Steelers Hand Out ‘Largest UDFA RB Contract in Franchise History’: Report

Running back Mataeo Durant

Grant Halverson/Getty Images Mataeo Durant of the Duke Blue Devils is tackled just short of the goal line by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on October 12, 2019.

On Saturday April 30 the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have agreed to terms with ten rookie undrafted free agents, the news coming down shortly after the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. Five of the newly contracted players are on offense and five on defense.

If there’s a headliner among this class of free agents, it’s Duke running back Mataeo Durant, who set a new single-season school record in 2021 by rushing for 1,241 yards, doing so on just 255 touches (4.87 yards per carry). All told, he finished his career at Duke with 489 carries for 2,562 yards (5.24 yards per carry) and 18 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 55 passes for 488 yards (8.87 yards per catch) with four touchdown receptions.

According to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, the Steelers have given Durant “their largest undrafted free agent running back contract in franchise history,” owing to his $15,000 signing bonus.

The Steelers did not draft a running back this year, so Durant ought to have an excellent opportunity to win a job behind 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris.

He’ll be competing against the likes of 2019 fourth-round pick Benny Snell Jr. and 2020 fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland Jr., as well as fellow undrafted free agent running back Jaylen Warren, who played at Utah State before transferring to Oklahoma State for his final collegiate season. Warren was named Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2021 (Coaches), recording 256 carries for 1,216 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, plus 25 receptions for another 225 yards.

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The Steelers Signed 3 Undrafted Offensive Linemen

Meanwhile, the team also signed a trio of undrafted free agent offensive linemen, led by offensive guard Chris Owens (Alabama) and offensive tackle Jordan Tucker (North Carolina). Owens demonstrated position flexibility while with the Crimson Tide, while Tucker spent most of his time with the Tar Heels at right tackle.

Yet it’s offensive tackle Jake Dixon (Duquesne) who has the most interesting background among the three, having converted from tight end/long snapper to left tackle in the middle of his career with the Dukes. Before coming to Duquesne to play football, he was recruited to play Division I volleyball by the likes of Lewis University, Stanford and Penn State.

Pittsburgh’s UDFA Defenders Include 2 Cornerbacks

As for the defenders who signed on with the Steelers, they include:

– Donovan Jeter, a defensive lineman from Michigan who played in 37 career games for the Wolverines.
– T.D. Moultry, an outside linebacker who appeared in a school record 59 games for the Auburn Tigers.
– Outside linebacker Tyree Johnson, who was a teammate of Steelers 2022 third-round pick DeMarvin Leal, not to mention 2021 fourth-round picks Dan Moore Jr. and Buddy Johnson.

Finally, there’s cornerback Bryce Watts from UMass and the aptly-named Chris Steele, a cornerback who started 23 games for the USC Trojans and finished his college career with 95 tackles, plus three interceptions, 12 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

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