Analyzing the Last In and Out (Part 2)

We recently posted a current projected Steelers’ 53-man opening day roster, including the last 14 to be cut and the last 14 to make the team.

On Wednesday we broke down how the last seven currently projected to make the team can play their way on or off the opening-day 53-man roster with three preseason games remaining.

Today we break down the seven closest to making the team, who right now appear to be on the wrong side of the turk but still have three weeks left to prove to the coaches that they are worthy of a roster spot.

Here again were the lists:

Last 14 To Make the Team (in order of likelihood of being cut and their position matters): 1. DE Sunny Harris, 2. DE Nick Eason, 3. FB/TB Frank Summers, 4. OT Jonathan Scott, 5. RB Isaac Redman, 6. ILB Stevenson Sylvester, 7. CB Crezdon Butler, 8. CB Joe Burnett, 9. C Justin Hartwig, 10. WR Antonio Brown, 11. TE/FB D.J. Johnson, 12. WR Antwaan Randle El, 13. ILB Keyaron Fox, 14. S Ryan Mundy

Last 14 Released From Camp (in order of how close they are to making team and their position matters): 1. QB Charlie Batch, 2. RB Jonathan Dwyer, 3. OT Tony Hills, 4. FB/TE Sean McHugh, 5. RET Stefan Logan, 6. OG Kraig Urbik, 7. CB/ST Anthony Madison,  8. OG Dorian Brooks, 9. DE Doug Worthington, 10. OL Adrian Jones, 11. FB/RB Dwayne Wright, 12. LB/ST Renauld Williams, 13. WR Tyler Grisham, 14. OLB/ST Patrick Bailey


Why he will not make the team: Batch is almost a lock to be on the last round of cuts, primarily because the Steelers would then not be required to pay him a full season’s salary if/when he is resigned. If he is resigned – and the odds remain in favor of this – it will probably be for just 3-4 games until Ben Roethlisberger returns from suspension. However, the Steelers are deep and talented at several position areas, and do not want to cut young and talented players who may be picked up by other teams before opening day. That is not a concern with Batch, who will stay in the area waiting for a call from the Steelers in case of any injuries or just for games 2-4. Finally, if you do keep him to be a No. 3 QB for 3-4 weeks and then ironically both Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon go down in week No. 1 with injuries, do you really think Batch can stay healthy for three games as a starter? Count me as a non-believer.

Why he will make the team: Batch provides stability, leadership and guidance at a position desperately in need of all three. Leftwich only has one year in the Pittsburgh system and was not on the team in 2009. Dixon is inexperienced and raw. Roethlisberger needs a role model for how to act in life. Batch provides all of those.


Why he will not make the team: Dwyer has been the biggest disappointment on the team since training camp opened, showing up overweight and out of shape, and missing much valuable practice time with an assortment of injuries. He has exhibited no versatility, as he is seemingly unfit for spot duty at fullback or on any special-teams units, both of which are usually needed to be a No. 3 or No. 4 running back for Pittsburgh. Finally, the Steelers should be pretty confident that they could release Dwyer and resign him to the practice squad if desired. He lasted until the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, has not impressed this preseason, and big, slow, rookie power tailbacks are not in demand on the NFL waiver wire.

Why he will make the team: Potential, potential, potential. Dwyer had a second-round grade by some experts and was widely viewed as one of the biggest steals in the draft. He then showed up for OTAs in great shape, looked impressive, and flashed long-term starting potential. Barry Foster comparisons were inevitable. That talent will keep him on the 53-man roster. Although inactive on game days this fall, he can learn how to play tailback after being a fullback in Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, pushing for serious playing time in 2011.


Why he will not make the team: Hills has been on the Steelers’ roster for the past three seasons and has done absolutely nothing in the NFL, other than being regularly whipped in intrasquad scrimmages. Jonathan Scott, his primary competitor for a roster spot, actually has NFL game experience, which gives him a clear edge over Hills, who cannot even make the dress roster for gamedays. Hills lacks physicality in the run game and is regularly beat in pass-rushing drills despite his athleticism. At some point teams usually give up on failed projects. The Steelers should have reached that point two seasons ago with Hills.

Why he will make the team: The Steelers’ ninth offensive lineman is wide open, but the team probably needs to go with a tackle for that spot. Hills is far more athletic and potentially a much better pass blocker against speed rushers than Jonathan Scott. With Flozell Adams struggling against speed rushers, it is not unthinkable that Hills could end up in the starting lineup before the end of the season. He becomes even more important if LT Max Starks went down with an injury. Hills also looked serviceable against the Lions in week No. 1. Finally, Hills is clearly the best athlete among the four or five offensive linemen competing for the last roster spot.


Why he will not make the team: The Steelers appear to have Frank Summers as their No. 1 fullback ahead of McHugh, and McHugh is also behind David Johnson for the No. 3 tight end spot. If he stays behind those two at those spots, McHugh adds little value to the roster and does not dress on gamedays. McHugh is a journeyman type who can be easily replaced or possibly even resigned if released.

Why he will make the team: McHugh was a solid lead blocker at fullback, No. 3 tight end and special-teams contributor on a Super Bowl championship squad in 2008. The Steelers’ front office and coaching staff thinks so highly of him that they stashed him on IR last year for a minor injury rather than giving him an injury settlement. He is one of the most versatile players on the team and a solid special-teams contributor who was missed in 2009.


Why he will not make the team: The Steelers signaled they did not plan to keep Logan on the 53-man roster by drafting a pair of receivers who also possess return skills and by selecting 10 draft picks, thus increasing their depth across the roster. Most of the lower-round draft picks, including sixth-round WR/return specialist Antonio Brown, have been very impressive thus far in camp at receiver. If the writing wasn’t already on the wall for Logan, it is now that Brown will be the primary returner for both kicks and punts this Saturday against the Giants. The Steelers’ front office and coaches have never liked using a roster spot just on a return specialist, and that is really all the diminutive Logan can do at the NFL level. Pittsburgh also has multiple, decent options for returning punts (e.g., Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Antwaan Randle El, Mewelde Moore, Joe Burnett). While they have fewer options on kick returns, this is a squad that won a Super Bowl with Carey Davis and Gary Russell returning kicks, meaning they place little value on this area.

Why he will make the team: Logan did not return any kicks for scores in 2010, but did average an impressive 26.7 yards per return. He was probably the team’s best kick returner since Dwight Stone and maybe since Rod Woodson. Logan is simply the team’s best option on returns. He is also serviceable on kickoff coverage, recording 12 tackles in 2009. If he demonstrates big-play return skills over the next three preseason games, which is what he did in the 2009 preseason, he will be difficult to cut.


Why he will not make the team: Well, this is Urbik’s second season with the Steelers and he still cannot crack the two-deep depth chart unless there is an injury. His pass-blocking skills make Chris Kemoeatu look like Anthony Munoz. He was over-drafted in a bad offensive guard class and it is time to admit the front office made a mistake. The top eight offensive linemen look set and the ninth spot is likely to go to a pure tackle, a position Urbik could never play in the NFL

Why he will make the team: Urbik was a third-round pick in 2009 after a stellar four-year career as a great run blocker at Wisconsin, a school that has produced several quality linemen in recent years. It is too early to give up on him. He was lousy last camp and the Steelers’ found a spot for him. While they may be able to blame it on a departed offensive line coach, several scouts and Kevin Colbert will look bad at cutting such a high pick at a position of need so soon.

7. CB/ST Anthony Madison

Why he will not make the team:
Madison is No. 7 on this list, in large part because he is currently the No. 7 CB for the Steelers. The top four are roster locks: Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, William Gay, Keenan Lewis. The next two, Joe Burnett and Crezdon Butler, are youngsters with talent. Butler has great size and speed, and Burnett could be a solid dime contributor who also returns kicks. Neither will be cut to keep Madison. I will write a $50 check to and credit on this blog any person who can find one team in the history of the NFL that kept seven pure cornerbacks on its opening-day roster. Good luck. The Steelers, nor any team, can afford to keep so many players at one position. Madison is an undersized veteran who cannot play cornerback in the NFL.

Why he will make the team:
Seven spots away from making the team? What kind of idiot came up with this list? Madison is not only one of the Steelers’ 53 best players, he is among the team’s 35 most important. Two years ago he was a star on a solid Pittsburgh special-teams unit. Last year, Pittsburgh cut Madison before the season and proceeded to have one of the worst special-teams coverage units in the history of the NFL. The team gave up an NFL record four kick returns for TDs over a five-week period. Madison, who began last season with the Colts, was resigned afterward and Pittsburgh never yielded another kick return for a score. The coaches undoubtedly regret cutting Madison before 2009 and will not make the same mistake again.

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