This article has been updated from it’s original posting date of June 17th to match the Steelers’ roster.
The rules of eligibility for the practice squad on an NFL football team can be quite complex, so I will do my best to break it down. We know that each team is restricted to a 53-man roster, meaning they can not have more than that number of players on their active roster. Then a team goes down to a 46-man active game day roster, where 8 players on the active roster will not dress for a game. A team is privileged with a practice squad that consists of no more than 8 players. A grand total of 61 players on the roster not counting your reserved/injured players throughout the length of the season.
Now with all of that being said, there are a lot more rules and restrictions about the practice squad itself. The practice squad is a group of players that of course are not on the active roster. They are required to be paid at least $5,700 a week. There is no maximum salary to pay a practice squad player, although it does count against the team’s salary cap, so in most cases you will not see a salary much higher than that.
Now let’s get down to the real regulations of a practice squad and what it takes to be eligible.
First and foremost, a player is not eligible for the practice squad if he has spent a season of being a free agent according to NFL rules.
Secondly, a team may place a player on the practice squad for a maximum of three seasons. However, in his third season, if the team should drop below 53-players, the third year practice squad player will automatically be elevated to the main 53-man roster.
A player could not have been on an active 46-man game day roster for more than eight weeks accumulated in his career. A player is considered to have used a year of practice squad eligibility if he was placed there for three weeks of the regular or post season in each of his first two years. In his last season of eligibility, just one game placed on the practice squad is considered a season of eligibility during the regular or post season. This all means that in a player’s first two seasons, he will be unable to qualify under year one or year two of eligibility if they stayed on the squad for more than three weeks. Same goes for year three, after just one game.
Lastly, if another team wants to sign a player off a practice squad, they are required to sign him to their 53-man roster, and must pay the player 3 weeks of salary if not kept for that length of time.
If you understood all of that above, I went through the entire Steelers’ roster and listed every player that is eligible for the practice squad. I even listed some players that are fighting for a roster spot that are not eligible. Needless to say, all rookies and undrafted free agents are eligible for the practice squad, but I will still list them.
NOT ELIGIBLE: CB Curtis Brown, LB Chris Carter, RB Jonathan Dwyer, TE David Johnson, FB Will Johnson, OG John Melecki, TE Jamie McCoy, TE David Paulson, RB Isaac Redman, LB Brian Rolle, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, DB Ross Ventrone, T Guy Whimper, LB Kion Wilson, DE Al Woods
ELIGIBLE: DE Brian Arnfelt, LB Alan Baxter, OG Kelvin Beachum, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Justin Brown, WR Reggie Dunn, DT Hebron Fangupo, LB Terence Garvin, S Robert Golden, OT Mike Golic Jr., CB Isaiah Green, CB Terry Hawthorne, G Chris Hubbard, LB Jarvis Jones, QB Landry Jones, T Joe Long, C Joe Madsen, LB Marshall McFadden, WR Kahif Moore, WR Derek Moye, NT Alameda Ta’amu, S Shamarko Thomas, DB Josh Victorian, WR Markus Wheaton, LB Vince Williams
Of course guys like Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Shamarko Thomas, and Markus Wheaton are highly unlikely to be placed on the practice squad, but they are eligible and after the 2008 draft, who knows what could happen. Of all the players listed above, who do you believe will be the 8 players paced on the practice squad Steeler Nation? Feel free to comment!