Pittsburgh Steelers

Assessing Every Steelers UDFA's Chances of Making the Final Roster

Curt PopejoyContributor IMay 22, 2014

Assessing Every Steelers UDFA's Chances of Making the Final Roster

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Most NFL teams have wrapped their first round of rookie minicamps at this point. The Pittsburgh Steelers had theirs, and the nine undrafted free agents they signed right after the draft have had their first chance to impress coaches and hopefully making positive steps toward the NFL goal.

    Obviously, when it comes to a player all 32 teams passed on over the course of 256 picks, it is clear that making the final roster is going to be a daunting task. Oftentimes, the key to an UDFA making the roster is getting on a team with a need at their position, and an excellent scheme fit.

    Some of the UDFAs the Steelers signed fall well into these categories. No one should be shocked if three of these young men make the final roster and two or three more find their way to the practice squad. Nevertheless, realistically, what are the chances of any of these players making the team? Read on and find out.

Chris Elkins, G, Youngstown State

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Pittsburgh recognized prior to the draft that it must bring in offensive linemen en mass if it wants to improve the situation from 2013. To say that the depth of this unit was challenged would be an understatement.

    On a more positive note, most of the players pressed into duty did pretty well. However, if Pittsburgh can add talent among the backups, it must do so. The question is, would Youngstown State guard Chris Elkins fall into that category?

    On the surface, Elkins looks and plays a lot like Cody Wallace. Both are 6’4” and 300 pounds, with a real nasty streak to their games. Wallace is 29, while Elkins is only 21. There are really two ways to look at that. Adding youth that is a similar talent level is a good thing, but for offensive linemen, 29 isn’t old at all.

    With all the other linemen on this roster vying for three or four backup spots, Elkins is going to have to do something pretty spectacular to beat out any of these incumbents.

    Chances of making the team: Slim (less than 25 percent)

Ethan Hemer, DE, Wisconsin

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Steelers are always on the hunt for the next great 3-4 defensive end. Some of the best in this franchise’s history didn’t require a high draft pick to acquire. The key to finding one is to look for the physical type to play the 5-technique and a motor that won’t quit. Oftentimes, the best plays a big-bodied defensive end can make are by sheer force of will, not outstanding athleticism.

    Wisconsin’s Ethan Hemer has one of those characteristics down, but it’s the other that will keep him off the roster. Hemer has a long, fit frame with excellent size. At 6’6” and 285 pounds, he falls right into that ideal height/weight window the Steelers defensive coaches covet.

    The problem is, Hemer fell out of the draft primarily because his effort on film is nowhere near where it should be. The Steelers are always on the lookout for the next Brett Keisel or Aaron Smith, but Hemer is going to have a hard time getting to that point.

    Chances of making the team: Slim (less than 25 percent)

Kaycee Ike, OL, UAB

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Everything that applied to Elkins’ situation on this team can apply to UAB offensive tackle Kaycee Ike as well. During his time at UAB, Ike displayed a power game that lends itself to a team that wants to run the football. Similar to how the Oklahoma Sooners use their tackles, UAB employed a strong tackle and a quick tackle.

    Ike was the strong tackle his final two seasons at UAB, and he didn’t allow a sack his senior year. It’s clear why the Steelers wanted to give Ike and his power game a closer look. At 6’5” and 293 pounds, Ike has the build of an NFL guard, and that could be his long-term future.

    But can he a guard for the Steelers? Possibly, but it wont’ be easy. With fellow rookies Wesley Johnson and Will Simmons also on the roster, Ike has some serious competition. Pittsburgh will likely keep three or four backups to start the year. Ike’s best bet could be to prove he can play guard or tackle.

    Chances of making the team: Slim (less than 25 percent)

Howard Jones, DE, Shepherd

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The NFL has become a league that covets athleticism. So, when a player like Shepherd defensive end Howard Jones comes along, you take notice. The 6’4”, 238-pound edge-rushing specialist really opened eyes at the NFL scouting combine with these numbers: 

    • 40-yard dash: 4.60 seconds
    • Vertical Jump: 40.5 inches
    • Broad Jump: 124 inches
    • Three-Cone drill: 7.16 seconds

    All of these times were top among all defensive ends at the combine. Nevertheless, even with all that, Jones didn’t have enough film to warrant a draft pick. This could turn out to be a real steal for Pittsburgh.

    The Steelers have a ton of linebackers on the roster, but none of them are as athletic as Jones. His future in the short run could be as an ace on special teams, while he learns the subtleties of being a pass-rushing outside linebacker. But looking at a player like Jason Worilds or James Harrison, who took a few years to get going, Jones is well worth the weight.

    Chances of making the team: Pretty solid (better than 50 percent)

Brendon Kay, QB, Cincinnati

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Sometimes, a free agent is signed after the draft simply to play a role. Unfortunately, that is the case for Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay. On a team with a solid three-deep at quarterback, there’s really no place for a project like Kay.

    That’s not to say he isn’t a good football player. In fact, he’s a ton of fun to watch. His senior season at Cincinnati, Kay threw for 3,302 yards and 22 touchdowns. He is a true dual-threat quarterback, who can beat you with his feet when needed. Unfortunately, on the spectrum of dual-threat quarterbacks, he’s more Jordan Lynch than the is Johnny Manziel.

    Kay’s best shot to make this team is that he has a phenomenal preseason and there is some sort of catastrophic injury to one of the top quarterbacks on the roster. You get the picture: His odds are long to make this team. 

    Chances of making the team: Almost none (less than 10 percent)

Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    After losing two defensive ends in free agency, there was no doubt that the Steelers would be taking an active role in replacing them. After using a second-round pick on Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburgh absolutely stole Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro as an undrafted free agent.

    Honestly, there is no excuse for a player like Mauro to not be drafted. He’s got the ideal physical build, excellent resume and that motor the position mandates. The Steelers have a lot of defensive linemen on the roster, but Mauro is already among the best.

    Mauro’s chief competition for the roster as a rotational player are a bunch of young players who weren’t able to get any reps in 2013. They might have a year of experience in the system, but players like Nicholas Williams and Brian Arnfelt just don’t bring the skill set that Mauro does.

    Chances of making the team: Really solid (better than 50 percent)

Roy Philon, DT, Louisville

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Sometimes, it is hard to come up with an interesting angle about an undrafted free agent. As interesting as this group has been, Louisville defensive tackle Roy Philon isn’t part of that story.

    Philon is a pretty prototypical nose tackle prospect at 6’3” and 291 pounds. However, he needs to pack some serious beef on to anchor the middle against NFL-caliber talent. Philon is an almost completely unremarkable player in all facets of the game.

    Having said all that, this is a team that is desperate for a starting nose tackle, so anything is possible. Nevertheless, with Steve McLendon and Cam Thomas as veterans and rookie Daniel McCullers, there’s really no place for Philon.

    Chances of making the team: Almost none (less than 10 percent)

Will Simmons, G, East Carolina

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Pittsburgh found itself a serious slab of beef in East Carolina guard Will Simmons. Simmons checks in at a Hodor-esque 6’5” and 345 pounds. However, Simmons is not a lumbering mass like the Game of Thrones hero. In fact, to look at him compared to the other massive lineman on the roster, Mike Adams, Simmons is downright athletic.

    Simmons came from an East Carolina team that threw the football all over the field, and the film shows Simmons is very sound in pass protection. Finding a man this big who is also nimble enough to pass-block like he can is a good thing for this line.

    The biggest thing that could hurt Simmons is that the Steelers drafted Vanderbilt tackle Wesley Johnson in the fifth round, and other than being lighter, Johnson does everything else much better.

    Chances of making the team: Slim (less than 25 percent)

Eric Waters, TE, Missouri

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    The Steelers are desperate to add more athletes on offense. They drafted running back Dri Archer, who was the fastest player in the draft. Their wide receivers are explosive and fast. It is clear that Pittsburgh wants to transition away from the plodding, power-style football.

    Next up on the agenda is the tight end spot. No, this doesn’t mean Heath Miller is in any fear of losing his job. Miller is a Steelers icon and will be the starter as long as he is able.

    That doesn’t mean the Pittsburgh coaches don’t want to add more athleticism to the tight end depth chart. This desire had to be the impetus for Pittsburgh signing Missouri tight end Eric Waters.

    If you are looking for the film of Waters showcasing his elite athleticism on the field, you might have a hard time. Waters is definitely more athlete than football player at this point, but the potential is there. As a slot tight end, Waters would be a matchup nightmare. But is that potential enough to keep him on the roster?

    Chances of making the team: Straight up (50 percent)

     

    All team data courtesy of the official Steelers website.

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