The Steelers just made some of their most difficult final cuts in years. Some players, such as special-teams standouts Stefan Logan and Patrick Bailey, as well as talented young corner Joe Burnett, will have to hook up with other teams, since they are not eligible for the Pittsburgh practice squad even if no other squad adds them to their 53-man roster.
But most of the players closest to making the team who were cut can be re-signed to the practice squad, including several with long-term potential to be significant contributors.
However, players cut are free to sign with any other team they choose. Any player released, of course, would latch onto a 53-man roster if offered, but they can also join any other team’s practice squad if desired.
Still, it would be ideal if Pittsburgh could resign FB Frank Summers, WR Tyler Grisham, OG-C Kraig Urbik, DL Sunny Harris and DE Doug Worthington to the eight-player practice squad. All showcased solid potential this preseason and all might have made the Pittsburgh 53-man roster in other years.
It is unlikely the Steelers can retain all five of those, with Summers, Urbik and Harris the most likely to leave. If they did, though, they could fill out the rest of the squad with three players they just released: one of two safeties Justin Thornton or Da’Mon Cromartie Smith, OT Kyle Jolly and TE Eugene Bright.
If Urbik cannot be re-signed, OG-C Dorian Brooks would also be a strong internal candidate for the practice squad. Running back, tight end and nose tackle are positions where Pittsburgh may look elsewhere for practice-squad members, all of whom should be known within the next 48-72 hours.
From the list of cuts, the Steelers may miss Logan and Bailey the most this season. However, Pittsburgh may end up regretting the release of Burnett the most down the road. Anthony Madison, however, was too important to the special teams to keep off the roster, and youngsters Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler have more physical upside at corner than Burnett, who looks like at best a serviceable nickleback.
Plus, Burnett never exhibited the skills that made him an exceptional return specialist at Central Florida and his drop of an easy, potential game-clinching interception against Oakland last year kept the Steelers out of the playoffs. That one is hard to forget or forgive, and the Pittsburgh staff evidently did not.