The 2020 season was unique in a lot of ways. Whether it be the empty stadiums, games moves or delayed and players going on the Reserve/COVID-19 List almost weekly. It was different, but an aspect of the 2020 season which might get overlooked were the inflated practice squads for all 32 NFL teams.
When the NFL and NFLPA came to terms on a one year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for 2020, they agreed to increase the practice squad size, as well as alter the rules for promoting these players to the active roster, to help accommodate players who will miss time due to the ongoing pandemic.
With the season over for all but four franchises, teams will begin to sign players to Reserve/Future contracts, and sometimes they allow players to go test the waters elsewhere. In many cases this is done in good faith, allowing players to get a better shot with another team.
With that said, the Steelers made some minor roster moves late Monday, but these moves were still significant in many ways. The first move they made was officially taking cornerback Joe Haden off the Reserve/COVID-19 List. On top of that move was letting the practice squad of five players expire.
This per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic:
The Steelers activated Joe Haden from the Covid-19 list and let the contracts of practice squad players Duck Hodges, Deon Cain, Wendell Smallwood, Matthew Wright and Charles Jones expire.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) January 19, 2021
The five players who will be looking for a fresh start elsewhere are:
QB Devlin Hodges
WR Deon Cain
RB Wendell Smallwood
K Matthew Wright
TE Charles Jones
Some notable names on that list. Obviously, Devlin “Duck” Hodges was the big name everyone will remember when he filled in at quarterback as a rookie for injured Mason Rudolph, but fans shouldn’t forget the Steelers acquiring Cain from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad midseason in 2019 to help their ailing wide receiver corps. Kicker Matthew Wright filled in admirably for Chris Boswell on three occasions during 2020, and will almost certainly earn himself a shot at legitimately starting for an NFL team in 2021.
Could these players still return to Pittsburgh? Absolutely. If they look around, and don’t find anything, the Steelers could always bring them back on a Reserve/Future contract and keep them in house for the 2021 offseason.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.