Monday afternoon was just the beginning of what promises to be as hectic a week in the National Football League as we’ve ever seen. With the four-month lockout finally over, business is back open across the league. On Tuesday morning, free agency will begin in earnest, but on Monday afternoon, clubs were allowed to begin talking to undrafted free agent rookies. The Steelers, long known for their penchant at finding talented UDFAs, wasted little time acquiring two players — TE Weslye Saunders out of South Carolina, and NT Anthony Gray from Southern Mississippi.
What to take of the signings? Well, nothing necessarily, as it’s common place for the Steelers and other teams to load up on guys that were bypassed in the draft. The lion’s share won’t make it out of camp, but there’s always a handful of young, lesser-known talents that impress in Latrobe and the preseason to make the squad.
At tight end, the Steelers may be about to lose Matt Spaeth to free agency. Spaeth, a fourth-round selection in 2007, will be an unrestricted free agent that might sign elsewhere. If so, Saunders might be able to compete for the third TE job with Eugene Bright.
As for Gray, obviously the Steelers are quite old at nose tackle. Both Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke are well into their thirties. Ra’Shon Harris and Ziggy Hood might be able to play some nose tackle, but really there’s very little depth at the position. Perhaps the Steelers feel strongly in Gray’s ability to marinate for a year or two on the practice squad under defensive line coach John Mitchell, and then be ready to hopefully contribute in a few years time.
We’ll see. These young men certainly face an uphill battle, but the Steelers are never reluctant to give opportunities to UDFAs that prove they belong when the pads go on at camp. Good luck to them, and thank goodness we have football transactions to discuss.
Stay tuned here and at Behind the Steel Curtain for all your Steelers free agency updates and analysis throughout the week.