Which undrafted free agents have the best shot of making the Steelers roster?

The 2024 NFL Draft is now in the books. While a number of incoming players are being added to the Pittsburgh Steelers roster via the draft, there are others who have been signed as undrafted free agents (UDFAs) in the days following the event.

These rookies will attend upcoming minicamps and potentially compete at training camp later this summer, where they hope to win a spot on the final regular season roster.

Among the players signed, we identified these UDFAs as having the best chance of earning a spot on the team.

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Beanie Bishop, CB, West Virginia

Bishop is an older rookie at 24 years old, who began his collegiate career with Western Kentucky. He would enter the transfer portal and play for Minnesota before transferring again, this time to West Virginia.

With the Mountaineers Bishop would become an AP second-team All-American in 2023. He registered the most pass breakups and passes defensed (20) in the nation while adding four interceptions and 67 tackles to his resume.

Bishop has an inside shot at making the Steelers roster as they search for a slot cornerback: a position they did not address in free agency or the draft. The team has played Mike Hilton, Arthur Maulet, and Chandon Sullivan as their nickel corner in recent years, with each registering anywhere from 20-50% of playing time, usually dependent on their opponent (i.e. defensive scheme) or injuries at the position.

This means Bishop would not have to be relied on as heavily as a boundary corner, such as Joey Porter Jr. (who never leaves the field). With a strong offseason of workouts, we could see Bishop snag one of the few open spots available on the depth chart.

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Daijun Edwards, RB, Georgia

A couple of seasons ago the Steelers added a high upside running back as an undrafted free agent. That player, Jaylen Warren, is now one of the most explosive backs in the NFL.

Enter a similar situation with Edwards, a four-year player and two-time national champion with the Georgia Bulldogs.

In 51 games played, Edwards gained 2,083 rushing yards, but made his largest impact last season where he ran for 881 yards (5.4 average) and scored 13 rushing touchdowns. Edwards showed some promise in the pass game as well, catching 20 balls in 2023 for 197 yards.

His path to the roster depends on how the Steelers view their other skill positions. Typically, Pittsburgh rosters 5-6 receivers, 3-4 tight ends, and 3 running backs. Sometimes a “tight end” may be viewed as a hybrid player (h-back) or they’ll simultaneously roster a true fullback.

With these numbers in play, it’ll depend on how the team views recently signed WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson and TE MyCole Pruitt. Patterson could be a fifth or sixth receiver on the depth chart, but as a special teams ace (much like Myles Boykin was.) Pruitt could be the TE3 with Connor Heyward listed as a FB/HB.

There’s certainly space for a RB3. Edwards will have to prove he’s valuable enough to be on the main roster, but at the very least, should carve out a niche on the practice squad akin to former Steelers RB Trey Edmunds. (Edmunds was often elevated on game days as the team’s RB3, despite being mostly signed as a practice squad participant.)

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John Rhys Plumlee, QB, Central Florida

An intriguing five-year athlete, Plumlee has drawn comparisons to New Orleans Saints hybrid player Taysom Hill due to his ability to pass, run, and catch the football.

Plumlee began his college career with Ole Miss, where he topped 1,000 yards rushing and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground as a freshman backup quarterback. He would also play as the Rebels’ starting centerfielder during his freshman baseball season.

Plumlee’s production dipped during his sophomore season playing behind starter Matt Corral. He would lineup as a wide receiver over the next two seasons, converting over fully for his junior year, catching 19 passes for 201 yards.

He would enter the transfer portal and was named the starting quarterback. Over his next two seasons with UCF, Plumlee would complete 63% of his passes for 4,857 yards and 29 touchdowns (to 16 interceptions.) He finished his last two seasons with quarterback ratings of 134.5 and 150.5. Plumlee would continue to punish teams with his legs too, rushing for 1,367 yards and 16 touchdowns over those two seasons.

Then there’s this dual sport fun fact about Plumlee, per Wikipedia:

Plumlee entered the 2023 UCF baseball season as a starting outfielder. Plumlee went viral on April 14 for participating in a baseball game as well football game on the same day. He was caught leaving to change into a different uniform mid-game to play in the spring football game. The 12–3 baseball victory over Memphis, he went 2-for-3 with a triple, and two RBI. At the football game, he threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder. Plumlee finished the season, batting .286 with 11 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 43 runs scored, 32 RBIs, and led the team in stolen bases with 18.

In all, the versatility of Plumlee is what makes him attractive inside a Steelers quarterback room full of three one-year contracted passers. The Steelers signed veteran QB Kyle Allen as their experienced QB3 (19 career starts) but he has only 184 pass attempts since 2020. Allen doesn’t offer the same ability to emulate Russell Wilson or Justin Fields with the Steelers playbook, nor mimic opposing AFC North quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, or Joe Burrow on the scout team.

Aside from being an asset during practice, Plumlee should compete with Allen for the clipboard role and emergency quarterback duties. This makes Plumlee an interesting prospect to keep an eye on, even if he’s initially developed via the practice squad.

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