The preseason is over except for the final roster cutdown. Pittsburgh thwarted a two-point conversion by the Panthers in the final minutes, then watched as a last-second Panthers field goal missed wide right in Pittsburgh’s 17-16 win.
Personally, I wish that the proposed two-game preseason had been enacted this year. We’d possibly still have a healthy David DeCastro, lost to a knee injury last week against the Bills, and maybe we’d still have a healthy Sean Spence, lost to a knee injury tonight against the Panthers.
We don’t have a final prognosis on Spence yet, but with the way he was flailing in pain before he was carted off the field, it sure looks like Spence won’t be stepping on the field again until after the season.
After the preseason, the two rookie draft picks most likely to have contributed this season are both going to be wearing knee braces. DeCastro was going to be a starter. Spence was going to be a special teams’ demon.
DeCastro’s loss for the foreseeable future will obviously be the bigger loss (although the new IR rule passed today makes it easier to postpone a decision on whether DeCastro will be able to help out later this season). But in the short term, Spence’s injury is more difficult to fill. Ramon Foster is ready to step in for DeCastro. With injuries to Jason Worlids, Stevenson Sylvester and James Harrison, there simply aren’t enough healthy linebackers to cover kicks and punts in Week One.
If Monty Ivy hadn’t gotten hurt last week, he’d likely be on the roster next week simply because he can cover kicks. Now Pittsburgh has to decide on whether they are willing to go with third-stringers Marshall McFadden or Brandon Hicks or troll the waiver wire for a linebacker who can play special teams.
Cornerback Curtis Brown and safety Robert Golden were both injured as well, although the severity of their injuries are not yet known.
Enough with the bad news, here are some other thoughts on the final preseason game.
As far as players on the roster bubble, cornerback Terrence Frederick hurt his chances as he was burned for a long bomb in the final minutes. But then if Brown’s knee injury is serious, he may make the team because there are no other options.
The decision of whether to keep Corbin Bryant or Al Woods looks to be the toughest decision. Either one looks capable of being a development defensive end. I’d probably choose Woods, but either one would be a tough cut.
At tight end, Weslye Sanders keeps playing in garbage time, but he again looked like Pittsburgh’s second-best tight end.
Fullback Will Johnson looks like a willing but raw blocker, more impressively, he showed how he can cause some problems for defenses by leaking out on pass routes, where he has enough speed to beat a linebacker and the power to run over defensive backs.
Tailback Jonathan Dwyer looks like a beast. Whether Rashard Mendenhall is healthy or not, Dwyer needs to play. To me, he’s easily the best choice to be the Steelers’ third-down back. Last week he showed he’s a better pass catcher than his scouting report would indicate and unlike the other candidates he has the size to stop a blitzing linebacker.