Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Roster Moves & Week 2 Battles

The Steelers made a few moves over the last few days due to some injuries that were suffered in the first preseason game. David Johnson (torn ACL) was waived/injured. Johnson has to clear waivers in order for the Steelers to place him on Injured Reserve. Similarly, RB John Clay (torn quad) was waived/injured. Clay also has to clear waivers before being able to go on IR. The Steelers signed TE Justin Peelle who played for San Francisco last year and FB Jay Ford formerly of the Texans. Most importantly, the Steelers activated Max Starks from the Physically Unable to Perform list. Starks has to go through a "no contact" period per the CBA, but he could be in pads by the 3rd preseason game in Buffalo.

With those moves in mind, here's a look at how the Steelers roster is shaking out:

Locks (24)
B. Roethlisberger (QB), B. Leftwich (QB), I. Redman (RB), M. Wallace (WR), A. Brown (WR), E. Sanders (WR), J. Cotchery (WR), H. Miller (TE), M. Gilbert (OT), M. Starks (OT), M. Adams (OT), W. Colon (OG), D. DeCastro (OG), M. Pouncey (C), B. Keisel (DE), Z. Hood (DE), C. Heyward (DE), S. McLendon (NT), L. Woodley (OLB), L. Timmons (ILB), L. Foote (ILB), I. Taylor (CB), T. Polamalu (SS), R. Clark (FS)

Probable (18)
C. Batch (QB), J. Dwyer (RB), C. Rainey (RB), L. Pope (TE), R. Foster (OG), T. Essex (OG), D. Legursky (OG), A. Ta'amu (NT), C. Carter (OLB), S. Spence (ILB), S. Sylvester (ILB), K. Lewis (CB), C. Allen (CB), C. Brown (CB), R. Mundy (FS), S. Suisham (K), J. Kapinos (P), G. Warren (LS)

PUP (4)
R. Mendenhall (RB), C. Hampton (NT), J. Harrison (OLB), J. Worlids (OLB)

On the Bubble (22)
B. Batch (RB), W. Johnson (FB), D. Paulson (TE), J. Peelle (TE), T. Clemons (WR), M. Maze (WR), D. Williams (WR), K. Beachum (OG), C. Scott (OT), C. Bryant (DE), A. Woods (DE), M. Ivy (ILB), B. Johnson (ILB), A. Robinson (OLB), T. Frederick (CB), A. Freeman (CB), W. McFadden (CB), W. Allen (SS), D. Cromartie-Smith (S), R. Golden (S), M. Rolle (S), D. Butler (P)

Likely Cuts (20)
J. Johnson (QB), J. Ford (FB),  J. McCoy (TE), T. Beiler (WR), P. Cox (WR), D. Gilreath (WR), J. Stewart (WR), J. Young (WR), J. Malecki (OG), K. Jolly (OT), R. Lee (OG), I. Igbinosun (DE), J. Stoller (DE), M. Blanc (NT), K. Weston (NT), R. Baker (LB), B. Hicks (LB), M. McFadden (LB), J. Victorian (CB), D. Hrapmann (K), M. Katula (LS)

Suspension (1)
W. Saunders (TE)

Injured Reserve (2)
D. Johnson (TE), J. Clay (RB)

Roster Math: 24 Locks + 18 Probables = 42 of 53 spots filled

Players on the PUP do not count against the 53-man roster until activated, but it is likely that Hampton, Harrison and Worlids will return from the PUP list by Week 1. With only Mendenhall remaining on the PUP list at the beginning of the season, this means that 45 of the 53 roster spots will be filled and 8 are open for competition. As identified above, there are 21 players fighting for those 8 spots. Here's a look at how those battles are shaking out:

FB/TE #3/H-back: Will Johnson looks to have a bit of an advantage on David Paulson at this point. I haven't seen Justin Peelle play yet, but he is a 10-year journeyman that is capable of playing. Weslye Saunders is suspended for 4 games and could move back into the roster to fill the 3rd TE role.

WR #5 - Maze saw some time as a kick returner in the opener, and rookie Toney Clemons didn't show much. Derrick Williams didn't see any passes come his way in the first game either.

10th OL - The Steelers may not keep a 10th Offensive Lineman, and 7th round pick Kelvin Beachum could wind up on the practice squad. It's do or die time for Chris Scott as he's hovered around the practice squad the last few years and needs to show something. Neither had a particularly good game against the Eagles.

#4 DE - With Casey Hampton's injury, the Steelers will be keeping an extra defensive lineman, at least to start the season. Al Woods had the defensive highlight of the game with his interception that he almost returned for a touchdown, but Bryant got the start in front of him. This should be one of the closer battles of camp.

#9 LB - The Steelers love scheme diversity and guys that can play both inside and outside. This should give veteran Brandon Johnson the inside track as the 9th linebacker, but don't count out Mortty Ivy who has looked good on special teams. OLB Adrian Robinson has shown some flashes in camp and could challenge for the spot as well, especially if Harrison or Worlids are out for longer than expected.

#5 CB - The Steelers won't enter the season with just 4 corners, so the competition is on between 7th round pick Terrence Frederick, UDFA Andre Freeman, and Walter McFadden. McFadden made a few nice tackles against the Eagles and Frederick had a nice stick on special teams.

#4/5 S - With Ryan Clark unable to play in Denver, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Steelers keep an extra (5th) safety on the roster. I had initially thought that Will Allen's cap number could lead him to be on the hot seat as the 4th safety, but none of the other candidates has really emerged as a challenger. Da'mon Cromartie-Smith has floated around the practice squad the last few years and Myron Rolle was flat out headhunting against the Eagles. Allen should be secure in the #4 spot for right now and Cromartie-Smith, rookie Robert Golden and Rolle are in competition for the 5th safety/10th defensive back spot.

Obviously, that is only 7 spots if you assume the Steelers keep 5 safeties and 10 offensive linemen (which may not happen), so there could be a few other spots to be had along the way. With John Clay's injury, Baron Batch's chances of making the team have increased dramatically but he's still on the bubble depending on Mendenhall's health and how many running backs the Steelers opt to keep. If Batch doesn't make the team, he'll find his way onto the practice squad. I'll try to keep an eye on this as preseason moves on, but if I had to guess right now, here's how I would break it down:

Last 8 In:
S Will Allen
RB Baron Batch
LB Brandon Johnson
FB Will Johnson
DE Al Woods
S Da'mon Cromartie-Smith
CB. Terrence Frederick
WR Toney Clemons

Practice Squad (aka First 5 Out):
OL Kelvin Beachum
LB Mortty Ivy
OLB Adrian Robinson
S Robert Golden
TE David Paulson

Next 5 Out:
TE Justin Peelle
DE Corbin Bryant
CB Walter McFadden
WR Derrick Williams
WR Marquis Maze

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