Scouting for Steelers: Thinning the Herd

B.J. Finney

Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

It’s that time of year—the time I dread the most, as I await the decisions the Steelers have to make. The cut-down to a 75-man roster has to happen by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and we therefore have to bid adieu to 15 guys. The cut-down to 53 comes due on September 3rd.

So rather than just be depressed about the coming cuts, I thought I would try my hand at them. Since I have to go just by the very sketchy information I’ve gleaned from the preseason games thus far, I’m guessing my roster may look rather different from the one the Steelers end up with, but it’s still an interesting exercise.

As fans we tend to say things like “the Steelers had better not cut X [“X” being some fan favorite rookie] because they will be picked up right away by some other team.” In some ways this shows how little we know, because the other 31 teams are busy cutting guys they would rather keep. But there have been enough cases where, in fact, another team poaches the Steelers’ practice squad that the angst continues. Recent examples which come to mind—Josh Mauro (picked up by Steelers West,] HoJo [Howard Jones] who is on the Tampa Bay roster, and so on.

So let’s start by having a look at what happened to the Steelers’ (non-injured) cuts of rookies for the past two years. I’ll confine myself to the post-training camp cuts and group them for ease of comprehension:

Current Steelers:

  • Anthony Chickillo (2015 practice squad)
  • Doran Grant (2015 practice squad)

Out of [NFL] football/free agent:

  • Rob Blanchflower (2014 practice squad)
  • Dominique Brown
  • Jawon Chishom
  • Cameron Clear
  • Miles Dieffenbach
  • Kenzel Doe (CFL)
  • Kevin Fogg
  • Shayon Green
  • Ray Hamilton
  • Josh Harris (played in four games in 2014)
  • Braylon Heard
  • Ethan Hemer (2014 and 15 practice squads)
  • Gerod Holliman
  • Brendon Kay
  • Dan Molls
  • Dayonne Nunley
  • Joe Okafor
  • Shaquille Richardson (2014 practice squad, various other teams)
  • Will Simmons
  • Harold Spears
  • Jordan Sullen
  • Mike Thornton
  • Jarrod West
  • Kevin Whimpy

Currently on another team: 

  • Niko Davis (KC)
  • Reese Dismukes (CAR practice squad)
  • C.J. Goodwin (ATL – converted from WR to CB)
  • Stephen Houston (BAL)
  • Antonio Johnson (DEN)
  • Howard Jones (TB)
  • Josh Mauro (ARI)
  • Collin Rahrig (ATL)
  • Nick Williams (KC)

I may have missed a few, or incorrectly assumed someone is out of football, but this is what I’ve found. As you can see there is a finite chance of losing a guy you liked well enough to stash on your practice squad. Those losses are ifteb later in the season when teams who are thin at a given position because of injuries go looking to see who’s available. But some number of the guys listed as on another team are on a 90-man roster but may not make the cuts. Williams, Jones and Mauro are the only three who were on the 2015 active roster for their teams.

Last year the Steelers began the season, at least, with the following roster:

  • 3 QB
  • 6 WR
  • 2 “flex” players (Dri Archer, Will Johnson)
  • 3 RB
  • 3 TE
  • 8 OL (Pouncey was on IR designated to return)
  • 6 DL
  • 10 LB
  • 6 CB
  • 5 S
  • 3 ST
  • Two of those, (ironically, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell) didn’t count as they were on the Reserve/Suspended list.

So if we assume the same configuration of guys, here’s the 53-man roster I’m guessing they end up with:

  • 3 QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Placeholder (I’m guessing the Steelers will sign a vet after the full cuts are in and waive/injured both Gradkowski and Vaughan.)
  • 5 WR: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey
  • 1 Flex: Demarcus Ayers
  • 3 RB: Le’Veon Bell*, DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint OR Daryl Richardson
  • 1 FB: Roosevelt Nix
  • 3 TE: Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble
  • 8 OL: Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, Ryan Harris, Cody Wallace, (assuming he can come back soon), B.J. Finney OR Chris Hubbard
  • 6 DL: Daniel McCullers, Javon Hargrave, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton OR Caushaud Lyons
  • 10 LB: James Harrison, Arthur Moats, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Anthony Chickillo, Bud Dupree, L.J. Fort, Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Steven Johnson OR Tyler Matakevic
  • 6 CB: William Gay, Ross Cockrell,  Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Montell Garner, Al-Haji Shabazz
  • 1 Flex:Sean Davis
  • 4 S: Robert Golden, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Jordan Dangerfield
  • 3 ST: Jordan Berry, Greg Warren, Chris Boswell

*suspended for 3 games, lest we forget…

That was seriously painful, as you can tell by the number of “x OR y” choices. And even so some of my favorites will have to be waived, not to mention a couple of draft picks (Travis Feeney and Jerald Hawkins) I don’t think they are keen to lose.

I would presume that the “OR” guys would go on the practice squad, assuming they want to and aren’t too senior. (For instance, surely Steven Johnson has too many years in the league to be eligible for the practice squad.) That means that the younger guys are likely to be the ones to take the hit. Cobi Hamilton is surely a candidate, and Paul Lang, along with Feeney and Hawkins and so on.

Of course, this can all change in the blink of an eye. Marcus Gilbert’s injury might be more serious than first thought, or they might decide to put Artie Burns on the PUP list if his injury isn’t responding. Shamarko Thomas’ groin injury could mean there’s an opening for someone else. Roger Goodell might decide to suspend James Harrison, just on principle. They might decide to juggle the numbers a bit in favor of LBs, or DBs, or whatever. But it sure seems as if there are a whole lot of guys one would love to give an opportunity, if only the space were available.

So really, what one needs is to be able to predict the future with certainty. So everyone get out your magic 8 balls and start asking questions. We’ll poll the answers after the final preseason game…

to be continued

 

 

 

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