Steelers Sign Rookie Tight End, Work out ‘Relentless’ Edge Rusher

Edge rusher Zach VanValkenburg

Ethan Miller/Getty Images Quarterback Bailey Zappe of the New England Patriots throws as Justin Herron attempts to block Zach VanValkenburg of the Las Vegas Raiders during a preseason game on August 26, 2022.

On Sept. 13 the Pittsburgh Steelers signed a pair of players to the team’s practice squad, including former Commanders outside linebacker Ryan Anderson. The move to add Anderson comes in direct response to the pectoral injury suffered by T.J. Watt, as the Steelers have just three healthy edge rushers on the 53-man roster in Alex Highsmith, Malik Reed and Jamir Jones.

TE Rodney Williams In, TE Justin Rigg Out

The second player added to the practice squad on Tuesday was tight end Rodney Williams II, who was inked by the Denver Broncos as a rookie undrafted free agent following the 2022 draft but was released during the preseason.

Williams played his college football for the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks, where he appeared in 41 games and recorded a total of 71 receptions for 814 yards and five TDs.

To make room for Williams on the practice squad, the Steelers released tight end Justin Rigg, who was signed on Sept. 1. Rigg played his college ball at Kentucky and signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent, but he was waived by Cincinnati after recording just one catch during the preseason.

Also released on Tuesday was practice squad wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson, who had been signed on Sept. 7 after getting released by the Dallas Cowboys during the preseason.

Steelers Worked out 2 Edge Rushers, Including Zach VanValkenburg

In addition to the four roster moves highlighted above, the Steelers also worked out a pair of outside linebackers in Zach VanValkenburg and Jamal Davis, as per the NFL’s daily personnel notice.

Arguably, the more intriguing of the two is VanValkenburg, a rookie undrafted free agent out of Iowa who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders following the 2022 NFL Draft.

In its pre-draft profile, NFL Draft Buzz described VanValkenburg as “tenacious, tough, competitive and versatile,” as well as “relentless and strong off the edge as a pass rusher when fresh.

“He wins with all-out hustle, second and third effort and will contribute in the NFL,” concludes the writeup.

VanValkenburg — 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds — contributed 15 tackles for loss in his final college season, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from coaches and media alike.

As for Davis, he entered the NFL in 2019, signing with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent out of Akron. The 6-foot-5 edge rusher went on to spend time on the practice squads of the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans before getting signed by the Miami Dolphins and appearing in three games at the end of his rookie season. In the years since he has also spent time with the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and — most recently — the Los Angeles Chargers. In 2021 he played for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL, recording 17 tackles and four sacks in nine games.

In the near term it’s reasonable to expect the Steelers to elevate Delontae Scott from the practice squad to back up Malik Reed this Sunday against the Patriots. The alternative would be the aforementioned Ryan Anderson, who has just three practices to get up to speed with the team’s defense before this weekend’s game.

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