Ex-Steelers Key Contributors for Cardinals, Eagles & More

James Conner and Javon Hargrave

Getty Images James Conner of the Arizona Cardinals (left) and Javon Hargrave of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a bye in Week 7, but several dozen former Steelers will be in action around the NFL this weekend. Here’s how those players have been faring this season….

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James Conner and Kelvin Beachum – Arizona Cardinals

There are two ex-Steelers playing prominent roles for the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (6-0), namely running back James Conner and offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum. Conner has been splitting time with Chase Edmonds in Arizona’s backfield and hasn’t been putting up gaudy numbers (79 carries, 279 yards, 3.4 yards per carry), but he has been effective in the red zone, with five rushing touchdowns in six games. At the moment, former NFL running back turned NFL.com analyst Maurice Jones-Drew has Conner ranked as his No. 14 back in the league, three spots behind Steelers rookie Najee Harris.

Ex-Steelers offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum is one of the five linemen helping to pave the wave for Conner, though he has missed two starts and been otherwise limited due to a rib injury suffered during the season-opener against the Tennessee Titans. The former seventh-round pick signed his fifth NFL contract in March 2021, agreeing to a two-year deal with the Cardinals for a total of $4 million.

Alejandro Villanueva and Le’Veon Bell – Baltimore Ravens

Ex-Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva had a “noticeably bad” debut while playing right tackle for the Ravens in the season-opener at Las Vegas. But he has fared better since moving back to the left side and is currently PFF’s No. 46 ranked offensive tackle in the NFL with a 62.5 overall grade. Villanueva is expected to start at left tackle for the Ravens for the rest of the year, now that Ronnie Stanley has been placed on injured reserve (ankle). However, Villanueva is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, former Steelers inside linebacker L.J. Fort is on Baltimore’s Reserve/Injured list, having suffered a season-ending torn ACL during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.

Emmanuel Sanders and Tyler Matakevich – Buffalo Bills

The Bills’ 53-man roster features a pair of ex-Steelers, both of whom played against their old team when Pittsburgh beat Buffalo in the 2021 season opener, 23-16.

Emmanuel Sanders serves as one of Buffalo’s starting wide receivers, having produced 24 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdown catches in the first six games of the season, per Pro Football Reference (PFR).

Meanwhile, linebacker Tyler Matakevich plays mostly on special teams. Thus far in 2021 he has nine total tackles, along with an interception and one pass defensed, this according to PFR.

Mike Hilton and Fred Johnson – Cincinnati Bengals

Ex-Steelers slot cornerback Mike Hilton has played a key leadership role for Cincinnati since signing a four-year contract with the Bengals in March 2021. But he has yet to make the kind of impact plays he became known for in Pittsburgh, having been credited with 24 total tackles (17 solo) and one pass defensed.

For his part, offensive tackle Fred Johnson has been active for only one game this season, playing 18% of his team’s snaps on offense in Week 6 against the Detroit Lions.

Artie Burns – Chicago Bears

Former Steelers first-round pick Artie Burns re-signed with the Bears in March 2021 after missing all of the 2020 season with a torn ACL. Thus far, the former Miami cornerback has appeared in four games this season, exclusively on special teams.

Jordan Berry – Minnesota Vikings

Rookie seventh-round pick Pressley Harvin III used a sublime NFL debut in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game to help him beat out incumbent Jordan Berry in the preseason. Yet Berry has fared well since moving on to the Minnesota Vikings.

Berry has averaged 48.4 yards per punt this season (eighth-best among regular punters), with a 44.3-yard net, seven kicks inside the 20, and one block.

Harvin hasn’t been as consistent, posting a 44.9-yard average and a 40.8 yard net with 11 kicks inside the 20. But the Steelers probably aren’t regretting their decision, owing to Harvin’s upside potential, plus the fact that he’ll remain relatively inexpensive and under team control for the next three seasons.

Quincy Roche – New York Giants

Pittsburgh waived just one of its 2021 draft picks this summer, that being sixth-round outside linebacker Quincy Roche. The Steelers likely hoped to bring him back via the practice squad, but the New York Giants signed him to their active roster. Roche has appeared in three of New York’s six games, primarily on special teams, and has just one assisted tackle.

Matt Feiler – Los Angeles Chargers

As expected, offensive lineman Matt Feiler has started all six games for the Los Angeles Chargers (4-2), having signed a three-year, $21 million contract in free agency during this past offseason. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the eighth-best offensive guard in the NFL this season, with a 78.4 overall grade.

Javon Hargrave and Steven Nelson – Philadelphia Eagles

Nose tackle Javon Hargrave is in the midst of his second season in Philadelphia and he’s off to a strong start, with 32 tackles, six sacks and one forced fumble in Philly’s first six games.

Likewise, cornerback Steven Nelson has performed well in his six starts, contributing 23 total tackles, with one interception and four passes defensed.

Antonio Brown, Ross Cockrell and Steve McLendon – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending Super Bowl champions have three ex-Steelers on their roster, headlined by former All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has 29 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdown catches this season. However, Brown has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears with an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, cornerback Ross Cockrell has started three of the six games in which he has played in 2021, responsible for 21 total tackles and five passes defensed. As for McLendon, he has played 100 snaps on defense in six games and has recorded three tackles and one quarterback hit.

Bud Dupree, Ola Adeniyi and Breon Borders – Tennessee Titans

Former Steelers first-round pick Bud Dupree hasn’t played much for the Titans, as he’s still trying to recover from the torn ACL he suffered against the Ravens in December 2020. Dupree signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Titans in March, but he has appeared in just three games (with two starts), responsible for four solo tackles, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed.

That’s much less than the Titans are getting from fellow outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi, who also came over from the Steelers in free agency. Thus far this season, Adeniyi has 14 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hits. He was also very nearly the hero in Tennessee’s overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks, a game in which he got his first NFL sack.

As for cornerback Breon Borders, he “turned heads” at Titans camp this summer, but has made a modest impact during the regular season, with four solo tackles and a pair of passes defensed.

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Practice Squad, Injured Reservists

Cleveland has two ex-Steelers on its Reserve/Injured list, those being offensive lineman Chris Hubbard and wide receiver Ryan Switzer. Hubbard played 42 snaps in the Browns’ season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs but hasn’t been seen since. Switzer went on injured reserve in mid-August with a foot injury.

Meanwhile, ex-Steelers offensive lineman Aviante Collins is on the Cowboys’ practice squad, while former Steelers sixth-round pick Antoine Brooks. Jr. remains on the practice squad of the Los Angeles Rams.

Finally, the Saints recently designated tight end Nick Vannett for return from injured reserve. Vannett signed with New Orleans in late March 2021 but has yet to play a down for the Saints.

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