The Pittsburgh Steelers added ten players to their roster yesterday by signing them to "futures" contracts. Most are familiar faces and each of these guys should at least make it to training camp. I believe A.Q. Shipley was the only player who ended the season on the practice squad that has not signed yet.
Justin Vincent (RB) - Vincent has spent most of the past two seasons on the Steelers' practice squad after being undrafted in 2007. By now I'm sure we all know his story (great freshman season at LSU and then three unproductive, inconsistent seasons). The 5-10, 219 pound back would most likely have to make a significant impact on special teams in order to have any shot of making the roster, but it's interesting that this staff has kept him around for three years.
Isaac Redman (RB) - Redman was signed last year by the Steelers after being undrafted but spent all but one game on the practice squad. The 6-0, 230 pound back is a bit of a FB/RB tweener but he was set numerous school records at FCS Bowie State. He started to gain some notoriety after an impressive training camp and there was even some thought that he might not clear waivers but the team was able to stash him on the practice squad all season long. It will be interesting to see what roles he fills, if any, in 2010.
Scott Paxson (DT) - Paxson has been in the Steelers system for a couple years now and has spent some time on the active roster, appearing in one game. He was undrafted in 2006, out of Penn State, and remains undersized to play the nose but the staff must see something in his potential. He's also capable of adequately of playing any spot on the defensive line in a pinch.
Trae Williams (CB) - Williams, a 5th round pick in 2008, was picked up late in the season and was actually on the 53-man roster for the last game. He's had short stints with the Jaguars, Eagles and Seahawks. Many scouts thought he was very comparable to his fellow starting cornerback at USF, Mike Jenkins, but slower than expected forty times lowered his draft status. He's yet to appear in a NFL game but with cornerback listed as one of the team's biggest needs, he's an guy to keep an eye on.
Tuff Harris (S) - Harris, a former college cornerback, was signed to the practice squad early last year and remained there for the entirety of the season despite some initial reports that he was there only to gleam knowledge about the Tennessee Titans. He was undrafted in 2007 and has spent time with the Dolphins, Saints and Titans. He has contributed, mostly with the Titans, on special teams and has some value as a returner. Considering the depth, or lack thereof, at safety and his value on coverage units he should have at least an outside chance of making the roster in 2010.
Johnny Williams (LB) - (Editor's Note: According to NFL.com the Steelers have signed Williams but there is no mention of this in the release announcing these signings on Steelers.com) Williams was added to the practice squad midway through December after he spent part of the 2009 season with the Jaguars. He was undrafted last April after being a three year starter at Kentucky where he played outside linebacker (in a 4-3) and moved down to defensive end on passing downs. He's not a great athlete and will struggle in space but he has some pass rush upside and is a punishing tackler. He's had a troubled past but could be the kind of special teams demon that this team is looking for in the future. Here's a decent highlight video:
Eugene Bright (DE/TE) - Yes that position description is not a typo. Bright was a defensive end in college, at Purdue, and spent most of his time playing behind former first round pick Anthony Spencer. The Eagles took a look at him as a tight end last year. He has tremendous size (6-4, 268) but isn't really a great athlete (5.10 forty). His athleticism suggests he's not a candidate at OLB but his size also suggests he'd be a small 3-4 defensive end, but I guess he could become a blocking tight end in the right situation.
Jason Chery (WR) - Chery was another December addition to the Steelers practice squad. He was undrafted last year and actually chose the Panthers over the Steelers after the draft, where he spent most of the season on their practice squad. He played his college ball at Louisiana-Lafayette and almost all of his value is on special teams. He played on every single special teams until all four years he was in school and led the team in special teams tackles each season. He's also blocked two punts and was a part time kick returner.
Steve McLendon (DT) - The Steelers signed McLendon as a UDFA last year and he spent most of the season on their practice squad. He's got decent size (6-4, 280, although he's listed at 306 during his pro day) but was a marginal player at Troy and only started one full season. With his size he's a candidate at defensive end.
Piotr Czech (K) - Czech was undrafted in 2008 and has spent time with the Ravens and Steelers as well as the New York Sentinels (UFL). He's a decent kicker, although nothing great or consistent, and might be nothing more than insurance in case Jeff Reed is unsignable.