3 Steelers practice squad moves that were surprising, and 2 that weren’t
The Pittsburgh Steelers finalized their 16-man practice squad to start the 2023 NFL season on Saturday by signing the final three empty spots. While the squad could just as likely see an overhaul tomorrow as it would remain constant for the next week, there are some things of note in the Steelers first edition of the unit.
While there were some moves many fans expected which really didn’t make sense for the Steelers to do, there were others that were surprising that the Steelers either did or didn’t go in a certain direction. Here are five moves from the Steelers initial 2023 practice squad that some may have expected. Of the moves, three of them were surprise while two of them would have been in the surprising category if the Steelers had gone in that direction.
No Tre Norwood
After the Steelers selected Tre Norwood in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL draft, not only did he make the roster but was on the field for the first snap of his first game therefore officially being a starter. Appearing in 17 games his rookie season and 15 in 2022, Norwood had six starts in two years where he had four passes defensed and 61 combined tackles. Norwood’s interception is noteworthy because it allowed Ben Roethlisberger to take a knee for his final snap at Heinz field in 2021.
Unfortunately for Norwood, his chances of making the 53 man roster for the third season with the Steelers were dashed mainly due to injury during the preseason. Norwood only saw 19 defensive snaps, all in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons. While it wasn’t surprising Norwood did not make the roster, he seemed to be a likely candidate to land on the Steelers practice squad if he cleared waivers. Not only did Norwood go unclaimed, he has yet to sign on any NFL practice squad at this time.
No Braden Mann
When the Steelers chose to keep two punters on their initial 53-man roster, most Steelers fans and media believed it was because they were trade negotiations going on for the Steelers to ship out Mann, most likely to the Philadelphia Eagles. But with a tight punting competition throughout the preseason, there were some who believed that keeping one of the two punters on the practice squad was a good idea. For some of those people, they felt that holding onto Mann for an extra day gave him the better chance to land back with the Steelers. But unless your punter is shaky or potentially injured, using a practice squad position to back up a punter who has secured his job is not a wise use of one of the 16 spots.
No inside linebacker
When making my final prediction for the Steelers 53-man roster, I had the Steelers keeping five inside linebackers on the 53. But the Steelers parted ways with Tanner Muse early in the cut down period and the linebacker/safety hybrid who is more of a special teams player was claimed on waivers. Even so, Nick Kwiatkowski was kept on the Steelers roster until the very final cut. Even with his availability, or any other inside linebacker not on an NFL roster, the Steelers chose to go with only four players with no additional personnel giving support on the practice squad. At the linebacker position overall, looking at both inside and outside, the Steelers only have nine players between the 53-man roster and practice squad. For now, this seems pretty thin going into the upcoming season so eventually adding another player to the practice squad is not out of the question.
Why does it seem like every training camp people get convinced that the Steelers fourth quarterback is going on the practice squad? It happened last year with Chris Oladokun and this year with Tanner Morgan. Even the Steelers media bring this up as a possibility. But can someone tell me when the last time was the Steelers kept a fourth quarterback on the practice squad outside of bringing in a particular player to emulate a specific quarterback in practice? I can’t think of it off the top of my head. This is why the entire notion of having a fourth quarterback on the practice squad just wasn’t going to fly, especially when the third quarterback will be lucky to get any kind of reps during the week of practice.
Three running backs
I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to put for this final spot: keeping three running backs or keeping three cornerbacks. I went with the running backs because the Steelers have doubled their total on the roster simply by using the practice squad. The Steelers now have six total running backs, and that’s not counting Connor Heyward at the position. Even though one of the three on the practice squad is a fullback, it just seems like they are an awful lot of players dedicated to this position when they could be allocated somewhere else.
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