The Steelers must cut their roster to 53 before midnight today. But that will likely not be the opening-day roster, which is what we try to project at SteelersLounge.com throughout the offseason. With all the various Steelers who are nursing injuries that may sideline them for week 1, and Pittsburgh a strong possibility to claim a released player or two from other squads due to injuries and/or a lack of talent in the second half of the Steelers’ preseason roster at several positions, it is unlikely anyone can accurately project the squad’s 53-player opening-day roster at this point.
The NFL and NFLPA wisely just agreed upon a new rule, which allows teams to place one player on injured reserve for eight weeks. Prior to this agreement all players put on IR were lost for the entire season. Pittsburgh fans can call this the David DeCastro rule, since the rookie first-round pick from Stanford would have cost the team a roster spot even though he is not expected back return from knee surgery until after missing 8-12 games. A quirk of the rule requires that DeCastro be on the initial 53-man roster, meaning someone like Charlie Batch, Baron Batch, David Gilreath, a defensive back, or a linebacker will be cut today, but that one player is likely re-signed to the 53-man roster next week after DeCastro is officially placed on the half-season IR list.At this point it would be surprising if the Steelers do not claim a linebacker from another team’s waiver wire in the next couple of days. Since our last projection, Pittsburgh activated injured linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds from the PUP list. While Harrison seems likely to play at Denver in the season-opner and Worilds a possibility , neither will partake in special teams. Worilds may not be able to do so for quite a while, since the brace he is wearing on his wrist makes tackling difficult. Reserve Stevenson Sylvester will likely not return from his MCL injury until week 2 at the earliest, but is still likely to make the 53-man roster.
With the loss of rookie third-round pick Sean Spence for the season in last night’s meaningless fourth preseason game against the Panthers, the Steelers would be wise to carry an extra linebacker for the season opener for special teams and depth, although the game being in Mile High means kickoff coverage should be less of a concern.
Undrafted rookie free agent Adrian Robinson has clearly been among the team’s top eight linebackers this preseason and has excellent long-term potential, but is strictly an undersized pass rusher at this point, who offers no value against the run or special teams. Thus, expect the Steelers to pick up a veteran linebacker in the next 48 hours unless they are comfortable keeping a longshot from their camp roster for a week or two just for special teams and depth at inside linebacker, with Brandon Hicks, Marshall McFadden, and Ryan Baker all showing flashes at times during preseason games.
Other Quick Thoughts:
We had Da’Mon Cromartie Smith making the 53-man roster all off-season, because Ryan Clark will not play in the opener at Denver due to his Sickle Cell. Smith, however, was clearly outplayed by rookie free agent Robert Golden in the secondary this preseason.
Smith is stronger, more experienced, and probably the better special teams player. Still, we were leaning towards switching our prediction before Golden sustained a minor hamstring Thursday, which indicates he is probably ticketed for the practice squad. In fact, Pittsburgh could take a week or two to add Golden to that unit if his hamstring injury is more serious than currently assumed.
However, we had Pittsburgh only keeping four cornerbacks in all of our projections and that still seemed the likely result until No. 4 corner Curtis Brown left last night’s game with a knee injury and did not return. No injury updates on Brown have been posted, but the Steelers would likely need to keep a fifth cornerback (Josh Victorian or Terrence Frederick) for week No. 1 if Brown is sidelined or cannot participate on any special-teams units. Frederick is the better long-term prospect, but he has been burned badly several times in the preseason, and Victorian is the better special-teams player.
Finally, even after the Steelers activated Reshard Mendenhall from the PUP list, with the possibility of his return by game No. 3, we have assumed Baron Batch would make the team as a third-down back. Mike Tomlin, however, said that starter Isaac Redman is his third-down back, Jonathan Dwyer has looked serviceable on passing downs and impressive as a primary back, and rookie speedster Chris Rainey can obviously flare out of the backfield on third down.
Mendenhall is capable of playing on third downs after his return, so why again should Batch make the team? What does he offer? Basically he is a poor man’s Mewelde Moore. That shiftiness and speed that Batch flashed last training camp appears to have been lost due to the devastating knee injury that sidelined him for all of 2011.
Batch, however, does offer more size for special teams than potential No. 5 receiver David Gilreath. Personally, I’d rather have D.J. Ware – who is bigger than Batch and was the Giants’ third-down back last season but was recently released – over either, but Batch’s knowledge of the Steelers’ playbook may keep him on the roster until Mendenhall returns to action.
Projected 53-Man, Opening-Day Roster
** = Roster Lock (95% or better barring major injury or arrest)
* = Roster Near Lock (75-94% barring major injury or arrest)
No stars = Clinging to the 53-man roster at this point
(These stars assume no more roster additions – outside of Starks – or season-ending/major injuries)
QB Ben Roethlisberger **
QB Byron Leftwich *
QB Charlie Batch
RB Isaac Redman **
RB Jonathan Dwyer **
RB Rashard Mendenhall **
RB Baron Batch
RB/WR Chris Rainey **
FB/H-Back Will Johnson
TE Heath Miller **
TE Leonard Pope
TE/H-Back David Paulson
WR Mike Wallace **
WR Antonio Brown **
WR Emmanuel Sanders **
WR Jerricho Cotchery **
LT Max Starks **
LG Willie Colon **
C Maurkice Pouncey **
RG Ramon Foster **
RT Marcus Gilbert **
C/G Doug Legursky **
G/T/C Trai Essex **
T Mike Adams **
DE Ziggy Hood **
NT Casey Hampton **
DE Brett Keisel **
DE Cameron Heyward **
NT/DE Steve McLendon **
NT Alameda Ta’amu *
DE/NT Al Woods
OLB James Harrison **
OLB LaMarr Woodley **
OLB Chris Carter **
OLB Jason Worilds **
ILB/OLB (Adrian Robinson, or more likely someone claimed off waivers, Greg Jones? Patrick Bailey? etc.)
OLB/ILB Brandon Johnson *
ILB Lawrence Timmons **
ILB Larry Foote **
ILB Stevenson Sylvester
SS Troy Polamalu **
FS Ryan Clark **
S Ryan Mundy *
S Will Allen
S Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith
CB Ike Taylor **
CB Keenan Lewis **
CB Cortez Allen **
CB Curtis Brown **
CB Josh Victorian
K Shaun Suisham
P Drew Butler
SN Greg Warren *
Suspended (4 games): TE Weslye Saunders
IR (8-game exception): OG David DeCastro (Will be on 53-man roster after tonight, though)
IR (all season): FB/TE/H-Back: D.J. Johnson
IR (all season): LB Sean Spence
Opening Game-Day Inactives (7): RB Rashard Mendenhall (injured), TE/H-Back David Paulson, OT Mike Adams, NT Alameda Ta’amu, LB Stevenson Sylvester (injured), LB Jason Worilds (injured), S Ryan Clark (because game is in Denver, where Clark’s sickle cell trait prevents him from playing in high altitudes)
Practice Squad (8): QB Jerrod Johnson, WR David Gilreath, OG/OT Kelvin Beachum, OG Chris Lee, DE Corbin Bryant, OLB Adrian Robinson, S Robert Golden, CB Terrence Frederick
- Ridiculously Early 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Projected Roster and Other Goodies (V 1.0)
- 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Projected Roster and Other Goodies (V 3.0; Worilds on PUP)
- 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Projected Roster and Other Goodies (V 2.0)
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Mock Draft and Projected 53-Man Roster (V. 1.0)
- Explaining the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2012 Salary-Cap Quandary (Part 1)