The Steelers have released wide receiver Diontae Spencer and offered him a spot on the practice squad, according to a report by Farhan Lalji of TSN.
Spencer, 27, joined the Steelers in January on a reserve/futures contract after spending the last four seasons with the Ottawa Redblacks and Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
The receiver and return specialist played in all four of the Steelers’ preseason games, making four catches for 39 yards and two carries for 48 yards.
If Spencer clears waivers and accepts his practice squad invitation, he will join defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux, who the Steelers also hope to add to the practice squad. The team can add up to 11 players after final cuts and waivers.
Spencer is the 12th player to be released by the Steelers since the end of the preseason, joining guard Derwin Gray, tight end/long snapper Trevor Wood, cornerbacks Marcelis Branch and Jhavonte Dean , defensive linemen Mondeaux and Casey Sayles, outside linebackers Jay Elliott and Sutton Smith, wide receiver Brandon Reilly, tight end Kevin Rader and running back Malik Williams.
The Steelers’ roster now stands at 79 players. They must get down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Report: Steelers Restructure Contract of DL Cam Heyward
The Steelers have restructured the contract of veteran defensive lineman Cam Heyward, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Heyward is entering the first season of a four-year, $71.4 million contact extension that he signed last September.
His contract calls for a $4.5 million salary and a $6 million roster bonus for the 2021 season, along with $4.05 million of prorated signing bonus for a total salary cap hit of $14.55 million.
With a full restructure, all of Heyward’s roster bonus and his salary for 2021, save for the $1.075 veteran minimum, will be converted into a signing bonus, paid out now and spread out of the four years of the contract for salary cap purposes.
That will make Heyward’s salary cap hit for 2021 $7.481 million, a savings of nearly $7 million.
Heyward is one of only a couple players the Steelers can restructure this offseason, along with fellow defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt and kicker Chris Bowell. The team is not expected to be able to get under the salary cap with restructures alone, and releasing or extending players may also be required.
Heyward, 31, started 15 games for the Steelers in 2020, recording 54 tackles, seven for a loss and four sacks. He also had 19 quarterback hits, three passes defended and an interception.
After the season, Heyward was named second-team Associated Press NFL All-Pro, the third time in his career he’s been named an All-Pro player. He was also selected to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl, the fourth straight season he was elected to play in that game.
Steelers Sign OT Aviante Collins to Future Contract
The Steelers have signed free agent tackle Aviante Collins to a future contract for the 2021 season, the team announced on Tuesday.
Collins, 27, visited with the Steelers on Jan. 22. He spent the last four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings after joining that team as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2017.
Collins played in three games in 2017 and two in 2019 for the Vikings, and spent all of the 2020 season on the practice squad, except for a one-week elevation in Week 11, in which he did not play.
The 6-foot-4, 292-pound tackle its a free agent after the Vikings decided to allow his practice squad contract to expire at the end of the season.
The Steelers have several free agents at the tackle position, including longtime starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, 2019 starting right tackle Matt Feiler and 2020 starting right tackle Zach Banner and backup Jerald Hawkins.
The Steelers have 2020 starting right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor under contract and Anthony Coyle, Jarron Jones, John Leglue and Brandon Walton signed to futures contract.
Former Steelers QB Devlin Hodges Signs with LA Rams
Former Steelers starting quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges has signed a future contract with the Los Angeles Rams for the 2021 season, he announced on Twitter on Sunday.
— Devlin Hodges (@DevlinHodges10) January 24, 2021
Hodges signed with the Steelers in 2019 on a rookie camp tryout out of Samford. He earned a contract at rookie camp and impressed in training camp, causing the team to feel comfortable trading third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville.
After injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph, Hodges was pushing into service, playing in eight games and starting six for the team in 2019.
Hodges threw for 1,063 yards while completing 62.5% of his passes. He threw for five touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 71.4 quarterback rating. The Steelers went 3-3 in games Hodges started.
After the Steelers re-acquired Josh Dobbs in the 2020 offseason, Hodges was bumped to fourth on the team’s depth chart and was not activated at any point during the 2020 season.
The Steelers replaced Hodges by signing former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins to a reserve/future contract last week.
Hodges, wide receiver Deon Cain, running back Wendell Smallwood and kicker Matthew Wright were the only four players that finished the season on the Steelers’ practice squad that were not retained by the team.