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The mysterious case of the Steelers missing UDFA

Just because a player agrees to terms doesn’t mean they have signed a contract.

Iowa State v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

NFL players know they should not take anything for granted. Someone could be the hottest commodity one moment and fall off the proverbial cliff in a matter of weeks. With contracts not being fully guaranteed, players take advantage of the opportunities they have to play in the National Football League for as long as they can.

But sometimes they don’t.

The lack of guarantee also works the other way around. Sometimes a team thinks a player will be joining their roster only for something to change. This is what happened with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tyson Alualu in 2021 when he originally agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Instead, Alualu changed his mind and signed back with the Steelers.

The Steelers appear to be on the other end of the spectrum of a situation like this, but the coverage of everything is extremely lacking. In fact, most people don’t know exactly what happened between the Steelers and 2023 Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) center Trevor Downing out of Iowa State.

The day following the 2023 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced hey had come to terms with seven UDFAs. But when rookie minicamp rolled around, the Steelers announced the signing of six players instead of seven. Trevor Downing was missing.

When writing the article about the Steelers signing six players, I mentioned there were several possibilities when I came to Downing. First, he simply could have chosen not to go the route of the NFL as Downing was believed to be someone who was prepared to begin a career in farming. Another possibility was the Iowa State commencement ceremonies were the same weekend as Steelers rookie minicamp. But no announcement from Steelers was made in regards to Downing.

When the Steelers tweaked their 90 man offseason roster earlier this week, they signed two players and released one bringing the total to 90. But when looking at (OTC), they have the Steelers with 91 players under contract as they still have Trevor Downing on the books. OTC has Downing in the system for the league minimum $750k and with a $1,500 signing bonus. But Downing never signed a contract and is not on the Steelers official roster.

I tried to dig deep and find out what happened with Trevor Dowling. After doing a UDFAs breakdown of him just a head of rookie minicamp, I thiught he had a chance to stick around even if it was the practice squad. Additionally, The Athletic named Downing the Steelers best UDFA fit. But any report on the situation with Downing was nowhere to be seen.

Finally, I came across a very short article (only two sentences) in the Creston News Advertiser, which is a newspaper from Creston, Iowa. In an article dated May 4, 2023, more than a week before the Steelers rookie minicamp was set to begin, the Creston News Advertiser reported that Trevor Downing had declined the offer from the Steelers. There was no description as for the reasoning or Downing’s plans for the future. All that was stated was he simply wasn’t accepting the offer from the Steelers.

For a brief moment, Trevor Downing was going to have a chance to make an NFL roster. For reasons that are only speculation at this time, Downing chose not to take that path. In whatever he chooses to do in life, I wish Trevor Downing the best wherever his path may lead him.