The Steelers signed veteran receiver Johnny Holton on Monday and gave contracts to five players who participated in the team’s rookie minicamp.
Holton was waived by the Eagles last week after spending his first three seasons with the Raiders. Even though Holton, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati in 2016, hasn’t yet received an opportunity to put up numbers, but the Steelers may see his size and speed as reason to give him a shot.
In three pro seasons, he made 11 catches for 252 yards and started one game. He also had six carries for 43 yards. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver out of Cincinnati was clocked at 22.23 miles per hour on a play in Week 7 of the 2016 season, says 247 Sports.
The Steelers also offered contracts to five players that took part in rookie minicamp over the weekend: defensive tackle Greg Gilmore, quarterback Devlin Hodges, defensive end Henry Mondeaux, offensive tackle Damian Prince and linebacker Tuzar Skipper.
Gilmore, a 6-foot-4, 311-pound, first-year player out of LSU, spent training camp with the Steelers in 2018 after going undrafted. He was cut on September 1, and signed with the Memphis Express of the AAF, where had six tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery, before re-joining the Steelers this spring.
Hodges, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound undrafted rookie from Samford passed for over 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior season with the Bulldogs, won the Walter Peyton Award for most outstanding FCS player and was a three-time FCS All-American.
Mondeaux, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound first-year player, is on his third NFL team after going undrafted out of Oregon. He spent 2018 with New Orleans during training camp and spent time on the Saints’ practice squad, but signed a futures contract with the Kansas City Chiefs before being released on May 3.
Prince was the opposite bookend to Steelers seventh-round pick Derwin Gray at Maryland. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound lineman was a three-year starter for the Terps at right tackle.
Skipper is a 6-foot-3, 246-pound outside linebacker that is making the transition after playing defensive end at Toledo. As a senior in 2018, he made 60 tackles, 11.5 for a loss and had 8.5 sacks to lead the Rockets. He was fourth in the Mid-American Conference in sacks, trailing leader Sutton Smith of NIU, one of the Steelers sixth-round draft picks.
To make room on the 90-man roster, the Steelers released linebacker Keion Adams, defensive end Jay Hayes, defensive tackle Chris Nelson, offensive lineman R.J. Prince, quarterback Brogan Roback and wide receiver Ka’Raun White.
Adams was the Steelers seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He spent 2017 on the injured reserve and the 2018 season on the practice squad. Hayes and Nelson joined the team as undrafted free agents after the 2019 draft.
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.
Steelers Sign CB Stephen Denmark, TEs Charles Jones, Dax Raymond to Future Contracts
The Steelers signed four players to future contracts for the 2021 season on Thursday, including former Washington first-round pick, quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The team also announced the singings of defensive back Stephen Denmark and tight ends Charles Jones and Dax Raymond on Thursday afternoon.
Denmark, 24, was a seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2019 NFL Draft and spent the last two seasons with Chicago and the Cleveland Browns. He was released from Chicago’s practice squad on Oct. 5, signed to Cleveland’s on Nov. 10 and then cut by the Browns on Dec. 1.
A 6-foot-3, 220-pound cornerback from Valdosta (Ga.) State, Denmark has never played in an NFL game. At Valdosta State, he moved from wide receiver to defense in his senior season, when he played 14 games and recorded 55 tackles, eight for a loss, had one sacks, three interceptions, 12 passes defended and forced one fumble as Valdosta went on to win the NCAA Division II championship.
Former Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend, now Chicago’s secondary coach, scouted Denmark for the Bears.
Jones finished the 2020 season on the Steelers’ practice squad. He originally signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane in 2019 and spent most of his rookie season on practice squad.
In 2020, he was waived by the Jaguars with an injury settlement. He spent three days on the Buffalo Bills practice squad before catching on with the Steelers on Nov. 17.
Jones has appeared in four career NFL games, all in 2019 with Jacksonville. He has one catch on one target for five yards and also played 10 snaps of special teams without recording any statistics. At Tulane, Jones caught 61 passes for 460 yards and eight touchdowns over four seasons, but his productivity declined in his junior and senior seasons.
Raymond will join the Steelers for a second stint. He signed with the team late in training camp after being released by the Chicago Bears, but was injured and waived with an injury settlement before the start of the season.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end originally signed with the Bears as an undrafted rookie out of Utah State in 2019. He suffered a head injury in Chicago’s fourth preseason game and he was placed on the injured reserve, then later waived with an injury settlement and re-signed to Chicago’s practice squad. He finished the 2019 preseason with three catches for 22 yards.
At Utah State, Raymond was a two-year starter, grabbing 72 balls for 873 yards and three touchdowns in his career. He was a two-time All-Mountain West selection.