PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are carrying 75 players on their roster as they enter the 2021 NFL Draft, and that’s a good bit more than they usually have at this time of year, but that has come with good reason.
The team will add eight draft picks to that mix, but is expecting there to be a minimal number of undrafted free agents available after the draft.
General manager Kevin Colbert said that because the NCAA granted an additional season of eligibility to every player from 2020, whether they played or not, that many players that project to be undrafted free agents instead chose to return to school.
“It probably cut in half the players that will be available to us to sign as free agents after the draft,” Colbert said. “I want to say it went from 800 to 400, with that not being the actual numbers.”
As a result of the reduced number of available players and COVID-19 protocols, NFL teams will be limited to five tryout players at rookie minicamps following the draft.
That’s caused the Steelers to be active in adding a type of player NFL teams don’t typically pursue. In addition to signing a bunch of players to reserve/future contracts after the end of the season and a number of NFL free agents starting in March, the Steelers have signed some players that had been unsigned since 2020 that were working out at their school’s pro days for 2021 prospects.
“Anticipating we would have less guys to sign after the draft, we were conscious of that when we were at pro days, and maybe the one-year vet guy that worked out, we signed five or so players from that venue just to try to keep us as current as we could be in anticipation of not being able to sign as many guys after the draft,” Colbert said.
The Steelers signed former Eastern Michigan wide receiver Mathew Sexton, Georgia wide receiver Tyler Simmons, Kentucky defensive tackle TJ Carter and Notre Dame defensive end Jamir Jones, all of which were eligible to be drafted in 2020, but not selected, and most of which have spent little or not time with other NFL teams.