Ten rookie free agents help the Steelers round-out roster ahead of OTAs, camp

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers quickly came to terms with ten undrafted rookie free agents they feel will help round-out their roster ahead of OTAs and training camp. Some of the names are more familiar than others, but the signings included players who fill depth as well as skill positions.

Safety Dravon Askew-Henry is a local kid who attended Aliquippa High School (Pittsburgh-area) and was very active as a safety for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Askew-Henry entered the 2019 NFL Draft period looking for an opportunity to fulfil his dreams of playing in the league, following in the footsteps of his cousin Darrelle Revis (Super Bowl champion, seven-time Pro Bowl pick in 11 years). The young safety trained with Revis ahead of the draft.

“He was always like a mentor to me growing up,” Askew-Henry said at WVU’s Pro Day. “He has mentored me through this process and I thank him so much for that… Watching him and the success he had, it makes me want to be just like him.”

Askew-Henry, at 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, didn’t get an invite to the Pro Scouting Combine or the Senior Bowl, but he didn’t let it smother his dreams. “[Feeling snubbed] was the fuel I needed,” Askew-Henry said. He clocked in a 4.53-second 40-yard dash time in response. After starting in 51 games for West Virginia, Askew-Henry’s career 215 tackles (162 solo stops), six interceptions, and ten passes defensed were enough to interest the Steelers in bringing him to Pittsburgh for a shot at a roster spot this fall.

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Jonathan “Jay” Hayes was a transfer from Notre Dame to Georgia, where he overcame heartbreak to become a strong defensive lineman and man. In 2007, Hayes’ father passed away due to a gunshot wound; Hayes was 11. The trip from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn to the University of Georgia was facilitated in large part by his mother, Melissa-Denise Hayes. Earning the nickname “Big Daddy Hayes” in organized football before heading to Notre Dame, Jay didn’t see eye-to-eye with then Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, but stuck with football and finished as a run-stopping force in South Bend. He logged 39 career tackles (27 in 2018) and started all 13 games for the Irish. He got his degree and made the move to the SEC. At Georgia, Hayes saw action in 11 games and finished with three stops. He’s raw but talented and could earn a spot on a Steelers defense that could use depth and run-stop ability.

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The Steelers also added defensive tackle Chris Nelson out of Texas. Known for the “Nelly Rub”, Nelson was the anchor of the Longhorns’ defensive front and was key in helping fill the void left by Poona Ford. Voted captain ahead of the 2018 season, Nelson – a former three-star prospect from Lakeland, Fla. – a fifth-year senior, played in 45 games (29 starts) including all 14 games of his final (2018) season. He ranked at No. 10 on the team with 39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback hurries. Nelson helped Texas into the Big 12 Conference Championship game against rival Oklahoma and the upset by the Longhorns of No. 5-ranked Georgia as champions of the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

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The Steelers added two offensive guards to help bolster their offensive line, as well. First, they added Garrett “Bruiser” Brumfield out of LSU. A Baton Rouge-native, Brumfield was ranked as the top offensive guard in the country by ESPN (2014 recruiting class) before becoming a Tiger. Brumfield started two seasons at left guard, earning All-SEC honors as a senior.


“When life gives you lemons; you don’t make lemonade. You roll up your sleeves, preheat the oven to 350, zest your eggs and whisk that s— into lemon meringue pie,” Brumfield wrote in a Tweet. “AYE PITTSBURGH! IM COMIN!”

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Fred Johnson was also signed. The 6-foot-7, 325 pound Florida Gator was a star at Royal Palm Beach High. He began his collegiate career as an offensive tackle before moving to guard in 2016. By 2017, Johnson was a full-time starter on the inside. He was courted by the Miami Dolphins and attended the Pro Scouting Combine but did not run drills until Florida’s Pro Day. Johnson posted a 5.32 40-yard dash time, logged a 24.5-inch vertical jump, an 8.8 in the broad jump and benched 20 reps.

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Trevor Wood was signed as a tight end and long-snapper from Texas A&M. Wood played at the University of Arizona before transferring in May 2018 to become an Aggie. During his redshirt senior season, Wood played opposite Jace Sternberger as half of a dynamic tight end duo. Wood has also seen time at defensive back (while with the Wildcats). “We kind of had a ‘Step Brothers’ joke going on the whole season,” Wood told the Houston Chronicle. The reference was to his and Sternberger’s reenactment of a famous photo from the Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly film “Step Brothers” during a preseason shoot at Kyle Field in 2018. Wood was primarily used as a blocker but after playing in all 12 games in 2018, he logged two catches.

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The Steelers added two specialists in punter Ian Berryman (Western Carolina) and kicker Matthew Wright (Central Florida). Berryman finished his collegiate career as Western Carolina’s all-time leader with a 43.8 yards per punt average; 82 of his 206 punts were downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Wright holds Central Florida’s record for most points in a career (375) and field goals made (55). Wright also holds the record for PATs (212), including successfully converting 153 PATs in a row.

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Colorado running back Travon McMillian, a grad transfer from Virginia Tech, finished his lone season in Boulder with 201 carries for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns; 14 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. With big-play ability and several long gains, McMillian is a nice free agent addition to add to the running back corps in Pittsburgh.

Rounding out the list, the Steelers also added Houston cornerback Alexander Myers. Myers, 5-feet-11, 192, played in 25 games for the Cougars. He finished the 2018 season with 63 tackles (53 solo), one interception and six pass defenses.

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