Steelers Rumors

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/2/20

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

New York Giants

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers To Sign S Curtis Riley

The Steelers will add to their secondary. They are signing former Giants starter Curtis Riley, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Riley spent 2019 with the Raiders, starting three games, but his most notable NFL work came with the Giants. He started 16 games for Big Blue in 2018. Riley, 28, began his career with the Titans in 2016.

This addition is likely for depth purposes. The Steelers return starters Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. They also have 2018 fifth-round pick Marcus Allen on their roster and drafted Antoine Brooks in this year’s sixth round.

A Fresno State product, Riley played in 16 Raider games last season. Pro Football Focus tabbed 2019 as Riley’s best work, though he played only 275 defensive snaps. Teams will be eyeing increased veteran depth for what will be an unusual season, making Riley a sensible addition. He will become the most experienced member of Pittsburgh’s safety group.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Sign RB Wendell Smallwood

The Steelers have signed running back Wendell Smallwood, per a club announcement. Smallwood, at the time of this writing, is the seventh running back on the club’s roster.

Amidst a flurry of opt outs around the league, Smallwood is enlisting himself to play in 2020. It’s possible that the Steelers are simply looking into new backfield options in advance of camp, but it’s also possible that the Steelers are bracing for more opt outs. Starter James Conner – who found his way back to the game after a battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – will in fact play this year, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). The status of the club’s other RBs remains to be seen.

Smallwood, who spent his early NFL seasons with the Eagles, joined Washington last year. In 15 games, he registered 22 carries for 81 yards, good for a 3.7 yards per tote average.

15 NFL Players Land On NFL’s Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Dolphins, Browns, Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Cowboys and Buccaneers have placed players on the newly created reserve/COVID-19 list. Here’s the full rundown, per the league’s transactions wire:

Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The reserve/COVID-19 designation is for players who have tested positive for the coronavirus or are in quarantine for potential exposure. In turn, these players are removed from the roster and allowed to return after three weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 7/23/20

Here are Thursday’s draft pick agreements, with the list being updated throughout the day.

  • The Vikings picked an interesting year to make 15 draft choices, given the pandemic’s impact on developmental work. But the team is nearly finished with rookie contract agreements. Minnesota signed third-round cornerback Cameron Dantzler (Mississippi State), fourth-round defensive end D.J. Wonnum (South Carolina), fifth-round corner Harrison Hand (Temple), fifth-round wideout K.J. Osborn (Miami), sixth-round tackle Blake Brandel (Oregon State), sixth-round safety Josh Metellus (Michigan), seventh-round defensive end Kenny Willekes (Michigan State) and seventh-round safety Brian Cole (Mississippi State). Minnesota lost Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander this offseason and tripled up on corners in the draft. First-round corner Jeff Gladney is the Vikes’ lone unsigned pick.
  • Top 2020 Steelers pick Chase Claypool, a second-rounder, is now under contract. The Steelers have their latest Day 2 wide receiver investment signed, along with Round 6 safety Antoine Brooks (Maryland). Claypool’s addition means the top four Pittsburgh wideouts — JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson and Claypool — came from the second or third rounds. The Notre Dame product has quite the SPARQ profile, going 6-foot-4, 238 pounds and running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the Combine.
  • Washington wrapped up its 2020 draft class by signing Round 4 tackle Saahdiq Charles, Round 5 linebacker Khaleke Hudson, Round 6 safety Kamren Curl and Round 7 defensive end James Smith-Williams.
  • The Bengals signed one of Claypool’s former Fighting Irish teammates, fifth-round defensive end Khalid Kareem. He is the first of Cincinnati’s seven 2020 picks to agree to terms.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 7/22/20

Here are the latest draft pick signings. With rookies set to report to teams’ training camps this week, teams are busy on this front.

  • The Vikings were the busiest team in the draft, making 15 picks this year. They have been active signing them Wednesday. Beyond first-rounder Justin Jefferson, Minnesota has agreed to terms with second-round tackle Ezra Cleveland, fourth-round linebacker Troy Dye, fourth-round defensive tackle James Lynch and seventh-round offensive lineman Kyle Hinton. Cleveland, rumored as a possible late-first-round selection, will be groomed to become a near-future starter for the Vikings.
  • The Broncos began signing some of their picks, most notably getting third-rounders Michael Ojemudia and McTelvin Agim under contract. A cornerback, Ojemudia is set to compete for a starting job opposite A.J. Bouye; Agim profiles as D-line depth behind established starters this season. Denver also signed fourth-round tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, a Mizzou alum set to rejoin his former quarterback (Drew Lock) in the Mile High City. The Broncos also reached an agreement with seventh-round outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka.
  • Despite having T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree under contract, the Steelers used a third-round pick on outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. The Charlotte alum agreed to terms on his four-year rookie deal. Highsmith recorded 15 sacks at the mid-major program last season.
  • Packers third-round pick Josiah Deguara also agreed on his four-year rookie contract. Green Bay eschewed its wide receiver need throughout the draft, using Day 2 to add a running back (A.J. Dillon) and Deguara, who profiles as a tight end/fullback. The Cincinnati product surpassed 900 yards between his final two college seasons, totaling 12 touchdown grabs in that span.
  • Tennessee third-round running back Darrynton Evans signed his rookie deal as well. Evans looks set to replace Dion Lewis as the TitansDerrick Henry change-of-pace back. The Appalachian State alum rushed for 1,480 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He added five receiving TDs.
  • The Giants used first- and third-round picks on tackles. The latter selection, UConn’s Matt Peart, agreed to the terms of his rookie deal Wednesday. Peart profiles as a developmental lineman, working behind expected starters Nate Solder and Andrew Thomas. He stands to join Cameron Fleming as depth for Big Blue.
  • Washington has agreed to terms with third-round running back/wideout Antonio Gibson, fourth-round receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and fifth-round center Keith Ismael. Gibson and Gandy-Golden figure to be key parts of a Washington offense that is limited, beyond Terry McLaurin, in the passing game. Gibson totaled 1,104 yards from scrimmage at Memphis last season, while Gandy-Golden caught 20 touchdown passes in two years at Liberty.
  • Fourth-round Cowboys pick Reggie Robinson agreed to terms as well. The Tulsa cornerback joins a Cowboys team that lost Byron Jones in free agency. Dallas was active in an effort to replace the Pro Bowler, drafting Trevon Diggs in Round 2 and signing Daryl Worley.
  • Sixth-round Chargers safety Alohi Gilman, a Notre Dame alum, signed his Chargers contract Wednesday. Gillman joins a deep Bolts safety corps.
  • The Buccaneers drafted two running backs this year. On Wednesday, they agreed to terms with the second of those picks — seventh-rounder Raymond Calais. In addition to his work as a running back at Louisiana, Calais was a four-year kick returner for the Rajin’ Cajuns.

Antonio Brown Retires (Again)

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. On Monday, Antonio Brown announces his retirement from the NFL. This marks at least the third time Brown has publicly called it quits since September of last year. 

[RELATED: Patriots, AB Settle Grievance]

At this point, the risk is greater than the reward,” Brown tweeted. “Thank you [to] everyone who [has] been a part of this journey. I sincerely thank you for everything!”

Brown, of course, isn’t the only player who is concerned about the risk involved with playing this season. Still, it remains to be seen whether his latest farewell will stick. Less than three weeks ago, Brown was lobbying the Seahawks to pair him with friend and workout partner Russell Wilson. There were also rumblings of AB and Tom Brady getting together in Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers weren’t interested in the drama that comes with the controversial wide receiver.

Brown, 32, remains under NFL investigation for multiple incidents, including two alleged acts of sexual misconduct. His own safety concerns aside, there was little guarantee that a team would take on the risk of signing him. Brown’s availability for the coming year was also highly questionable.

If this is truly a wrap for Brown, he leaves the game with a complicated legacy. Over the course of his ten-year career, Brown tallied 841 receptions for 11,253 yards and seven Pro Bowl appearances. Before things turned ugly, Brown was a surefire Hall of Famer and regarded as one of the game’s most dangerous offensive talents. Now, (we think), he’ll focus on other endeavors, while untangling some of his off-the-field matters.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Steelers Extend Cameron Heyward

As Cameron Heyward continues to hunt for his next contract, we’ll go back to a transaction from five years ago. On July 16, 2015, the defensive lineman signed a six-year, $59.25MM extension with the Steelers.

Pittsburgh selected the Ohio State product with the 31st pick of the 2011 draft. It took a while for Heyward to settle into a starting role, but he never looked back after starting 13 games during the 2013 campaign. After combining for 12.5 sacks between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the Steelers decided to make a lengthy commitment to the lineman. However, the deal did provide the organization with some flexibility at only $15MM in guaranteed money.

Heyward has more than lived up to that deal. He’s earned Pro Bowl appearances in each of the past three seasons, and he received first-team All-Pro honors in 2017 and 2019. The veteran has only missed a single regular season game over the past three years, averaging just under 10 sacks per season.

Following a 2016 campaign where he was limited to only seven games, Heyward agreed to restructure his contract (he also restructured prior to the 2018 season). Now, the 31-year-old is looking to get paid.

With Heyward set to hit free agency following the 2020 season, some sources believe he could get a contract that’s pushing Aaron Donald‘s six-year, $135MM deal ($50MM guaranteed). Sure, Heyward is on the wrong side of 30, but his versatility and continued production means he’ll surely find a lucrative deal. Considering the uncertainty of the 2021 cap, it’s uncertain if the Steelers will even be able to retain their defensive captain.

While Heyward’s future in Pittsburgh may be a bit uncertain, the team can at least rest easy knowing they inked the lineman to an excellent deal five years ago today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: OBJ, Green, Andrews, Steelers

It’s been almost three years since Odell Beckham Jr. fractured his left ankle, and while the star wideout has yet to return to the Pro Bowl, he’s managed to put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. However, in an alternative universe, OBJ may have decided to hang up his cleats following that 2017 campaign.

Appearing alongside Cam Newton, Todd Gurley, and Victor Cruz on his YouTube series The Bigger Picture, Beckham admitted that he almost retired following the injury.

“I said this in college, I said, ‘I fear the day that they make this game a business and not what I love,’” Beckham said. “And when I seen that for the first time after breaking my ankle, like I thought about like not playing no more. Like this is not really it for me because they’ve ruined the game of football for me a little bit.”

OBJ didn’t elaborate on what the Giants did to upset him during that 2017 campaign, although it’s worth noting that the receiver had rushed back from a preseason ankle sprain. The veteran’s tenure with New York ended last offseason when he was traded to the Browns, and the 27-year-old proceeded to appear in all 16 games for the first time since 2016.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC North…

  • When we learned yesterday that A.J. Green wasn’t going to sign an extension with the Bengals, it was made clear that he’ll willingly play the 2020 season under the franchise tag. Of course, that could be temporary lip service; since the wideout hasn’t signed the tender, he could skip training camp and preseason and still earn his full salary. However, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com notes, until Green officially signs the tender, the Bengals have the ability to rescind the franchise tag. This would save the organization almost $18MM, and while it’d be a somewhat unprecedented move, Florio notes that “in an unprecedented year, it’s impossible to rule anything out.”
  • The Steelers have made some changes to their coaching staff. As Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com passes along, Blaine Stewart is now the assistant wide receivers coach and Denzel Martin is now the assistant outside linebackers coach. The duo had previously served as coaching assistants. The organization also shook up their scouting department, promoting Chidi Iwuoma from BLESTO scout to a college scouting position and Dennis MacInnis from scouting intern to BLESTO scout.
  • While Ravens tight end Mark Andrews has Type 1 diabetes, he made it clear that he won’t be opting out of the 2020 season due to health concerns. “We’ve got a big year coming up,” Andrews said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “I want to be able to do a lot of things, and … just being able to help this team win is exciting for me.” The former third-rounder earned his first Pro Bowl nod last season after hauling in 64 receptions for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns.