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Steelers’ Cody White: Elite camp body or Cinderella story?

Who is this guy anyway?

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Training camp is a great time for evaluating new players and there’s a ton of information even for fans, who are eager to snap up whatever morsels of information can be gleaned from media reports about what the players and coaches are up to. There are plenty of great headlines being created by well-known players like WRs George Pickens, or even TE Darnell Washington... but one quiet story is the consistent involvement of Cody White.

If you’re looking for big, sensational news, this isn’t it, but if you’re interested in the back of the roster and practice squad candidates, it doesn’t get much more interesting than Cody White.

Mike Tomlin always talks about making routine plays routinely, and fans who pay close attention to training camp reports have gotten used to routinely seeing White’s name in connection to that kind of plays. Now in his third training camp with the Steelers since joining the team’s practice squad in 2020, White hasn’t made many of the kind of splash plays that earn headlines but has been a consistent chain mover and one of the most heavily targeted receivers in camp.

Nobody talks about Cody White, but somehow his name keeps getting brought up while people are talking about others. Trubisky had a nice pass to Cody White, or Joey Porter made a nice recovery to break up a pass intended for Cody White. So who is this guy? Why does he always seem to be there in the background? And does he have a chance to make it into the foreground?

Cody White: The prospect

If you’re a Michigan State Spartans fan you probably already know who White is. White set a record there for receiving yards by a true freshman and followed it up by leading the team in receiving each of the next two years (despite missing substantial time due to injury in his sophomore season).

With size reminiscent of Juju Smith-Schuster at 6’3, 217, and similarly good hands he fit the bill of a consistent chain mover, and clearly hadn’t yet reached his full potential as he improved each year in college. A lack of overall quickness and bad 4.66 forty time at the combine didn’t help his stock going into the draft, though, and he was ultimately signed by the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 draft. He would go on to get cut by the Chiefs, as well as the Giants and Broncos, before eventually signing onto the Steelers practice squad.

Cody White: The pro

White actually did make the jump to the active roster already in 2021, catching 5 passes for 33 yards on 6 targets in the six games he was used, adding 4 tackles on special teams. He actually got a start in 2022, his only appearance of the season, where he hauled in 1 reception for 2 yards on his only target. Not exactly setting the league on fire.

The emergence of an undrafted free agent wide receiver isn’t unknown in the NFL; Wes Welker, Doug Baldwin, Lance Moore, Miles Austin, Malcolm Floyd, Danny Amendola, and Victor Cruz were all UDFA’s who went on to become impact players. It’s even happened with the Steelers before with Nate Washington.

Most of those guys didn’t take several years to catch on (although Amendola and Moore definitely took time to get there), and realistically White is a long way from earning a mention alongside guys like Welker and Baldwin. It shows, though, that UDFA wide receivers aren’t necessarily doomed to failure, and White could realistically earn a spot at the back of the roster, and potentially even contribute.