The Steelers have finally announced their 18 undrafted free agents they will sign to contracts this morning and included in them are three players that will have many eyes on them during training camp and stand out above the others. These three players have perhaps the best outside shot at making the Steelers 53 man roster out of camp.
South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders is the most intriguing of the three players I have identified as he had his draft stock drop significantly after he was suspended his senior season for having lied to NCAA investigators over an inquiry into improper contact with agents. He also had offseason surgery to have a pin inserted into his fractured foot, but by all reports is now fully recovered. He measured in at the combine and his pro day at a hair over 6 foot 5 and ran a 40 in the low 4.9 range. He benched 225, 19 times and had 33 inch vertical in addition. He has good hands and is an above average route runner. He is describe as a good run blocker with good power off the ball and is a tough player to bring down. Should unrestricted free agent Matt Spaeth end up not being re-signed, he could have a legitimate chance at making the 53 man roster as the number two or three tight end. He will have to learn the offense quickly though and will need to show his character has improved and that he has no limitations from the repaired stress fracture in his foot.
Next on the list is middle linebacker Mario Harvey from Marshall. Harvey is a bit undersized, but makes up for it with his 4.4 speed and style of play. He is a sure fire tackler, but has shown some limitations in getting off his blocker. He impressed teams at his pro day by having a strong positional workout after not being invited to the combine. He logged a 32 inch vertical and 9 foot 5 inch broad jump along with a 4.19 short shuttle and a 7.13 three-cone time. He is very aggressive and is nicknamed “Thumper”, because of the way he hits. If he shows the Steelers anything at inside linebacker during camp, he could make the 53 man roster because of the special teams play he is expected to excel at. Keep a real close eye on him as unrestricted free agent Keyaron Fox is unlikely to return and there just could be a spot for Harvey on the roster. At worst he could be headed for the practice squad.
The last player to keep your eyes on of the undrafted players is defensive tackle Anthony Gray from Southern Mississippi. Gray looks to be a 3-4 type nose tackle and measured in at 5 foot 11 and 330 pounds at his pro day. He moves average for a big guy with a 5.15 40 time and gets off the ball fairly quick. He logged a 31.5 inch vertical, 4.61 short shuttle and put up 39 reps at his pro day and his work-out turned a few heads. He can be too aggressive at times and must better learn to stay more disciplined and hold the point of attack. He his regarded as a sure tackler once he gets his hands on the ball carrier as well. Like most big guys, he does not change direction terribly well and labors at times getting leverage. He will be a nice project for defensive line coach John Mitchell and could be a candidate for the practice squad if he indeed does not make the 53 man roster.
The biggest thing to keep in mind with all of the undrafted free agents this year is how far behind the curve they are at this point. Missing the mini-camps and OTA sessions due to the lockout will have their heads spinning during the start of camp. Many of the undrafted players are mere camp bodies, but if any of them have a future with the Steelers, it is the three players I just mentioned. It will be a huge undertaking for sure, but not entirely out of the question. At worst I could see all three making the practice squad. Time and practice will tell.