The Pittsburgh Steelers put two players on defense who weren't on the roster as starters for most of this year, and they finished the season at least close to being starters. Their opportunity arose out of necessity, but overall they handled it well.
ILB Myles Jack was a much more familiar name. He was already a starter on defense in 2022, but was released due to his high salary. After his retirement and a series of injuries at his position, he finally received a call from the Steelers in midseason.
Eric Rowe is a veteran defensive back with a wealth of experience. The Steelers were eager to have him on their practice squad in November, but did not expect him to start the final four games of the season.
They had to do it because Damonte Kaze was suspended and Minkah Fitzpatrick was injured. These two events occurred on consecutive plays. Keanu Neal was already on the reserve/injured list. Lowe was left virtually to the end, with cornerback Patrick Peterson moved in to start safely with him.
Jack also gradually earned playing time after a series of injuries to inside linebackers, including starters Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb. He's had his ups and downs, and the postseason loss to the Buffalo Bills wasn't his best game.
But overall, head coach Mike Tomlin was impressed with both players' performances, both overall and in context. They performed well off the bench under pressure, and Tomlin said in his postseason press conference that he would “absolutely” continue to trade both players.
This is pretty remarkable considering neither was on the 53-man roster at any point during the season. They each played in the final four games, but were promoted from the practice squad to play instead of being signed to 53 for each game.
During 155 defensive snaps during the regular season, Lowe recorded 29 tackles, including one for a point. He added an interception and two passes defensed with a forced fumble. In addition to that, he also contributed eight tackles and a pass defensed in the postseason game against Buffalo.
Jack's playing time was less consistent, making only one official start, but he recorded 17 tackles on 131 snaps, including one for a goal. was. He also recorded his first sack since 2020 and added two hits. In limited work against the Bills, he added four more tackles, but unfortunately also added two penalties.
Both players drew praise for their turns at the plate throughout the final month of the season. Still, Tomlin expressed a willingness to continue working with them in the future, although neither is guaranteed.
Lowe will be 32 next season and Jack will be 29, but he has already retired once. I don't know if either of them actually want to continue playing. As of now, they are on practice squad contracts. They weren't guys who had already signed reserve/future contracts, but they could be exploring other options before making that commitment.