It seems like every year during the preseason that fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned about losing rookie late-round draft picks or undrafted free agents to the waiver process come the final cut-down date. In reality, this fear can be found in the fan bases of 31 other teams around the league and it really is unwarranted for the most part.
Let me refresh your memory back to last year. If you remember, defensive end Brian Arnfelt and linebacker Alan Baxter were two undrafted players that a lot of fans swore couldn’t be waived as there was no way that either would make it to the Steelers practice squad. What happened? Both were waived and both made it to the practice squad without issue.
In 2012, it was linebacker Marshall McFadden and offensive lineman Ryan Lee that absolutely had no chance of clearing waivers and making it to the practice squad, according to the majority of the fan base, and yet both did.
I could go back even further through the years, but I think you get the picture.
In fact, I think you have to go all the way back to 2009 when the Carolina Panthers claimed then-sixth-round draft pick Ra’Shon Harris off waivers to find the last time the Steelers were robbed of a player they were hoping to get to their practice squad after the final cut-down. Harris, by the way, ended up back on the Steelers 53 man roster later that season after he was signed off of the Panthers practice squad that October.
This year, linebacker Howard Jones and defensive end Josh Mauro are two Steelers undrafted players that fans are insisting won’t make to the practice squad if waived in a few more weeks.
Jones has recovered three fumbles thus far to go along with two defensive tackles and two special teams tackles. He hasn’t, however, recorded a sack or done anything else on defense to really warrant him being a potential candidate to be claimed off waivers by another team and stashed on their 53 man roster to start the season.
Heck, last year Baxter recorded two sacks, eight total defensive tackles and forced a fumble in the 105 snaps that he played during the preseason and he easily made it to the Steelers practice squad. As of right now, he’s not even on an NFL roster.
In the case of Mauro, who currently leads the Steelers in sacks with two during the preseason, both were essentially cleanups. While he does show some potential, much like Jones, his play thus far doesn’t warrant fear of him being claimed off waivers in a few more weeks.
Remember, there’s reasons why both of these players went undrafted. Were other teams interested in signing both of them as undrafted free agents? I’m sure that there were, but those teams have moved on with the players that they signed instead.
We will see in a few more weeks whether or not the Steelers will have room on their 53 man roster for both Jones and Mauro, but if they don’t, there’s a good chance that both will safely land on the practice squad if either is waived during the final cut-down.