By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers quietly announced yesterday afternoon that they promoted rookie undrafted free agent defensive end Brian Arnfelt from the practice squad to the active roster, releasing linebacker Kion Wilson in the process.
They did so quietly, of course, because it really is an insignificant move, and very well could be a one-week stay. His signing was likely prompted due to skepticism regarding the availability of nose tackle Steve McLendon to suit up tonight.
We already speculated last week that he might be promoted before it was learned that McLendon would give it a go, but now that he has been promoted this week, the speculation is that McLendon will be taking a seat.
Thus, if either McLendon or Brett Keisel are able to go next week, there’s a good chance that Arnfelt could find his stay on the Steelers’ active roster a short one, which many rookies, including McLendon, have gone through.
Of course, the reason Arnfelt was even on the practice squad was because defensive line coach John Mitchell and the rest of the organization like what they saw out of him. The former Northwestern product, in fact, was speculated by many as a strong candidate to make the final roster, though I found it unlikely.
Still, Arnfelt spent much of the offseason running as the second-team left defensive end behind Ziggy Hood, ahead of other candidates such as Nick Williams, whom the Steelers actually drafted, because the Steelers wanted to use Al Woods at nose tackle.
That was despite having Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo available to take the reps; perhaps the chance to give Arnfelt second-team reps also played a small role in the decision to give Woods work with the second-team at nose tackle.
In fact, with Keisel spending much of the preseason off to the side, Arnfelt played often with the second-team defense during that time, though he was third-team with all healthy bodies playing.
The Steelers worked him quite a bit throughout the preseason; in fact, on the defensive side, Woods’ 164 snaps was the only total to exceed the 146 logged by Arnfelt.
Arnfelt also graded well, receiving a 2.1 overall grade by Pro Football Focus, most of which was based on his -2.5 pass rushing grade. His 4.0 grade against the run was second only to Woods, with a grade of 7.5.
The rookie defensive end was a bit of a fan favorite, both here and elsewhere during the preseason, so it’s good for him to get promoted, even if it ends up being for just a game. With Kesiel, Hood, and Woods all in the final year of their contracts, there’s certainly a chance Arnfelt will be playing a key role in the defense next season.