Steelers Sign LB/LS, Elevate TE from Practice Squad

Christian Kuntz Steelers

Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images Will Grier of the Carolina Panthers is sacked by Christian Kuntz of the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 29, 2019.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a series of roster moves on Tuesday, at least a few of which were prompted by the knee injury suffered by tight end Zach Gentry this past Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

For starters, Gentry was placed on the team’s injured reserve list, while tight end Vance McDonald was activated from the COVID-19 reserve list. But having spent 15 days on the COVID-19 list after a positive test for the virus, the team’s coaches may not be confident that McDonald will be ready for a return to action on Thursday. That would explain the decision to elevate tight end Kevin Rader from the practice squad to the active roster.

Rader has been on Pittsburgh’s practice squad all season after spending the majority of last year on the club’s practice squad. But the undrafted free agent—who came into the NFL with the Green Bay Packers in 2018—has yet to appear in a regular season game.

Ben Roethlisberger on Vance McDonald

That said, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is no doubt hoping that McDonald will be back in the lineup soon.

“He epitomizes what it is to be an unselfish football player,” said Roethlisberger about McDonald during his virtual press conference on Tuesday. “It’s good to have him back. That locker next to me has been vacant for a while.”

Roethlisberger did go on to say that McDonald was charged up to get back out on the practice field on Tuesday, a potentially good sign in regard to his availability for the Ravens game on Thursday night.

“To see him in there today, to have him on the practice field, he’s got more energy than the rest of us right now, which is good to see,” said Big Ben. “Anybody that is out for a while … to get them back on the field as a brother, as a guy we can use, we are excited for.”

McDonald has nine catches for 61 yards this season and has played a smaller role than he did in 2018 and 2019. This year Eric Ebron has emerged as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 tight end, with 35 catches for 359 yards and four touchdowns.

Steelers Plan to Keep Backup Specialists on the Practice Squad?

In one final move on Tuesday, the Steelers also signed linebacker/long snapper Christian Kuntz to the practice squad, hardly a surprise insofar as the Steelers had Kuntz in for a workout last week, on the same day the team worked out two placekickers.

The move to sign Kuntz and work out placekickers could mean the Steelers are looking toward keeping backup specialists on the practice squad during the stretch run, in case anything happens to kicker Chris Boswell, punter Jordan Berry or long snapper Kameron Canady. Keep in mind that the Steelers have kept rookie punter Corliss Waitman on the practice squad all season.

As for Kuntz, he has spent time with the Steelers in the past. He first joined the team during the preseason in 2019 but failed to make the 53-man roster. He was also with the Steelers this year but again failed to make the opening day roster. The Pittsburgh native—who played collegiately at Duquesne University—collected 30.5 sacks in college and won the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year award twice. He was also a three-time All-American at Duquesne.

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