On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed first-year tight end Kevin Rader to the practice squad, this in the wake of releasing him just prior to Monday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The move is no doubt a response to starting tight end Eric Ebron suffering a back injury against the Bengals, as third-string tight end Zach Gentry remains on injured reserve, which makes Vance McDonald the only healthy tight end on the active roster.
Rader was signed to Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster on November 24th after spending the first two-and-a-half months of the season on the practice squad. He also spent the majority of the 2019 season on the Steelers’ practice squad.
Rader came into the NFL in the spring of 2018, signing with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted rookie free agent. He played collegiately at Youngstown State in Ohio, where he had 44 receptions for 601 yards and four touchdowns.
One of those touchdown catches was a highlight reel grab. On the last play of the 2016 FCS Championship Semifinal between Youngstown State and Eastern Washington, Rader made a one-handed, behind-the-back catch—literally, behind the defender’s back—to secure a 40-38 walk-off win for the Penguins.
Steelers Release Long Snapper Christian Kuntz
To make room for Rader on the practice squad the Steelers released linebacker Christian Kuntz, who had been signed so the team could have a backup long snapper close at hand. That is, in case of COVID-19 emergency.
At the moment, the Steelers still have a backup placekicker on the practice squad in Matthew Wright, as well as a developmental/backup punter in Corliss Waitman.
As for Kuntz, he first joined the team during the 2019 preseason but failed to make the opening-day roster. He was also with the Steelers in training camp this year but again failed to make the 53-man roster. The Pittsburgh native—who played collegiately at Duquesne University—collected 30.5 sacks in college and won the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year award twice.
Vince Williams Activated Off the Reserve/COVID-19 List
In one other roster move on Wednesday, the Steelers activated inside linebacker Vince Williams off the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
Williams has been on the Reserve/COVID-19 list twice this season. On November 10th he was added—along with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins and running back Jaylen Samuels—for being a “close contact” of tight end Vance McDonald, who tested positive for the virus in November.
Williams started 12 games this year at right inside linebacker, before missing the team’s last two contests. He has 63 tackles (41 solo) on the season, including three sacks, 14 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. His return could help stabilize a defense that has struggled in recent weeks, as fellow inside linebacker Robert Spillane has been on injured reserve since December 12th and isn’t eligible to return until the season-finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Of course, the team’s top inside linebacker, Devin Bush, hasn’t played since October 18th when he tore his ACL during a 38-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Bush was placed on season-ending injured reserve on October 23rd.
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