It has been two days since the Pittsburgh Steelers set their 53-man roster (at least until Monday when they can place David DeCastro on the modified injured reserve). Now, it is time to take a positional look at the 2012 Steelers.
The running back situation became complicated with the decision to remove Rashard Mendenhall from the PUP list, and having to carry him on the active roster although he cannot play for some time. On top of that, with Isaac Redman battling multiple injuries during camp, depth at the position became a priority. In the end, the Steelers kept six running backs in Mendenhall, Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey, Baron Batch and fullback Will Johnson. Two of those have been part of the highlights at camp in Dwyer and Rainey, and both should see their roles increase as the season moves on. Batch seemed to be the player on the bubble going into the preseason finale, and although he did not jump off the screen, the injury situation likely gave him a push.
In an interesting move, the team went from six wide receivers in 2011 to four in 2012, deciding to help fill other areas on the roster with that extra spot. Honestly, if the four stay healthy, with Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace, the team does not have room for another player unless it was for special teams.
At tight end, the Steelers have four players for three spots as Heath Miller Leonard Pope, David Paulson make the opening day roster. The fourth, Weslye Saunders, has been placed on a four-game suspension by the league and will not be able to return until the suspension is lifted. When that happens, the team will have to make a roster move to clear space for him to return.
One of the biggest surprises of the cut down process came when the Steelers released veteran Trai Essex and kept seventh round pick Kelvin Beachum, who seemed to struggle throughout camp. However, now having the ability to place DeCastro on the modified injured reserve, the team should be able to pick Essex back up (if the decide to). In all the team kept nine offensive linemen, rookies DeCastro, Beachum, and Mike Adams, veterans Willie Colon, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Doug Legursky, Maurkice Pouncey and Max Starks.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team seemed to create a nice mixture of veterans and youth. Along the defensive line, this is evident with aging veterans Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel anchoring the position for the five younger members of the line, Cameron Heyward, Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, Alameda Ta’amu and Al Woods. Of those, Woods seemed to be the player battling for a position throughout training camp.
With the severe knee injury suffered by rookie Sean Spence in the preseason finale, the team had some big decisions to make at linebacker, especially with James Harrison, Stevenson Sylvester and Jason Worilds all missing time with injuries during camp (and into the season). In the end, the Steelers kept nine linebackers in Harrison, Sylvester, Worilds, Chris Carter, Larry Foote, Brandon Johnson, Lawrence Timmons, and LaMarr Woodley. The last spot went to undrafted rookie free agent Adrian Robinson, who seemed to get better every preseason game and looks like a solid pass rusher.
In the secondary, the Steelers kept nine players with four cornerbacks and five safeties on the opening 53. This number could be changed after the season opener against the Denver Broncos, as they needed an extra safety with starter Ryan Clark (sickle cell trait) out for that game. This group will be made up of cornerbacks Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Keenan Lewis and Ike Taylor, along with safeties Clark, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen and undrafted rookie free agent Robert Golden. Honestly, it was surprising to see Allen make the final 53 after he struggled throughout the preseason and looked to be outplayed by Damon Cromartie-Smith who eventually was signed to the practice squad.
The Steelers stayed rather consistent with their specialists keeping incumbents kicker Shaun Suisham and long snapper Greg Warren. The only change from 2011 is the addition of undrafted rookie free agent Drew Butler as the punter, where he took advantage of an injury to veteran Jeremy Kapinos and earned the spot after a solid preseason.
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