I am about to start a series where I break down every position on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster and predict who I think will make the 53-man game day roster. This will certainly help fill the space of the dead months on the NFL calendar, but when I was looking through the specialists, I asked myself if the Steelers would be willing to keep a return specialist on their roster in 2018?
If they decide to, they have one in Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) Quadree Henderson out of the University of Pittsburgh who could certainly fill this role on the team.
The question here is simple:
Do you hold a roster spot for a player who would realistically just be returning punts, since the kickoff return is slowly being phased out of the game?
Immediately, I have to think there isn’t much of a chance this happens. Spots on the game day 53-man roster are precious, and using one for someone who plays so little would certainly be tough to justify. However, Mike Tomlin has shown he is willing to do just that since he was hired in 2007. Players like Chris Rainey, Allen Rossum, Dri Archer and Stefan Logan have all essentially been glorified return specialists during the Tomlin era, but the team hasn’t had one of these style of players on their roster the past few years.
While difficult to do, Henderson does have a shot to be the next player on the aforementioned list of return specialists donning the black-and-gold.
He has shown capable skills as both a slot receiver, as well as a gadget-type player, think a Tavon Austin style player, as well as lethal return skills to qualify him for a roster spot. On top of all that, he could do something no one has been able to do efficiently since 2010 — take Antonio Brown off punt return duties.
Everyone knows the risk involved with Brown returning punts, but there hasn’t been a capable player to give the Steelers a reason to not put Brown back to at least fair catch a punt. It isn’t that they haven’t tried, we all remember the Jacoby Jones experiment, but Henderson can certainly take this role off Brown’s plate.
In case you haven’t seen Henderson at work, take a look at his college highlight reel below (Editor’s Note: Music during video is not safe for work):
He is a dynamic player, but will he be able to do enough to make the team? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!