Steelers 2013 Undrafted Rookie Class Faces Long Odds

The Pittsburgh Steelers have certainly had their fair share of undrafted free agent players contribute over the years. In fact, nose tackle Steve McLendon and guard Ramon Foster will both start for the Steelers in 2013, and both were originally signed by the Steelers after going undrafted.

Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison beat the odds several years ago when he finally made the roster and registered 64 regular-season sacks during his time in Pittsburgh. And who can forget what running back Willie Parker accomplished?

As the Steelers head into training camp this year, the 90 man roster includes 16 players who went undrafted back in April with offensive linemen Nik Embernate and Mike Golic Jr. being the most notable of the bunch.

So what kind of odds is this year\’s group of undrafted players facing in regard to making the final 53 man roster out of training camp?

Dating back to the 2000 season, only 18 players have made the Steelers opening-day roster in their first year out of college and below is that list.

5 of those 18 players were linebackers while 3 more were offensive linemen.

Just last year, the Steelers had three of their undrafted free agents make the opening week roster as safety Robert Golden, linebacker Adrian Robinson and punter Drew Butler showed enough during training camp and the preseason to warrant them making the final cut.

There has been a lot of talk about kick returner Reggie Dunn this past offseason, but he would be only the second undrafted wide receiver to make a Steelers opening week roster dating back to 2000 should he manage to make himself indispensable over the course of the next several weeks. Sure, Stefan Logan made the Steelers opening week roster back in 2009 as a return specialist, but he came into the league originally with the Miami Dolphins in 2007.

In short, this year\’s crop of undrafted free agents face really long odds. Embernate and Golic perhaps have the best chance of the group and let\’s not forget about long snapper Luke Ingram, who is attempting to unseat Greg Warren, who made the team in 2005 out of training camp as an undrafted free agent.

Rookie Undrafted Players That Made Week 1 Roster (2000-2012)

2000 – FB Dan Kreider, S Ainsley Battles, LB Donnel Thompson

2001 – G Keydrick Vincent, NT Chris Hoke, LB Justin Kurpeikis

2002 – None

2003 – None

2004 – RB Willie Paker

2005 – WR Nate Washington, LB Andre Frazier, LS Greg Warren

2006 – None

2007 – RB Gary Russell, G Darnell Stapleton

2008 – LB Donovan Woods

2009 – G Ramon Foster

2010 – None

2011 – TE Weslye Saunders

2012 – S Robert Golden, LB Adrian Robinson, P Drew Butler

  • steeltown

    The top undrafted rookies have to be Embernate and Golic Jr and maybe throw in Luke Ingram and Alan Baxter… I hope one of the young OL make the roster

    In addition to the undrafted ‘rookie’ names mentioned, I have to bring up the 2nd and 3rd year guys like Josh Victorian, David Gilreath, John Malecki, Joe Long, Da’mon C.Smith and others… its possible that a couple of these “undrafted” guys could finally make the Team this year.. especially John Malecki

  • SteelersDepot

    Those guys arent included as this piece is about rookie free agents only.

  • Shea Fahr

    I had forgotten that Nate was undrafted.

  • steeltown


  • steeltown

    ..also last year, Drew Butler (by default) hope he shows he is truly capable this year in camp

  • David Heverly

    When you see names like Willie Parker,Dan Krieder and Chris Hoke..guys who not only beat the odds but were solid contributors make the you hope that there are still some diamonds in the rough. Hopefully Golic Jr brings his dad’s work ethic and can make the team.

  • SteelersDepot

    knew I was missing one. went to the bathroom and forgot where I left off

  • Scott

    When you include players that eventually made the roster full time and but not necessarily their first year, the list adds a few important contributors like Doug Legursky.

  • steeltown


  • steeltown

    I like what I hear about him too, but if they plan on using him at Tackle something tells me Joe Long might be ahead of him at this point… should be a good camp battle

  • CW

    I’d throw in J.D. Woods as well on the list of potentials that could make the roster if the Steelers take six wide receivers into the season. He’s developed well as a receiver and has done good work on special teams in college. He has the look and hands of a solid possession receiver. If he develops receiver chemistry with Big Ben he could end up replacing Cotchery for good after this year is over.

    The only reason he was entirely ignored in the draft is that his two fellow wide receivers at WVU were Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Even with both of those two getting 114 receptions each over their final college year, Woods still got 61 receptions and did a lot of good down field blocking that opened lanes and allowed both Austin and Bailey to score.

  • John Hinton

    So did I.

  • dgh57

    It depends on what position you are talking about as to whether these UDFAs face long odds to making the team. The 1st 6 on the o-line are pretty much set(7 if you count Whimper which I would rather not), so that means we’re not opening the season with only 6 or 7 o-linemen. There will be a 8th possibly 9th spot to fill on the o-line and so the odds favor it being a UDFA.

  • John Hinton

    I just checked Joe Long’s background and learned that he is Jake’s younger brother. We can always use quality guys on the OLine.

  • JohnnyV1

    I think we could see up to 3 undrafted FA’s make the team as the youth movement continues. Ingram, Dunn, Embernate, Farrell, Madsen, etc. We have needs for some inexpensive young guys that can fill roles.

  • Mike.H

    Dave, don’t you think Urbik was a better roster body than both of the two SCOTTS that were kept instead?

    Side note: after 48 hrs, I do like this new site lay out better than the old. Thank you.

  • sgtrobo

    Urbik was a mistake. he didn’t show much when he was with us, but it’s funny that 2 of “Kugler’s guys” (Urbik and Jonathan Scott) look a lot better when Kugler is NOT their OL coach.

    and I’ll second the site layout. I like it.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You’re forgetting John Malecki, Joe Long, and Justin Cheadle.

  • dgh57

    How so? I’m counting all UDFAs from this year plus Malecki from last year. 1st 6 spots are taken, Whimper as the 7th, and 8th and possibly 9th are still in doubt and can only come from the UDFAs on the roster now or from a FA pickup later on. So to me the odds of a least one UDFA making the roster aren’t out of the question. I actually hope Joe Long makes the roster.

  • gene mann

    I think Long cause he a LT and Embernate and Cheadle or Golic,
    I like the Long Snapper chances too

  • gene mann

    Farrell will battle Long Madesen is only a Center i believe and Golic could play multiple spots. should be intresting

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, the article was about rookie UDFAs making the 53-man roster out of training camp, so I guess I assumed that you meant rookie UDFAs, sorry about that. If you’re assuming an 8th lineman, then it’s actually a virtual certainty that it will be an UDFA, because all three that I just mentioned were UDFAs. Malecki went undrafted in 2010, and Long and Cheadle went undrafted last year. The only possibility that that is not the case is if they pick up a veteran. But if they end up doing that then I strongly suspect that they would carry 9 linemen.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I saw a right up on Baxter that was very impressive on the kid, excited to see what he can do. Hunter NT Fla never reached his 5 star rating coming into college but he has the physical talent. McNeil HB USC was the starter at USC 2 years ago and performed at a high lvl and has potential to beat out Batch for sure. Hagans DE La/Lafayette was recruited by LSU for OL and transfered to La/Lafayette where he moved position and shown great ability but is still raw. Garvin ILB WVU was a 3 year starter with his last year playing in a 3/4 defense. Those guys all have a chance, however small, but I see potential in all of them.

  • JC

    I think by default some of these un-drafted rookie offenisive lineman will make the team simply because we lack depth. On a previous podcast, draft guru Dave T. spoke pretty highly about Embernate so hopefully he turns out as advertised. I only watched a few Notre Dame games last year, but I was very unimpressed with Golic Jr. when he played both guard and center. To be honest, I only payed attention to him because of his dad’s radio show. It appears the Steelers are trying to make him into a right tackle, but I have my doubts he’ll make the roster.

  • steeltown

    Indeed. The Baxter and Garvin kid look like they could possibly contribute, especially on ST, but the problem is the numbers game, just not enough spots on the roster. I could see one of them to the practice squad though

  • steeltown

    I have a feeling Malecki wins a spot this year, as mentioned a few times he’s basically the next generation Legursky and if he plays Center well enough he could make the 53man as a swing interior guy

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I agree but was just pointing out guys who have potential to shine. I forgot Nigel Malone. He doesnt have the speed you want but he is a huge ballhawk and can play in a zone. WATCH THIS KID!!!

  • steeltown

    Agreed. I like the look of this kid, hope he atleast makes the PS because as you mentioned he could eventually be that #3 or #4 possession receiver, sort of like Cotchery… and considering Sanders, Burress and Cotchery could all be gone a year from now, we could use his services next year