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Defenders S Tyree Kinnel signs with Steelers

Defenders safety Tyree Kinnel rushes the QB in Week 1 against the Seattle Dragons.

The second DC Defender has signed with an NFL team.

Safety Tyree Kinnel agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team announced.

The signing comes shortly after tight end Khari Lee inked a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Kinnel's return to the NFL places him back in the AFC North; he previously spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals. 

The 2018 University of Michigan graduate finished the 2020 XFL season with 17 tackles.

With another opportunity to showcase his skills, Kinnel made sure he started producing early and often. 

"Starting back in camp, I got a lot of opportunities in preseason games and joint practices," Kinnel said. "And then once we got to the season... When I was in there, I played really good, played fast. I was seeing the field a lot better than I had before." 

Although Kinnel played well in the preseason, a crowded safety group meant he saw a large portion of his snaps on special teams. However, when the team released Matt Elam ahead of Week 5, it provided Kinnel with extended playing time at safety. 

Kinnel capitalized on his increased snaps, and finished the game with a team-high 10 tackles. 

"I was ready. I was excited. I knew I was gonna be the guy in there starting," Kinnel said. "I was confident in my play, as I showed throughout the year. When it was time to go play, I was ready to go." 

Kinnel saves a sure touchdown during DC's Week 5 win against the St. Louis BattleHawks.

Kinnel had the opportunity with the Defenders to learn from three safeties with substantial professional chops. Rahim Moore, Elam and Shamarko Thomas have over 15 years of combined NFL experience.

That exclusive tutelage helped Kinnel improve on the field.

"Here in DC with Rahim Moore, Matt Elam and Shamarko Thomas, I was able to learn from all those guys," Kinnel said. "Those guys that were around me who had so much NFL experience, they helped me out a lot." 

When Kinnel gets to Pittsburgh, he'll be around some familiar faces. Kinnel joins four other former Michigan Wolverines in Pittsburgh, and he's said he's already been in contact with most of them. 

"Yeah, I've talked with Zach Gentry, Chris Wormley and Devin Bush a little bit," Kinnel said. "They're just excited for me."

"I'm just excited and ready to get there and start competing." 

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