The Steelers have released linebacker and long snapper Christian Kuntz, according to his agent.
Kuntz, a Duquesne and Chartiers Valley alum, joined the Steelers late in training camp to push starting long snapper Kameron Canaday and provide depth at outside linebacker, where the team had a run of injuries.
The 25-year-old played in the team’s final three preseason games, recording five tackles and a sack in the preseason finale against Carolina on Thursday night.
Kuntz is the 14th player to be released by the Steelers since the end of the preseason, joining guard Derwin Gray, center Patrick Morris, tight end/long snapper Trevor Wood, cornerbacks Marcelis Branch and Jhavonte Dean , defensive linemen Mondeaux and Casey Sayles, outside linebackers Jay Elliott and Sutton Smith, wide receivers Brandon Reilly and Spencer, tight end Kevin Rader and running back Malik Williams.
The Steelers also traded tackle Jerald Hawkins to Tampa Bay.
The team’s roster now stands at 76 players. They must get down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday.
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.