Steelers Sign Ex-Bears, Falcons LB; Former ‘Camp Phenom’ Waived

James Vaughters

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images James Vaughters of the Chicago Bears rushes against Adam Pankey of the Miami Dolphins during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 14, 2021.

On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have signed former Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons linebacker James Vaughters, who takes the roster spot of edge rusher Tuzar Skipper, who was been waived injured. Never mind that Skipper made himself visible in this past Saturday’s preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, having been credited with recovering the fumble caused by Mark Robinson’s blind-side sack late in the fourth quarter.

Vaughters — who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 264 pounds — is a former undrafted free agent out of Stanford who has spent time with Green Bay, New England and the Los Angeles Chargers. But all of his regular-season game experience has come with the Bears (17 games in 2019-20) and Falcons (10 games in 2021).

Thus far in his career, Vaughters has been credited with 29 total tackles (19 solo), as well as 2.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble, as per Pro Football Reference (PFR). He will wear jersey No. 96 for the Steelers.

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Tuzar Skipper Waived Injured

As for outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, he (re)signed with the Steelers in June 2022 after a nearly two-year break. Yet he’s well-remembered by fans because in his first go-round with the team, late Steelers radio broadcaster Tunch Ilkin referred to him as 2019’s “camp phenom.” That year he made the roster as Pittsburgh’s fifth outside linebacker, owing to the 16 tackles and five sacks he recorded during the preseason. But he was waived prior to the start of the regular season to make room for a wide receiver, and was subsequently claimed on waivers by the New York Giants.

Skipper was back with the Steelers during the summer of 2020 but failed to make the 53-man roster, after which he caught on with Tennessee. He appeared in four games for the Titans in 2020 and six games for the Giants in 2021, over which time he was credited with eight tackles (five solo), half a sack and one fumble recovery, according to PFR.

A Revolving Door at Outside Linebacker

The Steelers continue to cast a wide net in hopes of finding suitable backups for reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt and fellow starting outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. The top candidates for backup jobs look to be Ex-Browns/Eagles linebacker Genard Avery, who signed a one-year contract in late March. There’s also former Broncos draft pick Derrek Tuszka (who appeared in 15 games with Pittsburgh last season), as well as Delontae Scott, who spent most of last season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad but made his regular-season debut in November 2021 against the Chargers.

On August 8, the Steelers added Ron’Dell Carter to the 90-man roster on the same day linebacker T.D. Moultry was waived injured. On August 11, the Steelers claimed former New York Jets outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. on waivers. Rashed took the place of Ulysees Gilbert III, who was also waived injured, having been seen with a walking boot on his right foot in the days before he was released.

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In related news, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network is reporting that Denver is signing former Steelers inside linebacker Joe Schobert, who worked out for the Broncos in late July.

The Steelers acquired Schobert, 28, in an August 2021 trade with the Jaguars. He was responsible for 112 total tackles (70 solo) in 2021, and he also recorded a half-dozen passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble, as per PFR. The Steelers released Schobert on March 17, 2022, shortly after signing fellow inside linebacker Miles Jack as an unrestricted free agent.

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