On Friday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have signed safety John Battle to their practice squad. Battle is a former XFL player who was with the Steelers in training camp but got released when Pittsburgh cut down to 53 players.
Battle takes Curtis Riley’s place on Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Earlier this week the Steelers lost Riley to the Arizona Cardinals when the former Raiders and Giants safety was left unprotected. (The Steelers chose to protect offensive tackle Derwin Gray instead.) Keeping Gray suddenly became a priority in the wake of Zach Banner’s season-ending knee injury.
The four practice squad players the Steelers have chosen to protect this week are:
LB Jayrone Elliott
OT Derwin Gray
DE Henry Mondeaux
RB Wendell Smallwood
About Safety John Battle
Battle was a three-year starter at LSU and was invited to the NFL Combine in 2019 but went undrafted, with his 4.67 40-yard dash time a factor. He played in 38 games over the course of his college career, involved in 143 total tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also intercepted five passes and had 11 passes defensed, plus two forced fumbles.
Battle entered the NFL with the New York Jets, signing as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. He was waived by the Jets before training camp in 2019 but subsequently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs waived him before the start of the regular season but signed him back to their practice squad, where he spent the 2019 season.
Injuries a Factor for Steelers, Broncos
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ injury report looked a lot better on Thursday than it did on Wednesday, when almost the entire offense missed practice. The main focus of concern remains the team’s offensive line, as fellow guards David DeCastro and Stefen Wisniewski both missed practice on Thursday, meaning that rookie fourth-round pick Kevin Dotson is in line to start at right guard against the Broncos.
“He’s a young guy who hasn’t had a lot of work throughout this process because of injury and lack of availability,” said head coach Mike Tomlin of Dotson. “There is some angst there, so if he is called upon this week, it is going to take a tremendous effort by him and by us. And by us, I mean us putting him in the very best position to perform, so there is some dual responsibility there.”
At the same time, Denver has significant injuries of its own, as the team listed 11 players on its participation/injury report on Thursday, including former Steelers linebacker Mark Barron, who didn’t practice due to an ongoing hamstring issue. Also not practicing was RB Phillip Lindsay (toe). Meanwhile, cornerback A.J. Bouye has been added to Denver’s injured reserve list due to a shoulder injury.
Earlier this week Denver signed former Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo in an attempt to bolster its linebacker depth.
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