Scouting for Steelers: the “Either-Or” Guys, Part 3
Hopefully this post isn’t moot by the time it publishes, because this is the time of the year when the Turk is the busiest man in the organization.
I wrote that on Friday, completely forgetting that the Steelers had to cut down to 53 by yesterday late afternoon. I’m going to leave the rest of the post anyhow, because I think the information is interesting, but I’m going to insert here my 53-man prediction, with the actual results following. Results which differ from the prediction are marked in pink, because I like pink. Afterwards you can read the rest of the original article if you fancy it.
- Prediction: 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.)
- Result: 3 QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Zach Mettenberger. Gradkowsi on IR for the moment, Vaughan cut. (I didn’t make this part pink because honestly I think it’s a distinction without meaning…)
- Prediction: 5 WR: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey
- Result: 5 WR: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, DArrius Heyward-Bey
- Prediction: 3 RB: Le’Veon Bell*, DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint OR Daryl Richardson
- Result: Bell moved to Suspended list. 3 RB: DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Daryl Richardson. I consider this a win, because I suggested the possibility of the Steelers keeping both Toussaint and Richardson during the suspension period in the “Either-Or” post. Of course, when Le’Veon Bell needs a roster spot, it gets interesting, but in the meantime there have been three games for one of the three to have gotten injured or otherwise separated himself from the pack.
- Prediction: 1 FB: Roosevelt Nix
- Result: 1 FB: Roosevelt Nix
- Prediction: 1 Flex: Demarcus Ayers
- Result: no flex player on offense
- Prediction: 3 TE: Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble
- Result: 3 TE: Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble
- Prediction: 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
- Result: 9 OL: Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, Ryan Harris, Cody Wallace, B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard
- Prediction: 6 DL: Daniel McCullers, Javon Hargrave, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton OR Caushaud Lyons
- Result: 6 DL: Daniel McCullers, Javon Hargrave, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton
- Prediction: 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
- Result: 10 LB: James Harrison, Arthur Moats, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Anthony Chickillo, Bud Dupree, L.J. Fort, Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevic
I’m sorry that Steven Johnson had to be the odd linebacker out, but I just didn’t think Matakevich would clear waivers, and clearly neither did the Steelers brain trust.
- Prediction: 6 CB: William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Montell Garner, Al-Haji Shabazz
- Result: 5 CB: William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Senquez Golson (!), and newly-traded-for Justin Gilbert
Where I went the most wrong was in the CBs. I certainly didn’t foresee the trade for Justin Gilbert. It’s interesting that he’s a guy many thought the Steelers would draft, and now they’ve got him anyhow. Whether they are getting what people thought they would be getting back in 2014 is another story, because the Browns thought he was worth an 8th overall pick two years ago and are now willing to trade him for a 2018(!) sixth-round pick. Not even 2017. And of course his play on the field has not at all reflected his lofty draft position. Still, I guess the Steelers think there is something there worth trying to fix, as they clearly preferred this option over their own pick, Doran Grant, or the vets Montell Garner and Al-Haji Shabazz, who were the three guys who filled out my roster.
I’m also rather surprised that they haven’t put Senquez Golson on IR. A little research reveals that I’m surprised because I didn’t understand the IR with the possibility of return rules. The player thus designated has to start out on the 53-man roster. I couldn’t find when the player can be moved to the IR list, but I presume once they can, they will move Golson and replace him with one of the guys they cut. Since they don’t have to actually designate Golson, they can worry about where to make a roster spot if and when he’s ready to return. Of course, if they decide to move someone else on IR back on the 53-man roster, Golson has to stay on IR the rest of the season. Understanding this also makes it clear that Bruce Gradkowski isn’t coming back, as he would have had to be on the roster at this point.
- Prediction: 1 Flex: Sean Davis
- Result: no flex
I don’t really consider the flex position for Sean Davis to be a fail, because Davis is still on the roster, but designated as a safety.
- Prediction: 4 S: Robert Golden, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Jordan Dangerfield
- Result: 5 S: Robert Golden, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Jordan Dangerfield, Sean Davis
Special Teams was a no-brainer…
- 3 ST: Jordan Berry, Greg Warren, Chris Boswell
I’m pretty chuffed that I got this close.
Now we will return to the actually scheduled post, in which I tackle (pun intended) the competition between B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard. Even though they both made the roster, I think it’s interesting to see how they actually did in the final preseason game. If you disagree, stop reading right now…
Chris Hubbard has a clear advantage in this particular competition. Although he’s listed as a C/G, he can also play tackle. He isn’t particularly good at it, but he can play tackle.
But before I continue to make (relatively) unsubstantiated statements, let’s go to the data…
First, the snap counts, which are once again thanks to Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot:
- B.J. Finney: 45 offensive snaps, 6 ST snaps
- Chris Hubbard: 45 offensive snaps
Bryan also notes that Alejandro Villanueva and Ryan Harris were in the whole time Landry Jones was playing (the first three series) as Mike Tomlin stated he wanted the edges protected for Landry. All the other starters on the O line sat in Carolina.
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound to me like a ringing endorsement of Chris Hubbard’s play at tackle. And in fact he gave up a few sacks in the previous game that I noticed. I’m not sure, however, that he played tackle in Carolina, so it’s back to the tape.
In the first series, a 3-and-out, the lineup from left to right was: Alejandro Villanueva, Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler (who is listed as a tackle, not surprisingly, at 6-6, 330 pounds) and Ryan Harris. The 3rd and 2 ended in a sack, from a rusher who blew right between Villanueva and Hubbard. I can’t really say whose fault it was, but at least one of them was at fault.
The second series used the same combination. They were more successful in pass protection on the second play, giving Jones the time for a nice deep pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey which the DB covering him knocked away. On the third play Harris lost his man, and if it wasn’t for Jones scrambling it would have been another sack. The new set of downs featured an unsuccessful end-around, an unsuccessful run, and a pass short of the first down.
The third series was the same players, and didn’t begin well, as Ryan Harris was flagged for a false start. On 1st and 15 Daryl Richardson gets the handoff, and B.J. Finney drops his man and rushes out to block for Richardson, which I thought was impressive. The next play gave Jones decent time to throw to Eli Rogers in the slot. This brings it to a 34d and 1, and a quick hand-off to Richardson is absolutely blown up for no gain from the right side.
Once Bryn Renner came in, towards the end of the second quarter, the line changed. Antoine Everett came in at right guard, freeing Chris Hubbard to go to left tackle. It must be a strange feeling to know how completely expendable you are, if you’re Bryn Renner. Matt Feiler switched to right guard, and Ryan Harris remained at right tackle.
He got decent protection on the first snap, but overthrew his receiver. On the second snap a rusher came absolutely unblocked from the right. I’m guessing a TE was supposed to block. The third play was a handoff to Richardson for first down yardage. The next snap was a handoff, and once again someone came completely unblocked from the right side to tackle Richardson in the backfield. I think they might want to work on that play… On 2nd and 14, a checkdown to Richardson gained four yards, and on 3rd and 10 B.J. and Feiler between them managed to not block anyone. Renner was flushed out of the pocket and had to throw the ball away.
Things did not notably improve in the second half, although Renner looked a bit more comfortable. The line combinations were:
15:00 (Q3) Hubbard, Everett, Finney, Feiler, and Wade Hansen. Net result, -2 yards, punt.
7:35 (Q3) Same combination. The new guy, Wade Hansen, mixed it up a bit by drawing a personal foul (leg whip, whatever that is). So it was 1st and 22, and Everett decided he wasn’t getting enough attention or making this difficult enough, so he drew a false start penalty. Things finally settled into a 1st and 27, and gained two yards in three plays.
3:32 (Q3) Same line. This series resulted in the sole score of the game for the Steelers. Renner, despite about 20 defenders on top of him, managed to throw to Demarcus Ayers to convert a 3rd and 4. After a nice run by Richardson and a convenient pass interference penalty on CAR in the end zone, Richardson ran it in from the 1 yard line. The 2-point conversion attempt failed.
10:48 (Q4) Hubbard, Everett, Finney, Ahmed Shahbaz, Feiler. The offense started to look like something. Renner and his merry men actually gained two first downs, and then an offsides penalty on CAR made it a 1st and 5 at the CAR 45 yard line. And then Cameron Stingley had his sole carry for the night, fumbled, and just like that, it’s Carolina’s ball again. But the line did look better up until that point…
4:11 (Q4) Same line. Net result, they make it all the way to the PIT 13, from the 9. Punt.
A few “for what it’s worth” comments to end with. The broadcast hosts, Bob Pompeani and Charlie Batch, talked about this particular roster battle. At one point Batch noted that, “depending on who you talk to in this organization, if you ask them who is the most consistent player on the offensive line, they will tell you ‘B.J. Finney.’ They admire what he’s been able to do.”
They also noted, in passing, that Cody Wallace is injured, so depending on the severity of the injury it’s possible both men will remain, at least for now.
As for who should remain? Another tough call. My first feeling is relief, that none of the offensive lines we saw in this game will be starting this coming season. So I suppose the question becomes, if you lose your center, which as we know is an all-too-common occurrence around these parts, would you rather have Chris Hubbard or B.J. Finney there? I don’t have an opinion, because I haven’t seen Hubbard play center. If you lose a starting guard, would you rather see Finney or Hubbard at guard? I don’t know, because I haven’t seen Finney play guard. Which would I rather see at tackle? Neither, frankly.
I’m guessing that the “position flexibility” combined with veteranosity is going to mean Hubbard makes the cut (always assuming Wallace isn’t out.) But I sure hope Finney clears waivers in that case, because you’ve got to love a guy who loves football and loves the Steelers as much as he does.
And as we know, they both made the team. Which makes me think Wallace’s injury is significant enough that he’ll miss some time, but not bad enough to put him on the IR.