I was asked by a reader to explore the option of the Pittsburgh Steelers carrying only two quarterbacks on the initial 53 man roster to accommodate both a 5th safety and 9th linebacker for the first game against the Denver Broncos.
The first thing that would be a plus would be that if quarterback Charlie Batch were to be released prior to the start of the regular season, his salary would not be guaranteed, but do keep in mind that he only signed a qualifying type contract which already comes with a reduced cap hit of $605,000 for the season and includes his $65,000 signing bonus that he received. In a nutshell, we really shouldn\'t even be looking at it from a cap standpoint.
The next thing to look at would be how bad do the Steelers need a 5th safety for week 1. Yes, Ryan Clark will be out for that game and inactive, so if the Steelers only keep 3 safeties in addition to him, they are two injuries during the game away from being short at the position. Keep in mind that both Ryan Mundy and Will Allen usually play special teams and thus the risk increases for injury. Is Mike Tomlin willing to take his chances with just 3? That is the big question right now that even I am struggling with.
Next up would be whether or not they need to carry 9 linebackers for the first game. That question will likely be answered in a few weeks when we know the true injury status of both James Harrison and Jason Worilds. If both are healthy and ready to play, the Steelers should have all 9 linebackers active on gameday to warrant keeping so many. If either Harrison and Worilds are not ready to start the season and neither are placed on the Active PUP list, then yes, a ninth linebacker would likely be kept as one of the two, or even both, would be inactive for the game. Now Tomlin has kept 9 linebackers before on the week 1 roster, but never have all 9 been active for the first game. Basically it all boils down to the week 1 status of both Harrison and Worilds as I mentioned above.
Now I know what many are thinking and that is that Batch is just going to be inactive on gameday. That is true, but you have to have 7 players on the inactive list. You start with Batch and Clark first. You then add 2 offensive linemen to that list and you are up to 4 of the 7 players needed. You can pretty much rule out that any of the running backs, fullbacks or tight ends will be down, so you need 3 more players to fill out the list from the defense or wide receiver position. Assuming Casey Hampton is not on the PUP, either he or Alameda Ta\'amu will be down and at least 1 linebacker. That brings the total to 6 inactive players with the other inactive being either the 5th wide receiver, the 4th defensive end, or the 5th cornerback. Those are all possibilities, but the 5th defensive end spot seems the most likeliest as Steve McLendon can kick outside in the base defense if an injury need arises during the game and then either Hampton or Ta\'amu, the one not inactive, would have to finish playing nose tackle for the rest of the game when they are in base.
Hopefully all of the above shows that merely discarding Batch for a roster spot is not worth it unless both Harrison and Worilds are not ready to start the season and neither are placed on the Active PUP list. Should the Steelers need to keep 5 safeties week 1, it will likely come at the expense of keeping a 9th linebacker and visa versa. As it looks right now Batch is safe to make the 53 man roster and be inactive for the game against Denver.