Friday night in Southwestern Pennsylvania may have been opening night in High School football, but it also marked the day that the Pittsburgh Steelers released 21 players to reach the mandated 53-man roster. While some of the moves were expected, as always there were some that definitely came as a surprise.Sean Spence on injured reserve after he suffered a horrific knee injury Thursday during the preseason finale. Yes, his loss will be a tough blow to overcome, but his full recovery is more important.
What was a surprise was that the Steelers said goodbye to some veterans that were widely regarded as preseason locks for the roster in guard Trai Essex and punter Jeremy Kapinos. Actually the move with Kapinos was somewhat a foregone conclusion after a mysterious back injury kept him out of action all preseason, and honestly undrafted rookie free agent Drew Butler looked like a keeper. The move with Essex is a little more perplexing considering the overall heath of the offensive line.
The versatile veteran has played in 76 games (28 starts) during his seven-year stay with the team, and has the ability to fill in at any of the five positions up front. Yes, he is not the greatest, but he seemed to out perform guard Kelvin Beachum (rookie seventh round pick), who made the final 53.
In all, the Steelers cut offensive linemen Trai Essex, Tony Scott, John Malecki and Ryan Lee; wide receivers David Gilreath, Derrick Williams, Marquis Maze, Tyler Beiler and Toney Clemons (Seventh round pick). Also released were running back DuJuan Harris; quarterback Jerrod Johnson; defensive linemen Corbin Bryant, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun and Jake Stoller; linebackers Brandon Hicks and Marshall McFadden; punter Jeremy Kapinos; and defensive backs Damon Cromartie-Smith, Josh Victorian and Terrence Frederick (seventh round selection).
Besides Essex, players such as Gilreath, Johnson, Cromartie-Smith and Bryant looked like they all had a shot at the final 53, but may have been caught in a numbers game with injuries. Also, some of them have practice squad eligibility (if they pass through waivers) and could remain with the team.
Of course, there will probably be another move before the season as offensive guard rookie David DeCastro can be placed on the new 8-game injured reserve list on Tuesday. The Steelers have been tight lipped about his injury, and the true extent is unknown. However, coaches have said he is months away from returning. If the team decides to go that route, look for a players such as Essex or Cromartie-Smith to be placed on the active roster if they are not claimed by another franchise.
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