Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Steelers give up 3 to make room for Mataeo Durant and other rookie UDFAs

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The Pittsburgh Steelers play on Tuesday, May 10th dispenses with two players — and forgoing another with an injury designation — to give them the 90-strong list that takes them to this weekend’s rookie mini-camp, which will be held May 13-15, 2022.

Among the players who were waived is inside linebacker Tegray Scales, who lost his roster spot the same day he turned 26. The former Indiana Hoosier originally signed with the Steelers in January 2019 and stayed with the team until the final round of roster cuts that year.

In 2020, he spent time on the Pittsburgh practice team and their active roster, making his regular-season debut against the Buffalo Bills. All told, he played in four games (he appeared almost exclusively on special teams) before being waived ahead of Pittsburgh’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers brought him back in January 2021, but he was quashed when general manager Kevin Colbert traded for linebacker Joe Schobert on August 12 at the cost of a 2022 sixth-round pick.

Scales continued to spend time with the Cleveland Browns before joining the Bengals on December 21, 2021. The Steelers pulled him off the Cincinnati practice team on New Year’s Day 2022 and gave him the opportunity to play again on special teams for the Steelers.

Scales has said he plans to pursue a mixed martial arts (MMA) career once his NFL journey is over.

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The second player the Steelers waived Tuesday was long snapper Rex Sunahara, who was trying out for the team for the first time in the summer of 2020, at a time when then-long snapper Kameron Canaday was struggling with an injury. He coached again for the Steelers on December 7, 2021 and was signed to Pittsburgh’s practice team a day later, only to be released on December 10, 2021.

Eventually, he was signed to Reserve/Futures in mid-January this year as one of 12 players on a one-year contract. While a student with the West Virginia Mountaineers, Sunahara was a semifinalist for the Patrick Mannely Award, which goes to the nation’s top long snapper.

Cornerback Isaiah Johnson signed a one-year reserve/futures contract with the Steelers on January 19, 2022. He is a former Raiders fourth-round pick (No. 129 overall in 2019) who appeared in 19 games for the Silver & Black in 2019 and 2020 before spending time on the Pittsburgh practice team in December 2021. So far in his career, he has been credited with a total of 15 tackles and five passes defended.

Assuming Johnson, 26, clears the waivers, he will be placed on injured reserve and could later be released with an injury rule.

The above moves come with the Steelers needing room for a trio of rookie undrafted free agents, namely: offensive tackle Jordan Tucker; and running backs Jaylen Warren and Mataeo Durant, the latter of whom earned the “largest UDFA RB contract in franchise history.” Both Warren and Durant want to give it a long look during training camp and preseason, as the Steelers would love to see a low-budget defenseman show up for the #3 running back job (or maybe #4 ) to win.

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