Kevin Colbert: New Rules Encouraged Steelers to Sign Veteran FAs


Patrick Smith/Getty Images Curtis Riley celebrating an interception return for touchdown while a member of the New York Giants.

In recent weeks the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed a number of players with significant NFL experience, including former Giants and Raiders safety Curtis Riley and former Washington and Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood.

On Wednesday Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert explained how the new practice squad rules played a role in the decision to sign those free agents during a call with the media.

The Impact of the New Practice Squad Rules

“When we got the new rules and understanding that up to six veteran players can be part of your practice squad, that changed our thinking,” Colbert said. “Because quite honestly, when we look for players that we call ‘futures’ that we sign in the offseason, if they don’t have practice squad eligibility, we’re a little reluctant to sign those types because they either make your team or they don’t.

“With this now a possibility, we decided let’s look for that young veteran, that if he doesn’t make your team, he could be eligible for your practice squad. That was part of the reason we signed Curtis Riley and Smallwood because they are that veteran player that is now eligible for a practice squad.”

Colbert took care to emphasize that Riley and Smallwood are not necessarily “destined” for the practice squad, but it’s nice to have that “option,” as he put it.

“We’ve tried to expand our thinking along those ways to make sure that the practice squad we do come up with is the best practice squad it can be.”

However, it will be more expensive to keep an experienced veteran on the practice squad as compared to a younger player. Players on the 16-man practice squad with at least three accrued seasons will be paid $12,000 per week. Players without at least three accrued seasons will be paid $8,400 per week. Riley and Smallwood both fall into the former category.

Kevin Colbert on Ben Roethlisberger

Meanwhile, Colbert also took a moment on Wednesday to give an update on the progress of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, saying, “To this point, it’s been great. Physically he looks great. He’s still working on some timing issues because he hasn’t played a lot with some of the younger players,” referring to rookie Chase Claypool and second-year receiver Diontae Johnson, not to mention free agent acquisition Eric Ebron.

“He’s figuring out that timing, but physically we feel great about where he is.”

It’s apropos that Colbert was asked about Roethlisberger, because today saw the release of part one of a new documentary mini series titled ‘Bigger Than Ben,’ which chronicles Roethlisberger’s recovery from elbow surgery.

Saeed Blacknall Re-Visited

In other news, the Steelers had wide receiver Saeed Blacknall in for a visit on Wednesday.

The Steelers released Blacknall last week to make room for free agent signing Ray-Ray McCloud. But the Penn State University product could be re-signed soon, as Pittsburgh has suffered a rash of injuries at wide receiver of late, with Ryan Switzer among those affected.

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READ NEXT: ‘Bigger Than Ben’ Documents Ben Roethlisberger’s Recovery From Elbow Surgery

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