Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Week 4 Roster Battles

Heading into the last preseason game, this is where the last few roster spots are won and lost. The biggest thing that happened was David DeCastro's injury, and it remains to be seen whether or not the Steelers will place him on Injured Reserve or keep him on the active roster in the hope that he can play again at some point this season. There is some precedent for this - the Steelers kept Rod Woodson in 1995 and Aaron Smith in 2010 on the active roster.

On Monday, the Steelers cut their roster down to 75 players. Two of the most notable cuts were Kicker Daniel Hrapmann, who had a really impressive showing through 3 games and OLB Mortty Ivy who was waived/injured with a hamstring injury. Losing Ivy is a shame, he was well on his way to a roster spot and had been playing really well on Special Teams.

I moved Punter Drew Butler onto the "Probable" list because I haven't heard anything lately that would indicate Jeremy Kapinos is close to making a return from injury. Butler looked good against Buffalo so I replaced Kapinos on the "Probable" list. Either way, one of them will make the roster. I also moved Will Allen from "On the Bubble" to "Probable" after he played with the starting units on all 4 special teams situations.

With that in mind, here's a look at how the 53-man roster is shaking out heading into the last preseason game against Carolina.

Locks (26)
B. Roethlisberger (QB), B. Leftwich (QB), R. Mendenhall (RB), 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), C. Hampton (NT), S. McLendon (NT), L. Woodley (OLB), L. Timmons (ILB), L. Foote (ILB), I. Taylor (CB), T. Polamalu (SS), R. Clark (FS)

Probable (19)
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),  W. Allen (SS), S. Suisham (K), D. Butler (P), G. Warren (LS)

PUP (2)
J. Harrison (OLB), J. Worlids (OLB)

On the Bubble (20)
J. Johnson (QB), B. Batch (RB), W. Johnson (FB), J. Ford (FB), D. Paulson (TE), D. Gilreath (WR), T. Clemons (WR), M. Maze (WR), D. Williams (WR), K. Beachum (OG), C. Scott (OT), C. Bryant (DE), A. Woods (DE), B. Johnson (ILB), A. Robinson (OLB), T. Frederick (CB),  J. Victorian (CB), D. Cromartie-Smith (S), R. Golden (S), J. Kapinos (P)

Likely Cuts (7)
T. Beiler (WR), J. Malecki (OG), R. Lee (OG), I. Igbinosun (DE), J. Stoller (DE), B. Hicks (LB), M. McFadden (LB)

Suspension (1)
W. Saunders (TE)

Roster Math: 26 Locks + 19 Probables = 45 of 53 spots filled. It's likely Harrison and Worlids will be reactivated from the PUP list before the season starts, so that brings us up to 47 of 53 spots filled with 6 spots open for competition, assuming DeCastro is not placed on IR.

Likely Positions to Fill
FB/H-back/#3 TE - Will Johnson has the inside track right now as David Paulson is likely slated for the practice squad. This position could be in flux with Weslye Saunders' 4-game suspension.

WR #5 - Derrick Williams might be the new leader at this spot. He had a touchdown catch and another leaping grab on a deep ball against Buffalo. David Gilreath made a name for himself in the Colts game but didn't make much of an impact against Buffalo. I think the Steelers would like to keep 7th round pick Toney Clemons, but he hasn't shown anything yet. Marquis Maze dropped a pass against Buffalo and didn't see any time as a kick returner (he was supplanted by Gilreath).

#9 LB - With the injuries to Harrison and Worlids, the Steelers will likely keep at least one, if not two extra linebackers. Mortty Ivy was waived/injured which put a little kink in the Steelers plans. Brandon Johnson played with the first team on all 4 special teams units (Kickoff, Kick Return, Punt, Punt Return) against Buffalo, so it's likely he makes the team. Depending on Harrison and Worlids, Adrian Robinson could have a shot to make the team if more OLB depth is needed.

#9 DB - This has turned into a 4-player race and will depend on which position the coaches feel they have a greater need at. If the coaches choose CB, 7th round pick Terrence Frederick and Josh Victorian (who had an interception against Indy and downed a punt inside the 10 against Buffalo) will be the candidates. If the coaches choose safety, Da'mon Cromartie-Smith and Robert Golden (who had an interception against Buffalo) are the candidates. As of right now, Victorian seems to have a small edge on Frederick and Golden a slight edge on DCS. If I had to pick one, Golden has been the most impressive player of the group with DCS second.

Positions that May or May Not Be Filled
#5 RB - This one all depends on Mendenhall's health. If he's not ready for the start of the season, Baron Batch is the obvious candidate to make the team. Batch has looked better with each passing week and showed a great burst through the hole against Buffalo. Great to see the guy's knee responding so well after he tore his ACL last year.

#4 DE - Casey Hampton was reactivated from the PUP list and claims he will be ready for Denver. Brett Keisel injured his ankle but should be ready to roll in Denver. With the top 6 D-linemen set, the Steelers have the flexibility to keep a 7th (likely a 4th DE) if they want to. Al Woods had an interception in the opener but Corbin Bryant seems to have played better in the last two games. This one is honestly a toss up between the two, if the Steelers keep a 4th DE at all.

9th/10th OL - This one depends on David DeCastro. If the Steelers place him on IR, the obvious candidates to take his spot on the roster would be Chris Scott or Kelvin Beachum. Neither has looked particularly good, but Beachum didn't get flagged for anything against Buffalo, so that was an improvement.

Last 6 In:
LB Brandon Johnson
RB Baron Batch
FB/H-Back/TE Will Johnson
OLB Adrian Robinson
S Robert Golden
WR Derrick Williams

Practice Squad:
S Da'mon Cromartie-Smith
WR David Gilreath
DE Corbin Bryant
TE David Paulson
QB Jerrod Johnson
CB Josh Victorian
OL Kelvin Bechum
WR Toney Clemons

Next 5 Out:
DE Al Woods
CB Terrence Frederick
FB Jay Ford
WR Marquis Maze
OL Chris Scott

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