Second-year wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, an undrafted free agent out of Southern California, continues to make big plays under the bright lights with the game on the line in the fourth quarter of games for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Through two preseason games, Vaughns has scored the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds after breaking a tackle against the Seattle Seahawks, and then made two pivotal catches along the left sideline, breaking tackles in the process, against the Jacksonville Jaguars to put the Steelers in scoring position.
Those catches ultimately led to a one-yard touchdown pass from Mason Rudolph to Tyler Snead, giving the Steelers a late lead that they’d never relinquish in the win over Jacksonville on the road.
Vaughns, though relatively quiet during training camp overall, has found his game in the preseason, becoming a consistent target for quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph in the second half of games, helping the former USC standout make a case for not only a roster spot on the 53-man roster, but a spot on the 16-man practice squad.
While he’s not the flashiest in practice and doesn’t make the highlight-reel catches like some others on the same roster, Vaughns is quietly a steady player overall that is exceptionally reliable. That’s the type of presence he’s brought to the table this offseason, turning it on in games where it matters most, he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski Monday.
“All our quarterbacks can see what I can do out here,” Vaughns said from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Monday, according to original reporting from Adamski for the Tribune-Review. “They see it in practice, and I am more of an in-game type of person so in the game they will see me out there when they are looking for a better matchup.”
When the lights are brightest, that’s when Vaughns truly emerges. It’s a strong trait to have, especially for a young receiver hoping to stick in the NFL with a franchise like the Steelers, which does an exceptional job finding wide receiver talent and developing it.
Though Vaughns might not be on the same level of guys from the Steelers past at the position that made headlines and were outright star-caliber players during their time in the black and gold, he’s continuing in the long line of intriguing, young players that might not have the best physical traits, yet somehow find ways to win and win consistently.
As he told Adamski, he’s more of an in-game player, which is working to his benefit here in the preseason. Through two games, Vaughns has six catches for 88 yards and one touchdown. On those six catches, he’s forced four missed tackles, based on my charting for Steelers Depot.
Not only is he getting open and showing the quarterbacks his numbers, he’s making plays after the catch with the football in his hands. While he’s a long shot for the 53-man roster at this point, he feels like a stone-cold lock to stick on the Steelers practice squad, assuming no other NFL team picks him up due to his play in preseason.