Every year it happens: players’ potential draw attention and fans can’t wait to see what they do in training camp. This season it will be completely different due to only 14 padded practices and no preseason games. It is entirely possible a player could fly so far under the radar Steelers Nation may not even know how much of an impression they have made. So which “sleepers” are most likely to push for a spot on the Steelers in 2020? Here are a few names who may draw some discussion over the next few weeks.
Dax Raymond (TE)
It was almost a month ago when the Steelers chose to sign Dax Raymond and release tight and Christian Scotland-Williamson as one of their five tight ends heading into training camp. Raymond was an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears in 2019 who began the season on injured reserve before being released and resigned to the practice squad. It remains to be seen if the Steelers are completely sold on 2019 5th-round draft pick Zach Gentry, so if Raymond shows he is a better option and deserves a spot on the roster, it should be there for the taking.
Saeed Blacknall (WR)
Some might not consider Blacknall a sleeper, but since he spent the spring playing for the XFL it would be an accomplishment to land on an NFL roster. The wide receiver out of Penn State began his NFL career in 2018 and bounced around from the Raiders, Dolphins, and Cardinals before landing in the XFL. If he shows his ability and can bring something different to the table than receivers such as Ryan Switzer or Dion Cain, Blacknall has every chance to crack the 53-man roster.
Calvin Taylor Jr. (DE)
The undrafted rookie free agent out of Kentucky will definitely stand out during practices for the Pittsburgh Steelers. At 6‘9“ and 310 pounds, Taylor should feel right at home standing next to Alejandro Villanueva. Whether or not his enormous frame can transition to the NFL remains to be seen. But in his senior year at Kentucky, he registered 36 tackles, 9.5 of which were for loss, as well as 8.5 sacks, four passes defensed, and three forced fumbles.
Leo Lewis (LB)
Another undrafted rookie free agent for 2020 is Mississippi State inside linebacker Leo Lewis. The fifth year senior had 65 tackles along with three passes defensed and two fumble recoveries in 2019. With his biggest competition for a spot on the 53-man roster being Robert Spillane, if Lewis shows he is NFL ready he could squeeze onto the roster and not just the practice squad.
Trajan Bandy (CB)
Miami cornerback Trajan Bandy chose to forgo his senior year only to go undrafted in April. Choosing the Steelers over other teams interested in acquiring his services makes him almost the equivalent of an additional 7th-round draft pick. But whether or not the corner shows his value enough to crack the 53 remains to be seen. Should the Steelers choose to keep six cornerbacks, Bandy would probably be the front runner.
Curtis Riley (CB/S)
The Steelers signed Riley earlier this month after he spent the 2019 season with the Oakland Raiders. Whether or not Riley would be used as a cornerback or safety is yet to be seen, although he started 16 games at safety for the New York Giants in 2018. Used primarily for special teams last year, Riley could give the Steelers experience on teams as well as depth throughout the entire secondary.
So what do you think? Do any of these players have a chance to make the roster? Or do they have a much better spot landing on the expanded 16-man practice squad? Is there someone else you think has an edge? Feel free to vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Which Steelers "sleeper" has the best chance to make the 53-man roster in 2020?
This poll is closed
TE Dax Raymond
WR Saeed Blacknall
DE Calvin Taylor
LB Leo Lewis
CB Trajan Bandy
CB/S Curtis Riley