrick Green made the roster even though Leglue seemed to put out better tape because of the reason that Green was a third-round pick last year. Ryan McCollum was an undrafted rookie last season and bounced around the NFL a little but did well in camp and is someone that could develop further.
Running back (2): Jason Huntley, Anthony McFarland Jr.
Running back was a focal point heading into training camp as many wondered what the depth behind Najee Harris would look like. Jaylen Warren came out of nowhere and secured the second-string job, which only left one roster spot available. Benny Snell winded up winning that spot even though Anthony McFarland Jr. showed better reps at the position.
Jason Huntley signed onto Pittsburgh’s practice squad after bouncing from the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles before ending up here. He was drafted in the fifth round in the 2020 NFL Draft out of New Mexico State, after being a noticeable small and shifty back. It was a little bit of a surprise that the Steelers were able to get McFarland to sign onto the practice squad after he was able to show some progress in his development before getting cut.
Wide receiver (2): Cody White, Jaquarii Roberson
The receiver group for Pittsburgh was crowded with a lot of talent from the top down. The roster currently houses seven players at the position, but that could change when players get healthy. This position could make some moves as the season continues on, bringing a player like Calvin Austin III off injured reserve could make things occur.
It is a surprise that Tyler Vaughns has not signed onto a practice squad yet, but that could come down the pike. Right now, the Steelers house two receivers on their practice team, which includes Cody White and Jaquarii Roberson. White has been around the team for a while both on the roster for short stints and on the practice squad as reliable depth. Roberson was an undrafted free agent in 2022 and spent time with the Dallas Cowboys before joining Pittsburgh.
Tight end (1): Justin Rigg
Tight end was a straightforward position heading into the preseason process. Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry were locks to make the club, but the third spot was open for competition. Connor Heyward did some nice things and was able to secure the final roster spot at the position as he provides flexibility to the team.
Kevin Rader was the person that lost the competition with Heyward. Many thought that Rader would go to the practice squad like he did in years prior, but that did not happen. The club decided to sign an outside option by bringing in Justin Rigg. He is a rookie out of Kentucky and spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals before. He was able to show a nice blocking ability in the preseason.
Eight defensive players are sitting on the Steelers practice team
Defensive lineman (2): Carlos Davis, Renell Wren
Pittsburgh decided to keep seven defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, which goes against their normal approach. The team is trying to fix their issues in the trenches, and they hope keeping quantity will fix their concerns. They also kept two extra players on the practice squad whom they hope will be able to provide quality depth in case of injury.
Carlos Davis was the seventh-round selection by the Steelers in 2020 and stuck on the rosters before this season. He has shown some flashes during his play in the preseason since coming into the NFL, but next year will be his last shot. Renell Wren is a former fourth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019, but things have not been completely ironed out for him yet. He is still young and provides some playing experience in this practice unit.
Linebacker (2): Chapelle Russell, Delontae Scott
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. sustained an injury and is now on injured reserve. Keeping two linebackers in reserve was very important to the depth at this position. The two players are both young and could have some development left in their tank to become reliable depth pieces for the black and gold moving forward.
Chapelle Russell was a seventh-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 and has bounced around the league some since then. He stuck onto their roster that year before having a stay with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021. Delontae Scott had a decent training camp with the Steelers, but he still needs to work on his game more and fill out his frame. The former undrafted free agent in 2020 spent time on the Green Bay Packers practice squad before landing in Pittsburgh.
Secondary (4): Mark Gilbert (Cornerback), Josh Jackson (Cornerback), Andrew Adams (Safety), Elijah Riley (Safety)
This is where the black and gold felt the need to carry the most manpower between the positions of cornerback and safety. The secondary has question marks across it, but this group brings a mix of youth and experience. Most of these players were outside options that were brought in or someone that was just brought in before the preseason concluded.
Mark Gilbert returns to Pittsburgh after playing well and being signed onto the Detroit Lions active roster last season. Josh Jackson brings draft pedigree with him after being a former second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, but he has been a bust to this point. Andrew Adams is currently on his sixth different NFL team in his career after mostly being a depth guy. The Steelers claimed Elijah Riley off waivers from the New York Jets late in the preseason and they liked what they saw enough to keep him around.
The Steelers have constructed their 2022 practice squad for its initial form. Things change all the time for clubs and this part of their roster, things will remain fluid with this group.