The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a tough 2018 season and an even more difficult offseason which saw them lose All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and now have legitimate competition for the AFC North crown from both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. The Steelers have had their issues with drafting recently, and some of their selections are now in danger of not making the team. Here are five players who could be cut before the season begins.
5. RB Trey Edmunds
The oldest of the three NFL Edmunds siblings, Trey went undrafted in 2017 and was active for four games in 2018, recording no stats. With Jaylen Samuels entrenched as the backup behind starter James Conner, Edmunds will compete with fourth-round pick Benny Snell Jr. for the last RB spot, but Snell’s draft status makes it very difficult to see Edmunds making the team.
4. OT Jerald Hawkins
A fourth-round selection in 2016, Hawkins has missed all by five games to this point in his career. Pittsburgh traded starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals, so there is a spot open on the line. If Hawkins can stay healthy, he will have a chance to take it, but he will also have plenty of competition. Matt Feiler started 10 games in 2018, and Derwin Gray (seventh) and Chukwuma Okorafor (third) are recent draft picks. Another injury could possibly end Hawkins’ time with the Steelers.
3. WR Eli Rogers
Rogers caught 48 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns in 2016, but since then has been targeted only 50 times. Despite his low usage, he is still a solid player, but that won’t guarantee him a spot on the roster. At 5’10” 187lbs, he is almost exclusively a slot receiver, and is redundant with Ryan Switzer, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson. Rogers doesn’t give the team anything that they don’t already have, and could very well be cut, although he would almost certainly be picked up quickly by another organization.
2. LB Tyler Matakevich
A tackling machine at Temple, Matakevich has been almost exclusively a special teams player in the NFL because of a lack of athleticism. Pittsburgh signed Mark Barron in free agency and then drafted Devin Bush Jr., Ulysses Gilbert, and Sutton Smith. That’s four new players added to a position group that already includes Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Vince Williams, and Anthony Chickillo as locks. There just isn’t any room for Matakevich, as his special teams impact can be replaced by the rookies.
1. CB Artie Burns
The 25th overall pick in 2016, Burns has failed to live up to his draft status, and started only six games in 2018. The Steelers weren’t comfortable wit their cornerback room, and first signed former Kansas City Chief Steven Nelson to a $25.5 million deal before stealing Michigan State’s Justin Layne in the third round. Burns will be competing with Cameron Sutton for the fifth CB spot, and could conceivably lose that battle.
Pittsburgh has already declined his fifth-year option, so this will most likely be his last season with the team, if he makes it to September. The team would take on $1.5 million in dead cap for this season by cutting him, but they would also save the same amount. The Steelers are right up against the salary cap, so saving any money would be a positive. They certainly wouldn’t miss Burns much, if at all.