The Pittsburgh Steelers cut down to 75 players today, cutting a bunch of guys no one has ever heard of. Well, a lot of people have heard of S Myron Rolle, although that’s far more for him being a Rhodes Scholar than a good football player. The Steelers also jettisoned LB Mortty Ivy, who played on last year’s team, due to a hamstring injury, and K Danny Hrapmann, who many (including myself) thought had a shot to displace Shaun Suisham. Alas, not so much.
With the first round of cuts in the books and with the cut down to 53 coming by Friday, it seemed an appropriate time to predict the 53 men that will open the season as Steelers. This situation is complicated a bit this year due to a number of injuries to high-profile players. Rashard Mendenhall, David DeCastro, and Stevenson Sylvester certainly will miss Week One, and James Harrison, Jason Worilds, and Casey Hampton are very much in doubt. If it was easy to predict all 53, though, it wouldn’t be much fun.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich (2) - Yes, I expect the Steelers to break camp with only 2 QB’s on the active roster. If Charlie Batch is released, he will go nowhere but home and would be available to be resigned if an injury arose to Roethlisberger or Leftwich. Jerrod Johnson is a candidate for the practice squad if they decide they want a third arm for practice.
RB: Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch, Chris Rainey, Will Johnson (6) - In something of a surprise, the Steelers pulled Mendenhall off the PUP list, meaning they believe that he will be able to play within the first 6 games of the season. Redman will be the starter until Mendenhall returns, and both Dwyer and Rainey have been impressive in the preseason. Johnson gets the fullback slot by default with the season-ending injury to David Johnson.
WR: Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Derrick Williams (5) – The battle for the 5th WR slot is one of the toughest to call, as David Gilreath has been very impressive in the preseason. Gilreath is eligible for the practice squad and Williams is not, plus Williams has a history of being a successful kick returnerin the NFL, and I thus expect Williams to edge out Gilreath.
TE: Heath Miller, Leonard Pope, David Paulson (3) – Paulson will likely only have the spot for the first 4 games while Weslye Saunders serves his suspension. Once Saunders returns, Paulson will be sent to the practice squad (provided he clears waivers).
OL: Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro, Doug Legursky, Mike Adams, Trai Essex (9) - The Steelers have made the decision not to place DeCastro on IR despite the fact he will be out 3-5 months with a serious knee injury suffered on Saturday night, something that necessitates keeping a 9th OL on the active roster despite the fact that no more than 8 deserve to be there. The Steelers will likely stash one or two of Kelvin Beachum or Ryan Lee on the practice squad.
DL: Ziggy Hood, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Cam Heyward, Steve McLendon, Alameda Ta’amu, Al Woods (7) – The only real suspense at this position is whether Hampton will ever get the starting NT job back from McLendon, who is one verge of stardom. Corbin Bryant is a candidate for the practice squad.
LB: James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, Sean Spence, Adrian Robinson, Stevenson Sylvester, Chris Carter, Brandon Johnson (10) - A position that has been decimated by injuries in the preseason, Harrison, Worilds, and Sylvester are all iffy at best to play in the opener. Robinson has been one of the surprises of the preseason, earning his way onto the roster as an UDFA.
CB: Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Terrence Frederick (5) - The real battle here is whether Allen or Lewis will start at LCB, and Allen has been more impressive all throughout camp and the preseason and, in my opinion, has won the job. Frederick hasn’t been that impressive, but it’s hard to imagine keeping only 4 CB’s, particularly when opening in Denver against Peyton Manning.
S: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen, Robert Golden (5) – It wouldn’t shock me to see Damon Cromartie-Smith make the 53-man roster, although Golden has been too good to cut, even if he is an UDFA. Allen has held onto a roster spot for a long time for no obvious reason, but his veteran experience makes him unlikely to be cut.
LS: Greg Warren
K: Shaun Suisham
P: Drew Butler – Butler may have beaten out Jeremy Kapinos even if Kapinos weren’t injured, but Kapinos’ injury makes this an easy decision.
Practice Squad – The practice squad is never quite what one thinks it will be, and there are usually a few guys picked up from other teams, but if I were to pick 8 guys from the current 75 that I’d put on the practice squad, they would be QB Jarrod Johnson, WR David Gilreath, OL Ryan Lee, OL Kelvin Beachum, DL Corbin Bryant, LB Marshall McFadden, WR Toney Clemons, CB Terry Carter
The opener is now 13 days away, and much remains in doubt with the 2012 Steelers’ roster. Mike Wallace still hasn’t practiced, lots of LB are nicked up, and there are several UDFA’s that are on their way to earning roster spots. Buckle in – it’s going to be a fun ride.