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Grayland Arnold Brings Much Needed Experience and Versatility to a Thin Secondary



Steelers Grayland Arnold

While the Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with a pretty sizable hole in the secondary, they did little outside of the DeShon Elliot and Cameron Sutton signings to “improve” the secondary. One veteran player that they signed could be a sleeper option when it comes to filling in that gapping hole. That player is hybrid defensive back Grayland Arnold.

Arnold has spent time in Philadelphia and Houston before landing in Pittsburgh. While he is listed as a safety, Arnold played a majority of his snaps as a slot cornerback last season. Arnold said that he does not know what his role is exactly in Pittsburgh but said whatever position that the puts him at, he will be more than ready to play it.

“Truthfully, I can see myself as a safety-nickel guy, a defensive back in general,” Arnold told reporters in June. “I am just here for football so if that is outside corner, or inside, or at safety, that is fine with me.”

His versatility is what helped him shine while at Baylor and he stated that due to his ability to play multiple spots has helped him stay in the league as long as he has. Entering his fifth season, Arnold is now one of the “older” guys but at only 26 years old, he can stick around in this league as a hybrid defensive back for years to come.

“[Versatility] helps a lot,” Arnold said. “Obviously, there is a lot on my plate but it definitely helps, it helps with the longevity. Me just being able to make it to year five, it helped a lot. Just being able to show that versatility and me just being a football player, it is a big plus.”

Another thing, well in this case person, that helped him at Baylor was his head coach Matt Rhule. While at Baylor, Arnold said that Rhule helped him fall in love with football and helped him understand the intricacies of the game.

“Luckily, I was blessed with a really good coach like Matt Rhule,” Arnold said. “He is a really good coach, he always keeps the main thing as the main thing. Focus on football. It helped me a lot when Rhule got there, I learned a lot of football.”

One of the main reasons that Arnold is enjoying his time in Pittsburgh is because he sees the same type of leader in his new head coach Mike Tomlin.

“Mike Tomlin is one of the coaches where you don’t even got to question if he loves the game,” Arnold said. “You can see it in his face, you can see it in his walk, you can see it when he is at practice or in a meeting. He just loves this in general. It makes it even better when you can see it in your coach, it makes you want to play for him.”

While he is now in a comfortable situation with the Steelers, Arnold is entering an entire new defensive system. While some guys would need time to learn the playbook, Arnold is not worried about the learning curve and said it is similar to previous stops of his.

“With time, you start to realize that football is just football,” Arnold said. “It is just different calls when you go to different places. Some organizations have very similar schemes and things like that. I feel like it is not too hard, you just got to dial in and it just got to be something that you really want to do.”

Arnold’s versatility coupled with the lack of reinforcements acquired, he is a strong candidate to not only make the team’s final roster but he is a strong candidate to earn a decent amount of playing time in the secondary in 2024. With his experience in the slot and a possible league-imposed suspension coming for cornerback Cameron Sutton, Arnold may even end up as the Steelers starting slot in Atlanta in September.

35 • Grayland Arnold, Safety, Baylor
5-foot-10, 190 pounds, 26 years old, 5th Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Grayland Arnold as a free agent on June 4, 2024. Arnold spent the last three seasons as a member of the Houston Texans.

Last SeasonArnold nearly signed with the Steelers last season and even verbally agreed to a contract but a last-minute effort by the Texans kept him in Houston. Arnold played in eight games last season with a majority of his snaps coming in the slot. He played a career-high 143 defensive snaps in 2023 and posted a career-high in tackles with 13.

Arnold filled in a a depth piece in the Texans’ secondary and played well. His play earned him a 71.4 grade from PFF.

Pittsburgh Steelers DB Grayland Arnold

Philadelphia Eagles safety Grayland Arnold in a game against the Washington Football Team at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 3rd, 2021 (All-Pro Reels Photography)

CareerAfter going undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Grayland Arnold as a priority free agent, giving him a three-year deal. Arnold appeared in six games as a rookie and logged 82 defensive snaps but spent most of his time on the practice squad.

Prior to the 2021 season, the Eagles waived Arnold and he was picked up by the Texans and placed on their practice squad. He would spend the next three seasons in Houston and appeared in 20 games for the Texans.

In total, Arnold has saw action in 26 career games and recorded one start. He has tallied 24 total tackles and defended one pass.

Year Team GP DEF Snaps Tackles INTs PBUs PFF Rating
2020 PHI 6 82 9 0 1 45.6
2021 HOU 4 3 0 0 0 61.0
2022 HOU 8 0 2 0 0
2023 HOU 8 143 13 0 0 71.4

CollegeComing out of high school, Grayland Arnold was a two-ways star. He committed to Baylor to play defensive back. As a true freshman, Arnold played in 11 games and recorded four starts. In his 11 appearances, Arnold logged 20 tackles, two for a loss and four passes defended.

In 2017, Arnold started all nine games that he appeared in as he missed three due to an injury. He racked up 35 tackles, three tackles for a loss, eight defended passes and his first collegiate interception.

As a junior, Arnold played in just four games as his season was cut short due to an injury. Since he played in just four games as a junior, Arnold received a medical redshirt for the 2018 season.

As a redshirt junior, Arnold started 11 of his 13 appearances and had a career year. He totaled 46 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, eight pass breakups and six interceptions. He also returned a punt for a touchdown in 2019. Arnold’s play earned him second-team All-Big 12 honors following the season.

With one season of eligibility left, Arnold declared for the NFL Draft and was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

Arnold finished his collegiate career with 37 games played, 107 combined tackles, 20 pass breakups and seven interceptions.

2016 11 20 2 0 4
2017 9 35 3 1 8
2018 4 6 0 0 0
2019 13 46 2.5 6 8

Salary cap and future: Grayland Arnold signed a one-year deal with the Steelers and will cost the veteran minimum during the 2024 season. If Arnold plays out the entire contract in Pittsburgh, he will earn $1.125 million but with none of it being guaranteed, the Steelers could release him at any point and face no dead money penalty.

Due to him being on a veteran minimum, as long as he is on the roster, Arnold only costs $985,000 against the Steelers 2024 cap space.

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