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21 undrafted free agents the Steelers should consider signing

Steelers should consider signing these undrafted gems.

TCU v West Virginia Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Immediately after the draft concludes, there is quite the flurry of action every year, as the undrafted free agent signing period begins. Players whom NFL teams regarded highly, but not enough to draft above other players, will be signed almost exclusively within a three-hour period following the draft.

Here are some of the top players on our BTSC Big Board that I think the Steelers should attempt to bring in, now that the draft has concluded.

1. Bryce Ford-Wheaton | WR | West Virginia | 6‘3“, 220 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 12, Rec 62, Yds 675, TD 7.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 3rd

Andrew Wilbar: Bryce Ford-Wheaton is my favorite receiver nobody is talking about. You can complain about the drops all you want to, but at the end of the day, the quarterback play was putrid. Yes, some of the drops were easy catches that should have been made, and I am not dismissing that area of his game and considering it polished. However, the inconsistency at quarterback was evident in just about every game, which forced BFW to constantly readjust. I do believe this was part of the problem, and it is fair to assume it will be less of an issue in the NFL. As it pertains to the rest of his game, how could you not fall in love with the player? This man has been gifted with incredible athletic traits, from speed, to size, to physicality, and much more. Even his route-running is impressive for a receiver his size. He runs his routes with correct depth, and he can change direction relatively quickly, which is not normal for a 6’4”, 222 pound receiver with 4.38 speed. He has the ceiling of former Steeler Martavis Bryant athletically, and his off-the-field resume is much better than Bryant’s. If he is there in Round 4, the Steelers should run their card to the podium.

2. McClendon Curtis | G | Chattanooga | 6’6”, 328 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 11.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 4th

Andrew Wilbar: Just one year ago, we saw a Chattanooga lineman taken in Round 1 of the draft in Cole Strange. After a strong rookie campaign from Strange, the bar has been set high for his former teammate, who is likely to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft. Curtis is a semi-athletic guard with outstanding length and exceptional hand usage. What I appreciate about his game is his awareness. Whenever freed up, he is always assisting other linemen and seeing who he can help out. He also has a sky-high ceiling as a run blocker if he can learn to keep the pads low and strengthen his upper half. Best case scenario, he is a more athletic version of former Steelers lineman Ramon Foster. He isn’t the flashiest player, but he will get the job done consistently.

3. Thomas Incoom | EDGE | Central Michigan | 6‘4”, 260 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 57, TFL 19, S 11.5, PD 0, FR 2, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 4th

Andrew Wilbar: If you want a guy who doesn’t mess around with his work, Incoom is who you are looking for. A true breakout player in 2022, Incoom developed into one of the best MAC defenders, recording 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Converting speed to power is his true calling card, although he is capable of winning with finesse as well. Unfortunately, there is a difference between being able to do something and proving it on a consistent basis. Incoom has more twitchiness than people think, but his technique is so poor that his physical abilities do not always shine through against tough competition. I love Incoom’s potential and could see him taken on Day 2, but do not expect much from him in Year 1.

4. Steven Gilmore | CB | Marshall | 6’2”, 169 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 13, T 41, TFL .5, S 0, Int 3, PD 10.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: The brother of NFL star Stephon Gilmore, Steven is an undersized cornerback prospect (5’9”, 174 lbs) with the speed, ball skills, and bloodlines worthy of enticing *any* NFL franchise. Likely destined for the slot in the NFL, Gilmore does not provide ideal arm length and strength for the outside. Despite that, Gilmore displays a feistiness that I love. His hips are fluid and quick when changing direction, and his hand usage is impressive downfield, having an aggressive mindset and gameplan but not being overaggressive and called for penalties. Having said that, he is never going to be an extremely physical player at his size. Overall, I see Gilmore as an early Day 3 prospect with starting potential in a nickel role.

5. Jason Brownlee | WR | Southern Miss | 6‘2“, 198 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 13, Rec 55, Yds 891, TD 8.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 4th

Andrew Wilbar: Brownlee will get overlooked because of his poor 40 time, but this guy plays with heart, and he’s more athletic than you are probably giving him credit for. Brownlee did run a 4.59 in the 40 at the combine, but everything else from the workout was positive. Not only did he record 16 reps on the bench, a 39.5” vertical, and a 131” broad jump, but he also looked extremely fluid in drills, displaying great footwork and reliable hands. His route-running still needs a bit of improvement, but he is a fluid mover on the field, and he does display good body control in traffic. This aids in his ability to win contested catches, which makes up for his inability to create separation at the end of his routes. At the end of the day, it is unfair to expect Brownlee to ever be a WR1 in the NFL. However, with his competitiveness, toughness, and work ethic, he could become a valuable WR2. He just lacks the versatility to move around in the formation, as he is almost exclusively an outside receiver.

6. Trevor Nowaske | ILB | Saginaw Valley State | 6‘3”, 235 lbs

2022 stats: GP 11, T 98, TFL 9.5, S 1, Int 4, PD 7, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: Nowaske was often aligned in an outside linebacker role in college, but I project him as an inside ‘backer at the next level. With the athleticism to cover many receivers, Nowaske has the versatility to line up just about anywhere. His aggressiveness allows him to fearlessly get into passing lanes and make plays on the ball in coverage. He also puts great force into his tackles, driving defenders to the ground when his tackling angles are clean. The big concern I have is that he second-guesses himself in coverage on occasion. He has good instincts as to where he needs to be as the play unfolds, but his backpedal is not the cleanest, and he lacks the field awareness needed to maintain proper spacing relative to both his zone and the nearest receiving entity. That aspect will likely improve as he gains experience (and settles in on one position), but it is something worth keeping an eye on moving forward. Overall, I like Nowaske’s nose for the football and would consider him a steal in the later rounds. The upside is tremendously high long-term, and his experience on special teams will allow him to contribute immediately.

7. Mohamoud Diabate | ILB | Utah | 6‘3”, 227 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 58, TFL 13.5, S 5, Int 0, PD 1, FR 0, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Noah_E: Diabate’s tape leaves much to be desired. There’s no denying he’s an elite athlete with great instincts. He has the versatility to line up or off the ball and uses his quickness to get to the quarterback. Diabate is also a big hitter that often brings guys down behind the line of scrimmage. His ability to find the ball is fantastic and he has a knack for slipping through gaps to make the tackle. However, he lacks the fluidity to consistently run sideline-to-sideline and has trouble taking on blockers. He often takes bad angles in run support and hasn’t proved he can stick in coverage. He plays upright and lacks explosiveness at times. His athleticism and natural feel for the game make him a solid prospect, but if he can’t cover or be a reliable run defender, I’m afraid he could fizzle out very quickly.

8. Joey Fisher | OT | Shepherd | 6’5”, 322 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 8.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: An athletic lineman with a strong base, Fisher was a complete unknown before the NFLPA Bowl. After multiple impressive reps, Jim Nagy was impressed and gave him a last-second invite to the Senior Bowl. Although he was unable to participate due to a hand injury, it gave him an opportunity to meet with NFL teams and further make known his name and relevancy as a prospect. Fisher was a three-year starter at right tackle at Shepherd, but he is versatile and athletic enough to play just about anywhere along the offensive line. Fisher’s motor is always going at 100 percent, as evidenced by the way he plays through the whistle and finishes his blocks. I think the biggest testament to his dedication, however, was his decision to remain at Shepherd despite opportunities to transfer to bigger schools. He is a high-character prospect who could carve out an impressive NFL career, but the big unknown is the lack of competition he faced. That is what will keep him from going any higher than Day 3.

9. Ben VanSumeren | ILB | Michigan State | 6‘3”, 240 lbs

2022 stats: GP 11, T 81, TFL 3, S 2, Int 0, PD 2, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: VanSumeren is an interesting prospect with a background unlike any other in this linebacker class. He started his career as a fullback at the University of Michigan before converting to linebacker. One year after the position change, VanSumeren up and left Michigan only to transfer to their in-state rival, Michigan State. After being used minimally in 2021, VanSumeren was a huge part of the Spartans defense this past fall, displaying good open-field tackling ability as well as the fluidity and range to keep up with most skill players in coverage, regardless of position. What put himself on the map, however, was his incredible pro day workout, which included a 4.4 40-yard dash, 29 bench reps, a 42 ½” vertical, and a 131” broad jump. Ben is not a playmaker who has been able to shift the momentum of games with splash plays, nor has he been able to display a good closing burst as an open-field tackler. He also gets out-leveraged from time to time due to poor technique, making it look as if he doesn’t play as big as even his average size would suggest. That is probably the biggest concern as he heads to the NFL. Nonetheless, with a player as athletically gifted as VanSumeren, I cannot blame any team who takes a stab at him on Day 3. The potential makes it well worth it.

10. Andre Carter II | EDGE | Army | 6‘7”, 265 lbs

20221 stats: GP 10, T 41, TFL 7.5, S 3.5, PD 2, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 3rd

Jeremy: Carter is one of the most difficult evaluations in this EDGE class. An absolute monster physically, his presence alone forced opposing offenses to adjust their protections and run schemes to account for him. Carter is surprisingly bendy for a 6’7” rusher, but he does struggle to gain leverage over opposing blockers. As a result, Carter has to win with quickness and good hands, which he can do. He makes for an imposing run defender as well, although he can get pushed around a little bit by aggressive blockers with a lower base. Some team will fall in love with Carter’s physical attributes, but he’s a raw prospect in need of serious refinement in order to take advantage of his natural athleticism.

11. Starling Thomas V | CB | UAB | 6’0”, 195 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 13, T 30, TFL 1, S 0, Int 0, PD 15.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: Thomas may not have put up big interception numbers in 2022, but he sure got his hands on a lot of balls in 2023, deflecting 15 passes and blanketing opponents’ number one receiving options. At 5’10”, 190 pounds, Thomas could play on the outside if need be, but he projects best as a slot corner in a balanced defensive scheme. Thomas can play in both man and zone, as his read-and-react quickness and his open-field tackling prowess allow him to fit just about any scheme. Unfortunately, he is not a finished product. Despite all the speed and potential Thomas brings to the table, his game is incredibly unrefined, especially as it pertains to footwork and hip fluidity. Give him a year on the practice squad or as an exclusive special teamer, and the reward may be felt for the next decade.

12. Anthony Kendall | CB | Baldwin-Wallace | 5’10”, 180 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 10, T 56, TFL 4, S 1, Int 3, PD 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: This dude loves lowering the BOOM on opponents! One of the most recurring themes on Kendall’s tape is simply lighting up opposing receivers, and he does it unapologetically. He is also one of the better open-field tacklers in this class, although the lack of competition may have made him look better than he truly is. Nonetheless, he put on a show at his pro day, running a 4.44 in the 40, putting up 20 reps on the bench, jumping 39.5” in the vertical, leaping 133” in the broad jump, and recording a 7.01 in the 3-cone drill. If he was a little thicker, I would recommend moving him to safety, as his play style reminds me a little of Antoine Winfield, Jr. coming out of college. There are only six Division III players in the NFL, but Kendall could easily become number seven.

13. Ty Okada | S | Montana State | 5’11”, 200 lbs

2022 Stats:
Wilbar’s grade: Mid 5th

14. Shedrick Jackson | Auburn | 6‘2“, 196 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 12, Rec 16, Yds 217, TD 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Early 5th

Andrew Wilbar: Jackson may not have the production of some of these other receivers, but his combination of solid size and elite speed are difficult to contain. The poor quarterback play at Auburn likely had a part in his lack of production, but recording only 1 career interception is definitely concerning. He does not run the most diverse route tree, but he is wise beyond his ears in that he knows when to come back to the football to make a catch. His speed is off the charts, and he is typically sure-handed. Ultimately, his success in the NFL will be determined by how much his route-running and physicality can improve. He has all the tools you could ever ask for.

15. Matt Landers | WR | Arkansas | 6‘5“, 200 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 13, Rec 47, Yds 901, TD 8.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: The long, lanky Matt Landers is a true vertical threat with size to win in the red zone. Running a 4.37 40 at the combine, Landers proved his top-end speed, which has been his calling card throughout his collegiate career. That is further proven by his nearly 20 yards per reception. While his physicality coming off the line is lacking, he finds a way to make catches at poor angles and with poor positioning. However, adding more physicality would prevent him from being rerouted so often, and it is something he will need to do before obtaining success in the NFL. Regardless, the reason his stock is this low is not due to a lack of physicality, but rather due to too many drops on tape. If he can fix the hands issue, he will be a great Z receiver and deep threat.

16. Jerrod Clark | DT | Coastal Carolina | 6‘4”, 340 lbs

2022 stats: T 12, S 3.5, FF 0, INT 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 6th

17. Emari Demercado | RB | TCU | 5’11”, 207 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 15, Att 121, Yds 681, Ave 5.6, TD 6, Rec 13, Yds 134, TD 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 6th

18. Trevor Reid | OT | Louisville | 6’5”, 307 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 11.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 6th

19. Trevor Downing | C | Iowa State

20. Lindsey Scott, Jr. | QB | Incarnate Word | 5’11”, 212 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 12, 322 COMP, 454 ATT, 4686 YDS, 60 TD, 8 INT
Wilbar’s Grade: 7th

21. Tashawn Manning | G | Kentucky | 6’4”, 335 lbs

2022 Stats: GP 12.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 6th

Adam C: Manning jumps off the film immediately with his power and nastiness in both the pass and the run game. He plays aggressively, is tough and strong and can take on even the largest nose tackles and dominate. He has consistent hand placement and always looks for work in pass protection. However, as great as some of his tape is, he is a limited athlete, good first step quickness but longer pulls or climbing to the second level is an issue. Also, shorter than average arm length coupled with aggression leads to overreaches and lunging, losing balance and getting beaten quickly. He either dominates or is a liability. As a raw prospect, with limited athleticism, it will be difficult for him to fix all these issues to become a starter in the league, but he has the ability to become a good backup in a run-heavy offense.