Day one of training camp is upon us, and there will be plenty of interesting story lines to follow. One of the more underrated aspects of camp this year will be the crop of undrafted free agents the Steelers have brought in. There could be as many as four players who not only make the team, but actually make an impact this upcoming season.
1. Quadree Henderson – WR – Pittsburgh: Henderson made his name in college by being an excellent punt and kick returner. That alone gives him an edge on making the team given the struggles Pittsburgh has had in that area. There are plenty of bodies competing for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spot, but none who could be considered a lock. How Henderson does as a receiver could go a long way in helping him make the team. His chances took s bit of a hit with the resigning of Eli Rogers yesterday.
2. Greg Gilmore – DE – LSU: Seems every season we wait for someone to bounce Dan McCullers off the roster. Year after year though Big Dan somehow finds his way back onto the 53. Once again this season he has some competition for the last defensive line spot. Seventh round pick Joshua Frazier and Gilmore will both be competing to dethrone McCullers. Gilmore was a bit of a disappointment at LSU after being a 5-star recruit out of high school. He did however, have a good senior season with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. Gilmore may have finally put it all together just in time to make an NFL roster.
3. Olasunkanmi Adeniyi – OLB – Toledo: This is not a name I look forward to typing for years to come, but I just may have to. Let’s face it, the competition for the fourth outside linebacker spot is well…..weak. We have Keion Adams (Last year’s 7th round pick), Farrington Huguenin (a former undrafted free agent), and Adeniyi. Barring a late acquisition that’s your 2018 backup outside linebacker candidates…..oof. Adeniyi is already getting comparisons to another former undrafted free agent in James Harrison. Besides having very similar body types, and wearing the number 92 in camp, he does profile as a similar late bloomer. It remains to be seen whether or not he can produce anywhere near the level of Harrison though. Adeniyi did have 8.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss at small school Toledo last season. This team is in dire need of a lucky break at outside linebacker, maybe this is the one.
4. Matthew Thomas – ILB – Florida St.: You think the battle for the 4th outside linebacker is thin, whoa I have news for you. Inside linebacker may be the weakest it’s ever been in Steelers history. Definitely in the Cowher/Tomlin 3-4 era. Enter Matthew Thomas, a very talented but very troubled college prospect. On paper he may have the best physical tools of any inside linebacker on the roster. There is a reason such a gifted player like this went undrafted. Injuries, suspensions, and academic ineligibility all were signs of an immature football player. With all that behind him, Thomas certainly doesn’t lack confidence going into training camp. He has already claimed to be the answer to replace the injured Ryan Shazier. With such a weak class of linebackers ahead of him, the only thing standing in the way of a starting spot would be himself.