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Roster Recap: Change is in the air

Posted Mar 21, 2018

A look at the Steelers roster after free agency has kicked off.

The offseason has meant some changes to the Steelers roster, and this is a good opportunity to catch up on things.

The Steelers jumped into the free agent by signing inside linebacker Jon Bostic on a two-year contract. 

Bostic played for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 and had 97 tackles and one sack last season, before suffering a season-ending knee injury late in the year and being placed on injured reserve. He was leading the Colts in tackles prior to his injury.

“At the end of the day it was the best choice for me, the best choice for my family,” said Bostic. “I am ready to come in and compete and help this team any way I can. I like everything from the top down…the ownership, coaches, players that are here, the city. What it means here. The defense. The tradition here. It was just a perfect fit.” 

Bostic played the ‘WILL’ linebacker for the Colts, making the calls for the defense.

Bostic was the second round pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2013 NFL Draft.  He started nine games as a rookie, finishing with 55 tackles, two sacks, one interception and a fumble recovery. He finished with 84 tackles in 2014, adding three pass defenses.

He spent time on both the Bears and New England Patriots rosters in 2015, seeing playing time in 11 games.

Bostic missed the 2016 season with a foot injury, suffered in training camp after he was traded to the Detroit Lions. He signed with the Colts as an unrestricted free agent in 2017.

The Steelers signed unrestricted free agent safety Morgan Burnett to a three-year contract. Burnett spent the last eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the 71st pick overall after they traded up 15 spots to select him.

“The history of Pittsburgh, the tradition. You know about the Rooney family,” said Burnett. “Just the players that are here. They have a tradition of winning. Coming from Green Bay, it was the same tradition. For those guys to be interested in me, and want me here, you can’t turn nothing like that down. You talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers, a very proud city, a proud town, and great players. I wanted to be a part of it and try to earn the respect of my teammates and be accountable to my teammates.”

Burnett played in 102 games for the Packers, starting all of them, including 12 in 2017. He missed time during the season with a hamstring injury, but returned to action to finish out the year.

Burnett amassed 683 tackles with the Packers, 485 of them solo stops, nine interceptions, 7.5 sacks, 44 passes defensed, nine fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown, and eight forced fumbles. Burnett finished with 68 tackles in 2017, and in the Steelers last second 31-28 win over the Packers at Heinz Field on Nov. 26, he had nine tackles and forced a Le’Veon Bell fumble that the Packers recovered.

The team also re-signed Fitzgerald Toussaint to a one-year contract. Toussaint was a restricted free agent, but the team opted not to tender him an offer and he became an unrestricted free agent on March 14 when free agency began.

Toussaint spent the first 10 games of the 2017 season on the practice squad, before being activated for the Packers game in Week 12. He played in six games, finishing the year with six carries for 25 yards, and two receptions for nine yards. In three seasons in the NFL he has 44 carries for 137 yards and eight receptions for 69 yards. He also returned six kickoffs for 84 yards, a 15.7 yard average with a long of 23 yards last season. For his career he has 21 kickoff returns for 413 yards, a 19.7 yard average. 

Toussaint’s road to the NFL wasn’t an easy one. He wasn’t drafted, wasn’t even signed as an undrafted free agent in the days following the 2014 NFL Draft. Instead he was offered a tryout with the Baltimore Ravens, and shortly thereafter got a call back to come in because they needed some depth at running back. He was released by the Ravens before the start of the regular season, signed to the practice squad, added to the active roster, released, signed back to the practice squad, added to the active roster again, released again, and back to the practice squad. All in less than a month. He finished that season on the active roster, but was eventually let go before the start of the 2015 season. Toussaint was signed to the Steelers practice squad just two days after the Ravens released him the final time in 2015, and added to the active roster on Nov. 27, and spent the entire 2016 on the active roster.

Two restricted free agents were given tender offers, Christ Boswell and Anthony Chickillo. As a result of this, if either player would sign an offer sheet with another team, the Steelers would have the right to match the offer, or receive draft pick compensation. The restricted free agent signing period is March 14-April 20.

Boswell, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl, kicked four game-winning field goals in 2017, including three as time expired against the Colts, Packers and Bengals. The three field goals with time expiring tied the record for most in a single season since the 1970 NFL merger. His 53-yard game-winning field goal against the Packers tied the record for longest field goal at Heinz Field. Boswell connected on 35 of 38 field goal attempts and 37 of 39 extra point attempts. His 35 field goals set a Steelers single-season record and the first time a Steelers kicker made at least 30 field goals since Shaun Suisham did so in 2013. Boswell also set a team single-season record for most points with 142 and has the sixth-most field goals in team history with 85.

Chickillo had a career-high three sacks in 2017, including two in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns. He sacked Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer twice, the first multi-sack game of his career. Chickillo also scored the first touchdown of his career in the game, and the team’s first touchdown of 2017, after Tyler Matakevich blocked a punt and he recovered it in the end zone. Chickillo finished the season with 14 tackles, three sacks, and a pass defense while playing in all 16 games, including two starts. For his career he has recorded 38 tackles, five and a half sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He also has added 16 special teams tackles.

In addition Greg Ducre, Eli Rogers, who would have been restricted free agents, weren’t offered contract tenders and became unrestricted free agents. Mike Matthews, an exclusive rights free agent, wasn’t signed and also is an unrestricted free agent.

 
The team released veterans William Gay, Robert Golden and Mike Mitchell at the onset of free agency. The Steelers also placed the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell the week before free agency began.

A look at what has happened with player signings since the season ended:

Jordan Berry – Signed a one-year contract extension.

Jon Bostic – Unrestricted free agent who signed a two-year contract.

Chris Boswell - Restricted free agent who received a tender offer.

Morgan Burnett - Unrestricted free agent who signed a three-year contract.

Kameron Canaday – Signed a one-year contract extension.

Anthony Chickillo – Restricted free agent who received a tender offer.

Jordan Dangerfield - Signed to a reserve/future contract. Dangerfield was waived/injured prior to the start of the 2017 season, but signed to the practice squad in Oct. Dangerfield made the 53-man roster in 2016, playing in 14 games and starting two. He finished the season with 16 tackles. Dangerfield spent time during the 2014 and 2015 seasons on the Steelers practice squad.

Matt Feiler – Signed a one-year contract extension.

B.J. Finney – Signed a one-year contract extension

Matt Galambos – Signed to a reserve/future contract. Was originally signed after he came to rookie camp this year on a tryout basis. Was released on the final roster cut, and signed back to the practice squad. Was later released from the practice squad, brought back, but got injured and finished out the season on the injured reserve list.

Malik Golden – Signed to a reserve/future contract. The former Penn State standout was originally signed by the Steelers last July, but released prior to the start of the 2017 season. Was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie free agent in May, 2017, but released before training camp.

Trey Griffey – Signed to a reserve/future contact. The son of Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr., he played collegiately at Arizona. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2017, but was waived/injured before training camp started. He was signed by the Miami Dolphins during camp, but released prior to the season.

Xavier Grimble – Signed a one-year contract extension.

Mike Hilton – Signed a one-year contract extension.

Lavon Hooks – Signed to a reserve/future contract. Originally signed by the team last February, but was released before the start of the season. Spent the 2017 season on the team’s practice squad. Prior to joining the Steelers he spent time with the Green Bay Packers.

Farrington Huguenin – Signed to a reserve/future contract, the second straight year that he was signed to one by the Steelers. Spent the 2017 season on the team’s practice squad. He entered the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2016, signing with the Miami Dolphins, but was released before that season began.

Tevin Jones – Signed to a reserve/future contract. Entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Houston Texans in 2016. Was released by the Texans before the season started, but added to their practice squad late in the season. Was signed by the to a reserve/future contract in Jan., 2017, but waived that spring. Signed by the Kansas City Chiefs that summer, but was released prior to the start of the season. 

Keith Kelsey - Signed to a reserve/future contract. Joined the Steelers an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft. Was released prior to the start of the season, but was brought back to the practice squad.

Darnell Leslie – Signed to a reserve/future contract. Originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie free agent in 2017 after coming in on a tryout during their rookie minicamp.

Jake McGee – Signed to a reserve/future contract. McGee was originally signed by the team on Aug. 2 and spent the entire season on the practice squad. He was on the Chargers practice squad in 2016, and also spent time with the Raiders and Panthers in the 2016 offseason.

Roosevelt Nix – Signed a new four-year contract.

Dashaun Phillips – Signed to a reserve/future contract. Phillips was acquired by the Steelers via a trade with the Washington Redskins on Aug. 23, after he spent his first two seasons with them. Was released on the final roster cut, and signed back to the practice squad where he spent the season.

James Summers – Signed to a reserve/future contract.

Justin Thomas – Signed to a reserve/future contract. Originally signed with the Steelers on Aug. 23, but released on the final roster cut. Spent time on and off the practice squad throughout the 2017 season.

Fitzgerald Toussaint – Signed to a one-year contract.

Marcus Tucker – Signed to a reserve/future contract. He signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016, was released before the season started, and brought back to the practice squad later that season. Was signed to a Reserve/Future contract last season as well. He spent the 2017 season on the team’s practice squad.

Matt Wile – Signed to a reserve/future contract. Originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Carolina Panthers in 2015. Spent time with the Arizona Cardinals (2016) where he punted 10 times for a 37.5-yard net average, and Atlanta Falcons (2016) where he punted twice for a 52-yard net average.