The Steelers signed inside linebacker Tegray Scales to their 53-man roster, waived guard Derwin Gray and elevated kicker Matthew Roster from the practice squad to their active roster for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, the team announced on Saturday.
Scales has been elevated from the practice squad to the active roster for each of the team’s last two games due to a significant number of absences at the inside linebacker position.
A 6-foot, 227-pound Indiana alum in his third professional season, Scales was with Pittsburgh in training camp in 2019 and the team added him to the practice squad this season on Nov. 11. He has also spent time with the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This promotion to the active roster is a permanent one.
Scales played in 13 snaps over the last two games, all on special teams, while the Steelers played without starters Devin Bush (injured reserve, knee) and Vince Williams (COVID-19 reserve list) and backup Robert Spillane (injured reserve, knee). Backups Marcus Allen (out, stinger) and Ulysees Gilbert III (injured reserve, ankle) were injured at Cincinnati on Monday.
Williams was activated from the COVID-19 reserve list and is expected to start alongside Avery Williamson. Scales will be the only other available inside linebacker.
Wright will be elevated from the practice squad for the second time this season. A second-year pro out of UCF, he spent 2019 in training camp with the Steelers, but was released after training camp. He was signed to the Steelers Practice squad on Dec. 1 and was promoted to the active roster for the Steelers’ Dec. 8 game against Washington, which starter Chris Boswell missed with a hip injury.
Wright went 2 for 2 on extra points and made a 37-yard field goal, but head coach Mike Tomlin was unwilling to let him attempt what would have been a tie-breaking 45-yard field goal in the game’s final minutes. Wright will revert to the practice squad after Sunday’s game without having to clear waivers.
Boswell will not play on Sunday after suffering a groin injury in practice this week. He was limited on Thursday and did not practice on Friday.
Gray played extensively in the Steelers’ Week 15 loss to the Buffalo Bills while starter Matt Feiler (injured reserve, pectoral) and backup Kevin Dotson (shoulder) were out. Gray platooned with J.C. Hassenauer at left guard and drew praise from Benny Snell Jr. for his run blocking. Dotson is expected to return from his injury and start on Sunday against the Colts.
The Steelers’ seventh-round pick out of Maryland in 2019, Gray spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad and started the 2020 season there, as well, but was elevated to the active roster on Sept. 18. He played in five games this season, twice strictly on special teams and twice in mop-up duty before seeing more extensive action on Monday in Cincinnati.
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.
Former Steelers Kicker Matthew Wright Sings with Detroit Lions
Steelers practice squad kicker Matthew Wright has signed with the Detroit Lions for the 2021 season.
Wright, who was one of four practice squad players whose contracts the Steelers allowed to expire, signed a reserve/future contract with the Lions on Friday.
Wright played in three games for the Steelers in 2020, filling in for Chris Boswell, who was injured on two separate occasions. He made 7 of 7 extra points and 4 of 4 field goals, but struggled with his depth on kickoffs.
The Steelers initially signed Wright as a rookie free agent out of UCF in 2019, but he was released at the end of training camp. They did not bring him back for training camp this season, but signed him to the practice squad on Dec. 8 after a few consecutive weeks of tryouts, as an insurance policy for Boswell.
The Lions could have a vacancy this season at kicker as 36-year-old Matt Prater is a free agent and coming off his worst season in over a decade. Prater made 21 of 28 field goals for a 75% conversion rate, his worst since 2008. All of Prater’s misses were from over 40 yards.
Steelers TE Vance McDonald Retires
Steelers tight end Vance McDonald will retire after eight NFL seasons, the team announced on Friday.
McDonald, 30, spent the last four seasons with the Steelers as the team’s primary starting tight end.
“My family and I are so grateful for everything NFL football has provided us in our life — all the memories both good and the difficult, the relationships and friends we’ve made along the way, the life lessons the game provided both me and my loved ones,” McDonald said in a team press release. “It’s always been our dream and mission to leverage the platform given us through the NFL to help serve and uplift others along the way, and we will continue to find ways to serve others as we begin this next chapter of our lives. I am proud to retire a Steeler.”
Since joining the team in a trade from San Francisco before the 2017 season, McDonald started 47 games in Pittsburgh, catching 117 passes for 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns.
McDonald will finish his eight-year career with 2,036 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns after being selected by the 49ers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Rice.
In 2020, McDonald had yielded significant playing time to Eric Ebron at tight end, playing less than 50% of the team’s offensive snaps when healthy for the first time with the Steelers. Ebron played in 69.7% of the team’s offensive snaps compared to 44% for McDonald.
McDonald was a likely salary cap casualty as the Steelers entered the offseason an estimated $35 million over the cap. His retirement will save the team $5.2 million in cap obligations for 2021 before replacement. The Steelers will carry a $2.7 million dead cap hit this season to pay off a 2020 contract restructuring.
This season, McDonald was recognized for his work in the community as the Steelers’ nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.