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Steelers Sign Veteran RB after Rookie Camp Tryout

The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed former Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Ward.

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Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jonathan Ward
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Ward during rookie minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on May 10, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers are signing one addition player for the start of OTAs on Tuesday, as the team has agreed to a contract with veteran running back Jonathan Ward, according to a report by Aaron Wilson of KPRC-TV.

Ward had been one of several veteran players on tryouts at Steelers rookie minicamp May 10-11 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and he stood out in a good way, knocking over running backs coach Eddie Faulkner in a pass protection drill.

Ward is a 6-foot, 202-pound running back rom Kankakee, Illinois. A Central Michigan alum, he started his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2022. Ward played in 14 games as a rookie, mostly on special teams, and then another 13 games in Arizona in 2021, when he saw his first real offensive action, rushing for 33 yards on nine carries and catching three of four targets for 34 yards.

In 2022, Ward played five games with Arizona, all on special teams, before a hamstring injury forced him to the injured reserve list. He was then released, and spent some time on the New York Jets practice squad before catching on with the Tennessee Titans.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jonathan Ward

Tennessee Titans running back Jonathan ward (33) is stopped by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (95) in the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

With Tennessee, Ward played in three games in 2022 rushing five times for 25 yards and catching two of three passes for seven yards while again playing a significant role on special teams. He bounced between the Titans practice squad and active roster in 2023, playing in seven games, again mostly on special teams. He totaled just 11 yards on three carries while on offense.

“The older you are, the less time you have in the league,” Ward said at Steelers rookie camp. “At the same time, it’s just football. Coming out and sharing the gems that I’ve picked up over the years with the younger guys, it’s just a blessing. And that also gives me an advantage too because you get a little bit of a player and a coach in the same aspect.”

The Steelers have little depth behind their top three running backs, as Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren and Cordarrelle Patterson seem locked into place. Behind them, first-year back Aaron Shampklin out of Harvard and undrafted free agent Daijun Edwards out of Georgia represent the rest of the competition for Ward for a roster spot.

Ward is the second player to sign with the team following the end of rookie camp. The club also added veteran cornerback Anthony Averrett.

The team’s offseason roster is at 89 of the maximum 90 players, though the club has a roster exemption for international linebacker Julius Welschof, which will permit them to carry 91 players this summer.