The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly signed their third-round selection, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith to his four-year rookie deal, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
Highsmith is the first member of the Steelers’ 2020 draft class to sign.
A former walk-on, Highsmith started 25 games over his final two season with the Charlotte 49ers, 12 in 2018 and 13 last year. His 2019 campaign proved to be one for the record books.
Highsmith recorded 75 total tackles, 21.5 tackles-for-loss and 15 sacks as a senior — the third-most in the nation. He capped off his monster season earned third-team All-American honors, the first Charlotte player ever to do so.
With the uncertainty regarding outside linebacker Bud Dupree’s future in Pittsburgh, the Steelers have high hopes for Highsmith that he can learn quickly and contribute early at a much cheaper price.
Teams had been delaying their rookie signings because of COVID-19 restrictions, preventing them from conducting physicals with their newest draft picks. With Steelers rookies expected to arrive at the team facility over the next few days, the team is expected to sign their remaining five selections soon.
Steelers Place Samuels, Washington on COVID-19 List, Release 8
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels and wide receiver James Washington have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced Sunday.
This brings the team total to four players on the reserve/COVID-19. Pittsburgh placed defensive backs Justin Layne and Arrion Springs on the list last week.
The team also announced the release of eight players on Sunday. Quarterback J.T. Barrett, running back Ralph Webb, returner Quadree Henderson, offensive lineman Christian Montano, long snapper Christian Kuntz, defensive end Dewayne Hendrix, safety Tyree Kinnel and defensive end Josiah Coatney were all waived. Henderson and Hendrix were former standouts at Pitt, while Kuntz played his college ball at Duquesne.
The reserve/COVID-19 designation was created for players who have either tested positive for the virus, or have been in close contact with an infected individual. Players can be removed from the list once they have been medically cleared. There is no limit to the amount of players a club can place on the list.
A second-round pick in 2018 out of Oklahoma State, Washington is coming off a productive sophomore season that saw him catch 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns. He played in 15 games last year, starting ten.
Selected in the fifth round of the same draft out of NC State, Samuels has turned into a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield, snagging 47 receptions for 305 yards and a score in 2019. He also carried the ball 66 times for 175 yards and a touchdown.
While they are not the first Steelers to receive the designation, Samuels and Washington are definitely more crucial to the team’s immediate plans than Layne and Springs. Getting them healthy and back on the field will be paramount, as the Steelers look to improve on their disastrous offensive output from a year ago with the return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger.
Steelers Expected to Sign former Raiders S Curtis Riley
The Steelers are expected to sign safety Curtis Riley, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Rapoport said that Riley took a physical with the team on Thursday. Riley was not on the NFL transaction report for Thursday.
A 28-year-old native of White Plains, New York, Riley spent the 2019 season with the Oakland Raiders. The 6-foot, 190-pound free safety appeared in all 16 games for Oakland and started three, making 34 tackles, two for a loss, one forced fumble and one pass defended.
Entering his sixth season out of Fresno State, Riley was with the New York Giants in 2018, starting all 16 games and intercepting four passes. Before that, he was with Tennessee from 2015-17 after signing with the Titans as an undrafted free agent.
In his five-year career, Riley has played in 43 games and made 19 starts. He’s recorded 121 tackles, two for a loss, five interceptions, eight passes defended and a forced fumble.
He’ll be joining a Steelers defensive backfield that is searching for improved depth behind starters Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. The Steelers return backups Marcus Allen and Jordan Dangerfield and also drafted Maryland’s Antoine Brooks Jr. in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
They have a roster spot open after placing second-year cornerback Justin Layne on the COVID-19 Reserve List on Wednesday.
Steeler Place CB Justin Layne on COVID-19 Reserve List
The Steelers have placed cornerback Justin Layne on the COVID-19 Reserve List, the team announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Layne, 22, was the Steelers’ third-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and played in 10 games as the team’s No. 4 outside cornerback as a rookie in 2019, making three total tackles on the season.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Michigan State alum should be slated to move up the pecking order behind starters Joe Haden and Steven Nelson this season after the departure of Artie Burns in free agency.
Layne’s inclusion on the COVID-19 Reserve List does not necessarily mean that he has tested positive for the virus. The list was create for players that have either teste positive or who are being quarantined after being in close contact with a know positive case. The team must, per league policy, place players in those categories on the COVID-19 Reserve List, but are not permitted to disclose which category the player is in.
Players are subject to medical clearance before returning from the list. There is no maximum number of players that can be placed on the list. Steelers veteran began reporting to Heinz Field for testing on Tuesday.
Layne is the second Steelers player to be placed on the COVID-19 Reserve List, joining fellow defensive back Arrion Springs. Their roster now stands at 89 players.