An interesting nugget came out of Pittsburgh Steelers practice on Thursday when it was reported that James Harrison sat out practice. As many fans know, the Pro Bowl linebacker has been battling a knee injury most of the offseason and throughout training camp.
At this point, Harrison would be the second linebacker on the 53-man roster out of the game, joining Stevenson Sylvester on the sideline. On top of that, the status of linebacker Jason Worilds is still an unknown, potentially affecting linebacker depth even more by taking what was nine linebackers on the roster down to an available six for the opener.
With that knowledge at hand, the report on Pro Football Talk of the Steelers potentially signing free agent cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke (Oakland Raiders) Sure, the team has only four cornerbacks on the opening day roster, but like linebacker, they kept nine and eight would be available against the Broncos (safety Ryan Clark out – sickle cell). For a team that starts four linebackers, having more than six healthy would make more sense.
If the team does sign Van Dyke they would be adding a tremendous athlete, whose football acumen has not caught up with his athleticism. In 2011, he blew the combine away with a ridiculous 4.28 forty-yard dash. On top of that, he comes in at a solid 6-1, and would add a big athletic corner to the mix, but does the team need that?
Starters Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis, last years nickel back, appear solid in both run support and pass coverage. Behind those two, the abilities and preseason performance of second-year back ups Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown seem to be at the heart of many debates around the Steel City, with opinions of their abilities running the gambit for fans and sports radio personalities.
For what it is worth, in watching preseason, Allen appeared to outplay everyone in the secondary, and should solidify the nickel (if not the starting) position throughout 2012. Yes, Brown was up and down, and appears to be behind Allen at this point, but he improved throughout preseason until he was banged up against the Carolina Panthers in the preseason finale with a knee injury. Of course, that knee injury may limit his availability, which could be the reasoning behind the potential signing.
If the Steelers do sign Van Dyke, a corresponding roster move would have to take place. The logical move (especially with all the injury concerns across the roster) would be to place offensive lineman David DeCastro (knee) on the new, modified, injured reserve list that would allow him to return sometime after week eight. That was a move that was mentioned after roster reductions last Friday when the team parted with veteran Trai Essex, as a potential way to get the versatile veteran back in the fold for 2012.
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