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Steelers All 90: TE Rodney Williams Believes His Time Is Coming

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Steelers TE Rodney Williams

The Pittsburgh Steelers brought in Rodney Williams at the start of the 2022 season as a depth tight end and after one season on the team’s practice squad, the UT-Martin product is likely fighting for a spot on the practice squad once again. With the late-season emergence of Connor Heyward and the drafting of Darnell Washington, Williams finds himself behind four other tight ends on the roster.

That is not stopping the second-year tight end from improving and growing as a player. He stated that with a season on the practice squad and a full offseason as a part of the Steelers organization, he is able to see the game at a different level.

“It’s much smoother [this year,]” said Williams. “I’m able to line up and play faster, able to execute so I think it is showing on the field as well. I’m able to make more plays now and hopefully that continues in camp and I am able to stay here another year.”

The Steelers tight end coach Alfredo Roberts noticed the improvements in Williams’ game and continued to give the second-year player love in regard to his play in the spring and summer. Williams talked about how good that felt but knows that there is still work to be done.

“It’s great to see your hard work come to fruition and [Coach Roberts] emphasized the details a lot,” said Williams. “Taking the drills to the field is what I am working on [now.]”

Since joining the Steelers, Williams earned the nickname “Hot Rod” from his fellow tight ends and stated what he believes a “hot rod” does on the football field.

“A ‘hot rod’ on the football runs past people, makes plays, just does his assignment and gives effort and energy,” said Williams.

Williams’ journey to the NFL is a unique one as he played at an FCS school and started out his collegiate career as a wide receiver. Williams did not play tight end until his fifth year of college football but his production skyrocketed when he made the position change. The thing that Williams displayed in his time as a Skyhawk was the virtue of patience and stated that to stay in the NFL he will need to be patient with his game.

“Just patience and continuing to work hard no matter the circumstance,” said Williams. “Just never giving up. I feel like eventually my time to do what I want to do will come so I just keep my head down and keep working.”

As a former wide receiver, Williams described his game as one that is able to stretch the field due to his speed.

“I see myself as one of those tight ends that can stretch the field more,” said Williams. “I like to catch the intermediate too but I definitely feel like my speed is my best asset.”

Regardless, Williams is stuck in a logjammed tight end room and is likely the odd-man out in regard to a roster spot. Williams’ best chance to stay in Pittsburgh is to earn a spot on the team’s practice squad in 2023.

While it is likely that he ends up on the practice squad due to his familiarity with the team, there is no guarantee that Williams is a part of the Steelers organization come Week 1 due to the level of depth at not only tight end but every other position on the roster. He will be in competition with players on both sides of the ball for a spot on the Steelers’ 2023 practice squad.

87 • Rodney Williams, Tight End, UT-Martin
6-foot-4, 235 pounds, 25 years old, 2nd Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Williams to the team’s practice squad on Sept. 13, 2022, following his release by the Denver Broncos.

Last SeasonAfter going undrafted in the 2022 NFL Draft, Williams signed an undrafted free-agent deal with the Denver Broncos. He stayed with the Broncos through training camp but the ream released him prior to the season. The Steelers signed Williams to their practice squad after Week 1 of 2022.

Williams stayed on the Steelers’ practice squad through the end of the season and re-signed with the team this offseason.

Steelers Rodney Williams

Steelers tight end Rodney Williams catches a pass in practice.

Year GP Targets Receptions Yards AVG TDs PFF Rating
2022 0 0 0 0 0 0

CollegeAfter graduating from Germantown High School, Williams decided to continue his football career at UT Martin, an FCS school. As a freshamn in 2016, Williams played in eight games at wide receiver and on special teams. He recorded four receptions for 78 yards on the season.

In 2017, Williams appeared in 10 games for the Skyhawks at wide receiver and caught four passes for 32 yards. As a junior, Williams enjoyed his best season as a wide receiver. He hauled in 23 receptions for 252 yards as he averaged 11 yards per catch.

Williams played in four games and started three of them at wide reciver. Then, Williams suffered a season-ending injury but was granted a redshirt due to his limited action.

Prior to his redshirt senior season, Williams converted to tight end and immediately made a huge impact for the Skyhawks. In 2020, Williams played in all seven games and recorded his best collegiate season to that point. He finished the season with 30 receptions for 327 yards and a career-high four receiving touchdowns. Following the season, Williams earned All-OVC second-team honors and was considered an FCS All-American.

In his final season as a Skyhawk, Williams started all 13 games at tight end and tallied 29 receptions for 417 yards, and three touchdowns. He earned second-team All-OVC honors for the second consecutive season in 2021.

Over his six total seasons at UT Martin, Williams appeared in 53 games for the Skyhawks, including 20 at tight end. He finished his collegiate career with 99 receptions, 1,217 receiving yards, and seven receiving touchdowns.

Year GP Position Receptions Yards AVG TDs
2016 8 WR 4 78 19.5 0
2017 10 WR 4 32 8.0 0
2018 11 WR 23 252 11.0 0
2019 4 WR 9 111 12.3 0
2020 7 TE 30 327 10.9 4
2021 13 TE 29 417 14.4 3

Salary cap and future: Williams re-signed with the Steelers on a one-year deal this offseason. If he makes the team, Williams will cost $750,000 against the Steelers’ 2023 cap space. The Steelers can release him and not incur any dead money in 2023.

Williams is signed with the team through the end of this season when he will become an exclusive-rights free agent.

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