Every year after the NFL Draft concludes, the onslaught of undrafted free agent signings begin and plenty of talented players find their ways on to rosters either through contracts or tryouts as they try to get their name on a board heading into training camp.
For D2 players, most are either going to sign a contract as a free agent and hope to flash skills that should have made them draft picks, or — like plenty of players this year — some will go on a tryout basis to see if they are worthy of getting a roster spot over another UDFA or futures contract player signed during the offseason.
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Enter in the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have signed multiple D2 players over the years to contracts either following the draft or tryouts, and it looks like they are trying to replicate the same this season with three local D2 players being attached to the team.
The first player — and only one signed to a contract — is Ethan Cooper, an offensive lineman from Indiana (PA), just North of the Pittsburgh area. Cooper was expected to be a late-round draft pick this past weekend, but slid out due to a lack of depth in the offensive line class and many teams not drafting any at all.
My brother is officially a Pittsburgh Steeler!!! @ECoop59 pic.twitter.com/E2GaohwQff
— Kevin Brown. (@MuggaKev) April 29, 2017
An All-PSAC West selection in his final two years of play with the Crimson Hawks, Cooper was a left guard in 2015 and right tackle in 2016, filling out roles on the IUP line that was asked to do a lot of run blocking for a run-heavy scheme. That trait alone was reason that Cooper was worth a flyer late in the draft, but his lack of other traits may have caused him to slide.
The Steelers don't really need any linemen for the main roster, but depth is always critical for a team that sees their o-line get injured quite often, so a practice squad spot is not out of the question for the former IUP standout.
Take a 45 mile drive South of Pittsburgh, and you will find the other two local products the Steelers have brought in for tryouts from California (PA) — the hated rival of IUP.
The first is tight end Paul Butler, a big 6-foot-6 receiver that was tasked with a lot of blocking during his time at Cal, something I believe that is not suited to his true abilities as a pass-catcher. Only catching 32 passes for 381 yards in his collegiate career, Butler was impressive in blocking which is what the Steelers need on the depth chart.
With impressive vertical numbers (39.5 inches) and three-cone times (7.06 seconds), Butler might be a moldable piece that the Steelers can work into their roster at some point this Summer or the years to come.
The second Cal U alum is Aaron Terry, who has been reported to get an invite with the Steelers though nothing is official. Terry took to Twitter to proclaim that he "can't say nothing", but also added #SteelersNation to the end of his tweet, giving away a potential landing spot for the three-time All-PSAC selection.
Playing at corner and then safety in his collegiate playing time, Terry was a ball hawk who brought in 13 interceptions during his four years. Also a willing tackler and someone who can stop the run at a decent rate, Terry could be a good player to put in the secondary room for the Steelers as they continue to remodel that portion of their defense.
While the chances for any of the three players to make the opening roster for the Steelers is very slim, it is still something to see that a few D2 players are getting a chance with the local team in their area. Before we know it, we could see Butler, Cooper, or Terry suiting up in the preseason for Pittsburgh trying to get their name out there for any other team that might be interested in their services.
Continue checking to HERO for updates on the three D2 players and all other D2 players on NFL rosters throughout the Summer and into the Fall, and later this week for a full breakdown of all UDFA and minicamp invitees from D2.