Steelers Practice Squad Features Former First-Round Pick, Small School ‘Sleeper’

Karl Joseph

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Safety Karl Joseph of the Oakland Raiders deflects a pass intended for wide receiver Eric Decker of the Tennessee Titans on September 10, 2017.

On Wednesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have signed 15 players to their practice squad. Ten of the 15 players were with the team this summer—and several have been with the Steelers for years—but five newcomers have also been added to the mix.

Safety Karl Joseph is a Former First-Round Pick

The most prominent name on the practice squad is safety Karl Joseph, who was a first-round pick of the Raiders in 2016 (No. 14 overall). Joseph played for the Raiders for four seasons before joining the Cleveland Browns last year, where he started eight of 14 games, finishing with 66 tackles, four passes defensed and an interception.

Joseph has mostly played strong safety during the course of his career, but he also has experience at free safety. That’s notable because the Steelers have a need for depth at both positions, as they are extremely thin after starting free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds, both of whom are former first-round picks themselves. If those two were to get hurt, the Steelers would be looking at playing special teams ace Miles Killebrew and rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood.

Notably, the Steelers brought Joseph in for a visit this spring, but declined to sign him at that time.

The Other Newcomers …

First there’s linebacker Christian Miller, a former fourth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers (2019), who played in seven games during his rookie season but opted out of the 2020 campaign because of the pandemic. He was released when Carolina made its final round of cuts.

Then there’s defensive end Daniel Archibong, who signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2021 NFL Draft. He played at Temple where he had 89 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and eight passes defensed.

Wide receiver Steven Sims has two years of NFL experience, having appeared in 28 games for the Washington Football Team between 2019-20. During that time, he amassed 61 receptions for 575 yards and five touchdowns. The former undrafted free agent (Kansas) was with the Buffalo Bills this summer but was released during the final round of cuts.

Last but not least, there’s outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka, a draft ‘sleeper’ who went on to become a 2020 seventh-round pick of the Denver Broncos out of North Dakota State. Tuszka spent time on Denver’s practice squad and active roster last season. His career with the Bison spanned four seasons, during which time he played in 53 games and recorded 133 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 29.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and six passes defensed. In his final season with NDSU, he was named the MVFC Defensive Player of the Year.

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Back with the Steelers …

As for the practice squad players who have been with the Steelers in recent months (or years):
– WR Rico Bussey
– WR Cody White
– FB Trey Edmunds
– RB Jaylen Samuels
– OT Chaz Green
– OT John Leglue
– TE Kevin Rader
– CB Mark Gilbert
– DB Donovan Stiner
– OG Malcolm Pridgeon

Teams can sign 16 players to their practice squad, so it’s likely that Pittsburgh will add another name in the not-too-distant future.

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