It wasn’t so long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers seemingly had a stacked roster, from nearly top to bottom, at most positions. It was extremely difficult for young, unheralded players to make the roster behind young, pedigreed players who themselves were still waiting their turns for playing time behind established veteran starters.
That hasn’t been true so much over the past few years, and the Steelers entered the 2014 offseason with perhaps the most holes in their roster in recent memory, especially after parting with veterans such as LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote.
A year ago, the Steelers passed up on drafting West Virginia linebacker Terence Garvin. They also passed up on signing him as an undrafted free agent.
But they did give him an invitation to attend the team’s rookie mini-camp, and he ended up getting signed after the fact, helped in part by a pick-six of Landry Jones.
He not only went on to make the final 53-man roster as a ninth linebacker, he was active for every game until he suffered a season-ending injury during the penultimate game against the Green Bay Packers, causing him to miss the season finale.
He became a key special teams player for new special teams coach Danny Smith, being featured on both kick and punt coverage units, where he made 10 tackles. As the season progressed, he saw playing time—a few snaps here and there—on defense, taking place of Vince Williams as a nickel linebacker.
That just goes to show you that you never know from where you might find an impact. Garvin came in as a rookie invitee, impressed the coaches, and then established himself on special teams, which gives him a leg up on this year’s class.
This year, the Steelers have invited 20 players to attend their rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis. That list just so happens to include six cornerbacks, as well as five linebackers—two positions geared for special teams at the bottom of the depth chart.
Among the cornerbacks are Stanford’s Devon Carrington, who, according to Mark Kaboly, was originally going to be signed until the Steelers learned that he might not be eligible to participate during OTAs.
That prompted the team to ask him to come as an invitee rather than as a signing so that they could use their last slot on the 90-man offseason roster on a player they know they’ll have available to them.
Will Carrington, or any of these 19 other players, be able to make enough of an impact to convince the Steelers to given them a contract and release somebody from their offseason roster, as they did for Garvin a season ago?