Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Departed: Steelers Make First Roster Cuts

I'll get to my game recap of the Kansas City game later. Today the Steelers made their first cuts of the 2013 season, trimming their roster from 90 players down to 75. The final cuts will come on Friday or Saturday as rosters must stand at 53 players by 6:00pm on Saturday.

Of the 15 players that were removed from the active roster, 11 were outright cut, 2 were placed on the waived/injured list, 1 was put on the IR and 1 was put on the PUP list.

The Injured

Rookie defensive end Nick Williams was placed on the Injured Reserve list. This effectively ends Williams' rookie season. Williams had reportedly injured his knee during the first week of training camp but saw game action against the Redskins. He did not play against the Chiefs. Williams was likely right on the cut line for the 53-man roster and his being placed on IR will prevent him from being claimed by another team on waivers. As a young developmental prospect, you hate to see him injured, but the future is bright for him.

Linebacker Sean Spence was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. This might be the most interesting move that was made. Spence suffered a brutal knee injury in the preseason last year and was still recovering at the start of training camp. The fact that the Steelers put him on the PUP list rather than the IR leaves the door open for him to return at some point during the regular season. With the PUP list, Spence will be out at least the first 6 weeks. Then the Steelers must decide to either activate him to the 53-man roster, place him on injured reserve, or cut him. Spence being placed on the PUP list and not IR is a great sign that his recovery is coming along.

Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and Offensive lineman Justin Cheadle were both placed on the waived/injured list. Per the CBA, teams are not allowed to cut injured players. Therefore, the team must come to an injury settlement with the player by placing them on the waived/injured list. Van Dyke was acquired at the beginning of the 2012 season on waivers and was a penalty machine on special teams. Cheadle was on the practice squad last year and was in the mix on the second team line.

The Cuts

The Steelers cut five players who saw minimal playing time during the preseason: Offensive Tackle Mike Farrell, Wide Receiver Tyler Shaw, Cornerback Ryan Steed, Tight End Peter Tuitupou, and Running Back Jeremy Wright.

The strangest move that was made was cutting Running Back Baron Batch. Batch saw some time in the backfield in every preseason game and had some regular season playing time last season. What makes this move strange is that the team did not cut RB Alvester Alexander, who was behind Batch on the depth chart. The most logical assumption here is that Batch was cut now as a "veteran favor" so that he would have a greater chance of finding another team before the beginning of the regular season, rather than cutting him next week in the final round.

Veteran Offensive Tackle D'Anthony Batiste, who was signed during training camp, was also released. Quite bluntly, Batiste was terrible. He had been benched in Arizona last season and he was equally bad on the second-team line against the Redskins. The writing was on the wall for Batiste when he was replaced by Joe Long on the second team and did not see the field against the Chiefs.

Also released was Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. Sylvester was a 5th round pick in 2010 and was primarily a special teams player in his 3 seasons with the team. The release of Sylvester was likely a move made with the salary cap in mind as the rookies behind him on the depth chart showed significant abilities throughout the preseason. Sylvester is good enough to latch on with another team.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson was also cut. Wilson was an Alabama product that was signed in the offseason to provide depth at the position. Some early reports from camp had him outplaying rookie Landry Jones, but once the games came around Jones was clearly the better player. JPW did not see game action against the Chiefs.

Wide Receiver JD Woods was cut. Woods was a West Virginia product who made two stellar catches in the preseason opener but saw no game action against the Chiefs. Also, Wide Receiver David Gilreath was cut. Gilreath was one of the stars of the 2012 preseason, but two terrible plays on punt returns in the preseason opener doomed Gilreath this season.

Where Are We Now?

The Steelers play their last preseason game against Carolina on Thursday night. The Steelers will have to cut an additional 21 players from their roster by Saturday at 6:00. One important player to keep an eye on this week is Heath Miller. If Heath is activated from the PUP list, as some reports had suggested he would be before the beginning of the regular season, the Steelers will have to make him one of the 53 players they keep on their active roster. Additionally, most sources indicate that Matt Spaeth is a likely candidate to be the "Injured Reserve-Designated for Return" player, which would not count him against the active roster and would enable him to return after 8 weeks. If the Steelers move Spaeth to the IR-DFR list, they would only have to outright cut 20 players at the end of the week. If Heath is returned to the active roster, they will still have to cut 21 as Heath does not currently count against the active roster.

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