PITTSBURGH — An NFL practice squad is typically made up of young players still attempting to find their way into the league, impressing the coaches in a practice setting and using their time with the team to grow as players, mentally and physically.
According to the NFL rules that were scheduled to go into affect before the 2020 season, practice squads can contain just two players with more than three years of league experience.
Those rules weren’t actually implemented, though, because NFL teams wanted more roster flexibility in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic last season. Those pandemic-influenced rule changes are back for 2021, so team can I have any number of veteran players on their 16-man practice quads.
Furthermore, those players can all be elevated to the active roster, up to two on any given week, and return to the practice squad without needing to clear waivers.
Other than needing to clear waivers to get to the practice squad and the amount of money the players make, there isn’t really a lot of difference between the active 53-man roster and the practice squad this season.
The Steelers seem to be taking advantage of that situation by signing a number of veteran players to the practice squad on Wednesday.
Former Raiders first-round draft pick Karl Joseph, ex-Washington wide receiver Steven Sims, longtime Steelers running backs Trey Edmunds and Jaylen Samuels and veteran offensive lineman Chaz Green all joined the Steelers’ practice squad with multiple seasons of NFL service time.
Joseph was a player the Steelers actually pursued in free agency before he signed with the Raiders this spring and has played 63 NFL games. Sims have 575 yards over two seasons as a regular in Washington. Samuels is on his fourth season with the Steelers and has 459 rushing yards. Green has played in 37 games and has made eight starts.
That’s a ton of experience to lean on if the Steelers need to call a player up to the active roster on a game day.
The rest of the Steelers’ squad is more typical, with rookie free agents Daniel Archibong, Rico Bussey, Mark Gilbert, and Donovan Stiner joined by somewhat more experienced young players John Leglue, Christian Miller, Malcolm Pridgeon, Kevin Rader, Derrek Tuszka and Cody White.