Steelers Give Former Titans 4th-Round Pick a ‘Fresh Start’

Titans WR Dez Fitzpatrick

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Dez Fitzpatrick of the Tennessee Titans goes in motion during a preseason game against the Chicago Bears on August 28, 2021.

On January 11, 2023, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed four players to reserve/futures contracts, building on the 10 that the team inked a day earlier. Three of the four players are former draft picks of other teams, including wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick, who was a fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2021.

Coming out of college at Louisville, the Titans liked Fitzpatrick enough that they traded a fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round pick to move up and select him No. 109 overall in the 2021 draft. He failed to make the Titans’ season-opening roster as a rookie but Tennessee signed him to its practice squad and he appeared in four games, catching five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.

The 6-foot-2 wideout went on to spend most of the 2022 season on Tennessee’s practice squad, appearing in just one regular-season game. The move gives Fitzpatrick the chance at a “fresh start” in the league, as David Boclair of put it, noting how Titans head coach Mike Vrabel “cited a need for him to be better as a blocker and in contested catches.”

The Steelers Also Signed Former Panthers, Buccaneers Draft Picks

Meanwhile, the Steelers also inked three defensive backs, two of whom are former draft picks.

That includes safety Kenny Robinson Jr., 24, a Wilkinsburg, Pa. native who played his college football at West Virginia. Robinson was a fifth-round selection of the Carolina Panthers in 2020 (No. 152 overall) who appeared in nine games as a rookie and ten more in 2021, recording 17 tackles (12 solo) along the way. He spent part of the most recent campaign on the practice squad before getting released in mid-November 2022.

Then there’s Chris Wilcox, 25, a 6-foot-2 defensive back who was a seventh-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021. In fact, the BYU product was selected with a pick acquired in a trade with the Steelers, who sent the No. 251 selection and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins to the Bucs in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick, which Pittsburgh used to draft outside linebacker Quincy Roche.

Wilcox was waived by the Bucs prior to the start of his rookie season but was claimed by the Colts and had a short stint on Indy’s active roster before being signed to the practice squad. This past season he spent time on the practice squads of both the Colts and Arizona Cardinals.

CB Madre Harper is a Former UFA With 4.42 Speed

Last but not least, the Steelers also added Madre Harper, 25, who entered the league with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, signing as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Illinois, who spent two years with the Salukis after getting dismissed from the Oklahoma State football team in 2017.

Harper spent time on the Raiders practice squad before inking a deal with the New York Giants and appearing in nine game that year. In 2021 he played in three games for the Carolina Panthers, with all his action coming on special teams. In 2022, the 6-foot-2 cornerback spent time on Carolina’s practice squad.

Coming out of college, talent evaluators like Lance Zierlein of praised Harper’s “outstanding combination of size, speed (4.42) and explosiveness,” but questionned his “serious lack of fundamentals and technique.” One NFC executive told Zierlein that Harper’s “workout was great, but the tape sucks. I don’t know how you can draft him, but there aren’t that many guys who are built like him who test like him, so he’s going to get a chance.”

Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x