The Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad is believed by many to be a place where several draft picks that fail to make the team’s 53 man roster out of training camp as rookies go to develop so that they can be promoted at a later date and contribute. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen as much as people think.
According to my research, the Steelers have drafted 113 players from 2000-2013 and of the 32 that failed to make the Week one 53 man roster during their rookie season, only five of them managed to eventually make it to the main squad and dress for a game.
Former Steelers safety Ryan Mundy is the most notable of the five players. While Mundy failed to make the Steelers final 53 man roster after being drafted in 2008, a year on the practice squad resulted in him making the team out of training camp in 2009. For the next four seasons, Mundy stuck on the roster and dressed for 64 straight games.
Former Steelers running back Baron Batch is the second most successful draft pick to not play during his rookie season only to return in year two and contribute. However, Batch’s circumstance was different, as a knee injury that he suffered as a rookie during training camp resulted in him being placed on injured reserve. Had Batch stayed healthy as a rookie, there was speculation that he was going to easily crack the Steelers 53 man roster out of training camp. In 2012, Batch dressed for 12 games.
Former Steelers offensive lineman Chris Scott managed to dress for two games during his second season in the league after failing to make the 53 man roster as a rookie. However, much like Batch, an injury suffered by Scott prior to the start of his rookie season resulted in him being placed on the PUP list initially. He was activated to the 53 man roster later that season, but never dressed for a game until his second season.
If my research is correct, Ryan McBean and Dallas Baker are the only other two players that managed to accomplish this feat. After spending his entire rookie season on the practice squad, Baker made the Steelers 53 man roster out of training camp in 2008 and even dressed for eight games. In 2007, McBean spent nearly the whole season on the Steelers practice squad as a rookie, but was finally promoted for the final three regular season games, of which he was allowed to dress for one of them.
As you can tell, history and the Steelers current depth at the wide receiver position will likely result in wide receiver Justin Brown, who was drafted in the sixth-round last year, never making the final 53 man roster unless several injuries strike.
As far as defensive end Nick Williams goes, he might stand a little better chance being as his rookie season was wiped out by a knee injury. However, Williams still is unable to practice as he continues to rehab and when you consider that several other new and old players will be competing for the same roster spot, he has his work cut out for him in training camp.
NOTE: After writing this article, I remembered that Ra’Shon Harris made it back to the Steelers 53 man roster during his rookie season after spending time with the Carolina Panthers, who claimed him off waivers after he was waived prior to the start of the regular season. Harris, however, never dressed for a game despite being on the roster.
Let me know if you find any errors in my research.
Remember, this article is focused only on draft picks. My next segment will focus on undrafted players that fail to make the Steelers final 53 man roster as rookies.
2000-2013 Steelers Draft Picks That Failed To Make Week 1 Roster As Rookies
GD = Games Dressed for Steelers