Ex-Steelers Safety Released by Cardinals


Norm Hall/Getty Images Curtis Riley of the Arizona Cardinals tackles TJ Hockenson of the Detroit Lions on September 27, 2020.

On Tuesday the Arizona Cardinals released safety Curtis Riley to make room for a rookie running back on the team’s active roster. The Cardinals plucked Riley off of Pittsburgh’s practice squad in mid-September because Arizona needed safety depth.

Riley was a player the Steelers would have preferred not to lose, as indicated by the fact that he was one of four players that Pittsburgh protected on its practice squad for Week 1. But Riley was left unprotected in Week 2 following right tackle Zach Banner’s season-ending ACL injury, which was suffered in the opener against the New York Giants. Banner’s injury—and injuries to fellow offensive linemen David DeCastro and Stefen Wisniewski—led the club to protect offensive tackle Derwin Gray instead of Riley, and the Cardinals snapped him up almost immediately.

Curtis Riley’s Detour to Arizona

Riley appeared in three games for the Cardinals (one start) and contributed eight total tackles (six solo). Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t single out Riley for subpar play in Arizona’s most recent game (a 31-21 loss at Carolina), but he was pulled from the game in favor of Charles Washington.

When Kingsbury was asked about Riley and the rest of his safeties on Monday, the Cardinals head coach said, “I think it was a rough day overall for our team. We just didn’t play up to our standard, and that’s how it went. I don’t know if it was one person here or there as much as just overall effort when you’re talking about coaching and playing.”

Curtis Riley’s History with the Steelers

The Steelers signed the former Giants and Raiders safety in July in an effort to upgrade the team’s depth at the position. Despite a solid training camp the Steelers released Riley to make way for the return of former Steelers second-round pick, Sean Davis, who became available after Davis was cut by Washington. After losing Riley, the Steelers signed safety John Battle to the practice squad where he remains today.

If the Steelers choose to re-sign Riley, Battle might be the player who is waived to make room on the practice squad. Mike Tomlin & Co. also might decide to move on from offensive tackle Jarron Jones, who was arrested this past Saturday and charged with multiple felonies.

Curtis Riley’s NFL Career

Riley started three games for the Raiders in 2019, contributing 27 solo tackles and two tackles for loss, while also forcing a fumble. His best season came in 2018 when he started 16 games at free safety for the New York Giants, amassing 75 total tackles, including 63 solo. He also intercepted four passes and added five passes defensed, returning one of those interceptions for a touchdown against Washington.

Riley originally came into the NFL in 2015, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans. He appeared in 11 games with the Titans over two years and had an interception in 2017. Riley’s move from the Titans to the Giants may have been influenced by the presence of former Steelers defensive back Deshea Townsend, who was New York’s assistant defensive backs coach in 2018 after serving as defensive backs coach with the Titans.

Riley finished his college career at Fresno State, where he was responsible for 98 tackles and 15 passes defensed over the course of two years.

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