Annual Fear Of Losing Undrafted Rookies To Waivers In Full Swing

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.

  • superfan

    Excellent points, Dave. There are 31 other fanbases that feel the same way about 1 or 2 UDFA players on their teams.

  • steeltown

    While the likeliness is not great and the percentages show that it doesn’t happen often, the possibility is still there… that’s why people get uneasy about waiving future potential and trying to stash them on the PS

  • Crowned

    I think Mauro is on the 53 now, not sure about HoJo, but it’s likely he would be claimed due to being a human highlight reel lol.

  • ApexSteel

    Arnfelt was never that good in the first place and Alan Baxter ended up getting cut anyway. I think people recognized that they weren’t that great more than anything.

  • Melly

    I’d rather have either or both of them on the 53 VS L.Jones, C.Carter, or a 4th TE!!!!

  • Steelers12328882

    LOL this is so true. Trying not to drink the Kool-Aid on HoJo, but I do think he has a chance in this league. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him cut though. Mauro, on the other hand, seems to already be ahead of enough players to make the 53.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    All these conversations about H Jones,etc. and no one is talking about Vic Sooto’s play. He created 2 turnovers, a strip sack. Howard Jones was lucky enough to be in the right place these turnovers do not happen unless Vic makes the play. I know there is very little hope of So oto making the 53 unless they keep 10 LBs, but he shows more potential of getting to the QB than all the other young guys. Consider this my vote to keep Vic on the practice squad.

  • superfan

    I agree, So’oto has been really good. However, for the purposes of this article, So’oto isn’t a rookie and isn’t practice squad eligible.

  • Steelers12328882

    It’s not about being a rookie. It’s about how many games you’ve dressed for during a season. That’s why a player like Derek Moye is still PS eligible. That being said I don’t know if So’oto is still eligible but I do think I’ve heard he was.

  • Brian K

    I thought i read in an Alex Kozora article that So’oto is eligible still. Due to him being on other ones for the year.

  • dgh57

    We do have examples of WR Toney Clemons and OT Joe Long as being taken from our PS. In the case of Long it was towards the end of the season and I don’t even recall either of those guys doing anything special to warrant them being taken from our PS. Which leads me to my reasons I don’t like putting some guys on the PS as it doesn’t have to happen soon after the final cut down date and you don’t have to do anything special for it to happen.You just need a team with a rash of injuries at a certain position to make it happen.

    I don’t know all the rules about the PS but I THINK one of them is that you have to put that player you took from another teams PS on your 53 man roster which may help us from that ever happening in the first place so we’ll see.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Dave Bryan or someone mentioned that he is still eligible.

  • superfan

    You are right. Bad phrasing on my part. I meant the 1) So’oto isn’t a rookie, and completely separate, 2) He’s not practice squad eligible. Unless I am mistaken, he accrued enough active game time in his first year to give him one full-year of service, which would disqualify him.

  • Jeff Anoble

    All true but who is standing in Mauro’s way of that 6th or even 7th spot on the D-line? And when it comes to Chris Carter, both Vic So’oto and HoJo have shown more in one pre-season then Carter in four. Releasing Carter is probably less risky, as no one would sign him for sure.

  • steeltown

    Depends on whether he was actually on the 45man game day active roster

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I totally agree that watching these guys closely makes you overvalue them and that I’m often surprised at players that make it through.

    That said I do think the team is a lot deeper this year. A player like Arnfelt that was a bubble guy last year has an extra year of experience and is still well below the line this year.

    I would like to also point out that the waiver risk also applies to players like Allen and Landry Jones.

    I think the draft was deep enough this year & the team is at the perfect point in the rebuild for an all in approach to building a roster for the next 5 years instead of for this year. I would look to sign a couple of cuts from other teams and be aggressive cutting the older guys here while skewing towards players with the potential to become above average starters vs platoon style or niche guys.

  • Jollyrob68

    I want Mauro on the 53.

  • cencalsteeler

    The truth is some of these these guys are being trained for Arians and that’s just the name of the game. I’m twisting it and hoping Colbert and Co. are doing their homework, and plan on grabbing a TE and some quality lineman some other teams are high on but have to let go.

  • CW

    I agree that there does get to be a little too much fear of losing undrafted free agents at this time of year. However after Heyward, Thomas, Tuitt, McLendon, and McCullers, there really only seems to be a battle left between Mauro and Fangupo as the next man on the roster. Fang is more of a pure nose tackle prospect and to me would seem to be more in a roster contest with McCullers in a battle that McCullers seems to have close to locked up.

    With five spots claimed and either one or two spots remaining the team needs a guy who can be a pure swing defensive end to back up the two starters alongside Tuitt until Tuitt is ready to take the leading DE spot for good over Cam Thomas. That’s why I personally do not want Mauro cut. I believe that Mauro has shown enough to make the final roster as a backup this year.

    Nick Williams is still recovering from that knee injury. He’s at least a year away from being ready to play backup and his play during preseason suggests that he is a work in progress. He’s had some moments of real interesting play, but he’s behind and probably could use the PS year.

    Philon, Hemer, and Lapuaho haven’t really impressed with their time in preseason or in training camp unless I’ve really missed something which is why I believe they are behind Mauro on the depth chart.

    And finally Arnfelt who I thought would lock up the 2nd backup defensive end position on the roster really hasn’t impressed much at all this year. Maybe he’s just had an off training camp and if he can slide through to the PS that might be the best thing for him. Could be next year he’s got everything right and he wins a roster spot, but this year I believe Mauro has just outplayed everyone fighting for that last backup Defensive End spot and that I why I am against him going on the waiver wires.

  • Luke Shabro

    I believe a 4th running back, possibly our third tight end and a utility O linemen are on another roster right now

  • A better back-up CB would be nice (through the waiver wire) as well as watching it for upgrades on the OL (someone might have a promising OT of OG that they’d dearly love to keep but can’t squeeze him onto their 53), a third QB, and possibly a hybrid RB/FB/TE back-up for Will Johnson & all around RB depth.

  • Brendon Glad

    As long as there are guys on practice squads like James Harrison was (several times), then it is a completely justified concern. It’s not our fault that other teams’ execs are too stubborn to raid other practice squads. And we never want those execs to figure it out on “our favorite dark-horse”

  • Brendon Glad

    But I’ll admit, I don’t think the next JH is on our bubble this year.

  • SteveM2

    ….maybe, a punter from another roster, too.

  • joed32

    It’s kind of funny but the Steelers actually cut James from the PS 3 times.

  • joed32

    He has looked good. Going into his 3rd year and he’s playing for his 6th team. He was with the Packers twice.

  • patrick Mayfield

    I think there’s something there too. HoJo has good athleticism and is has some developmental curve given his small school background. I think he’s contributing on ST and is worth carrying for a year based on that and the high ceiling.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I agree to a point, but creating turnovers is one of the most valuable commodities in the NFL today. Jones should make the final 53. And not just so we don’t lose him.

  • patrick Mayfield

    They have to be on the 53 for so many weeks if claimed off waivers. Plenty of guys get taken off there later in the year when injuries hit some other team. Thad Gibson (claimed off waivers in mid season) and Doug Worthington were intended for our PS and signed elsewhere. There’s also the issue that players are FA before they sign the PS contract and could look for a team with greater positional need that they prefer for whatever reason.

  • Gautama Om

    Agreed. The only reason C. Carter is on the roster is because Lebeau has this phobia of replacing players with experience in his system, even at the expense of the team’s upside.

  • Gautama Om

    To make it short. It’s unlikely that some of our 2014 PS player will be picked up. Furthermore, it’s even more unlikely that those poached will be anything special or even average NFL players.

    Rest assured that if there is a glimmer of hope of them being anything average, the 2014 Steelers will place them on the 53 because the quality of our depth is not that great this year. So chill. The right players will be placed on the 53.

    I’m actually hoping the Steelers poach from some of the other 31 team’s PS because, again, the quality of the players behind the starters is not that good.

  • Doug

    Jones is recovering the fumbles, not creating them. Big difference.