Steelers Add Ex-Cowboys, Browns Defensive Tackle

Eli Ankou

Christian Petersen/Getty Images Defensive tackle Eli Ankou on December 15, 2019.

On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have signed veteran defensive tackle Eli Ankou to their practice squad. The roster move came shortly after the team had Ankou in for a tryout, as per NFL reporter Aaron Wilson.

Ankou—6-foot-3 and 325 pounds—has 27 games of NFL experience, much of which came with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017-18. The 27-year-old Ottawa native originally entered the league in May 2017, when the Houston Texans signed him as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA. After he failed to make Houston’s opening day roster the Jaguars claimed him on waivers.

More recently, he appeared in nine games for the Browns in 2019 (with two starts), before the Indianapolis Colts claimed him on waivers in Sept. 2020. The Colts waived him six weeks later, at which point he was claimed by the Texans, who turned around and traded him to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2022 seventh-round draft pick. He went on to appear in seven games for the Cowboys during the second half of the 2020 season.

In 2021, he signed contracts with the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons (twice), but Atlanta released him for a second time on Aug. 31, 2021.

Per Pro Football Reference (PFR), Ankou has produced 31 career tackles (16 solo), including two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks, having played a total of 614 NFL snaps, 584 of which have come on defense.

The Steelers Remain Thin on the Defensive Line

The decision to add Ankou to the practice squad may be an indicator that the Steelers aren’t optimistic about the near-term health status of second-year defensive tackle Carlos Davis, who has missed the past three games with an ankle injury.

At the moment, Pittsburgh has two defensive tackles on its practice squad, the other being Daniel Archibong, who was signed on Sept. 1. The Steelers also have former Cowboys first-round pick Taco Charlton, who is listed as a defensive lineman but would figure to serve as an edge rusher in Pittsburgh’s defense.

Meanwhile, standout defensive end Stephon Tuitt remains on injured reserve (knee), where he has spent all of this season. Also of note, veteran nose tackle Tyson Alualu suffered a fractured ankle against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2 and subsequently had season-ending surgery.

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Ex-Steelers Running Back Wendell Smallwood Worked Out for the Jaguars

In one other bit of tryout news from Monday, the Jacksonville Jaguars worked out veteran running back Wendell Smallwood, this according to aforementioned NFL reporter Aaron Wilson.

Smallwood spent most of last season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad after initially signing him on July 28, 2020. He appeared in one regular-season game for the Steelers last year, but most of his NFL experience has come with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. Per PFR, Smallwood has played in 53 games (with 12 starts) and has 931 career rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.

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