The Pittsburgh Steelers have completed their winless preseason and now prepare to complete their 53-man roster. On Friday, the team released a statement via twitter that the final roster moves will be announced on Saturday; in the process, leaving many young players to wait on their status moving forward.Matt Spaeth, who is still recovering from his foot injury, should be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. While that move is a formality, it will put the final 53-man unit in limbo until at least Monday.
There will be a couple of things that will impact the final make-up of the roster, the injury status of Heath Miller (knee) and Will Johnson (hamstring) as well as the lack of quality depth along the offensive line. Couple that with some of the more competitive preseason battles and the coaching staff and front office have some interesting decisions, and it is possible that not all the answers are currently under contract.
The depth along the offensive line is truly a mystery, with only Kelvin Beachum and possible John Malecki being roster worthy. The Steelers could keep only seven linemen, but that is unlikely. If they do keep an eighth lineman, it would appear to be Joe Long, unless they look outside the organization. If the decide to go that way, they could kick the tires on former starting tackle Max Starks, who was released by the San Diego Chargers on Friday.
While Starks may not be the same player he was prior to his ACL injury, he may provide the Steelers a viable veteran option behind their young starting offensive line. Of course, that all depends on whether he has anything left in the tank; a real question after now being released by the offensive line starved Chargers.
The injury status of Miller and more so, Johnson will affect the roster. Yes, it is doubtful Miller is ready to go in the first couple of weeks of the season, but the team will likely activate him from the PUP list and place him on the active roster. The more pressing issue will be the hamstring injury Johnson suffered against the Carolina Panthers. If he cannot go during Week 1, the Steelers will likely have to carry at least one extra tight end / fullback behind David Paulson and David Johnson. If that happens, Jamie McCoy could earn the roster spot that will open up when Spaeth is transferred to injured reserve.
Those two positional decisions will also influence the status of other areas of the roster. At running back, will they keep a fourth tailback in Felix Jones or will they make a move with one of them. Early in camp, Steelers 101 projected that it could come down to either Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer, could that now be the case with Jones and Dwyer? It is possible and it would free up a roster spot.
Defensively there are some tough decisions to be made at all three levels. In fact, the defensive cuts may be more difficult to make than the ones on offense, as there appeared to be a lot of young talent on that side of the ball. The player breakdown will be intriguing, as it may be difficult to slide some of these players such as Alan Baxter or Brian Arnfelt onto the practice squad and it would not be surprising to see them keep both of them, to ensure they do not lose them.
One of the more interesting decisions will come in the secondary, as back-ups Curtis Brown, DaMon Cromartie-Smith and Josh Victorian failed to seize the opportunities provided to them. The Steelers could go with a minimum of eight defensive backs early in Week 1, but that, as it is the case with the offensive line is unlikely.
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