5 Things We Think We Know About The Steelers Roster Four Days Into Camp (Defense Version)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are resting and relaxing following their first three days of training camp practice, so now is a good time to review in our heads everything that\’s been reported over the course of the first three practices as it relates to the final 53 man roster and practice squad. We have already talked about what we think we know in regard to the offense, so here now are my thoughts on the defensive players as we wait for practice to resume on Wednesday.

Curtis Brown – I\’ve had Brown as a roster lock for quite a while, but I know several of you have disagreed with that thought. With both DeMarcus Van Dyke and Terry Hawthorne now sidelined for an unknown amount of time in training camp with injuries, Brown\’s grip on a roster spot is about as tight as it gets.

DeMarcus Van Dyke – The last thing that Van Dyke needed is to miss an extensive amount of time at the start of training camp with a hamstring injury. Remember, the former third-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders didn\’t arrive in Pittsburgh last year until the start of the regular season, so as a result he did not participate in training camp. Missing a good portion of training camp this year, as well as any preseason games, will move him further and further outside the roster bubble. The real winner with both Van Dyke and Hawthorne down is Josh Victorian and you have to think right now that it is his roster spot to lose.

Al Woods – Woods made the roster last year as a sixth defensive lineman and this year he will make as the fifth. The Steelers are trying to make him more versatile by working him at nose tackle in addition to defensive end and he is just too valuable not to be on the team when you look at depth of the players up front. The only thing we don\’t know at this point is who the sixth defensive lineman will be.

Marshall McFadden – McFadden is going to make himself hard to cut during training camp and after the first few days of training camp he is turning a few heads. Depending on how the final roster numbers shake out at the inside linebacker position, the Steelers will be keeping either four or five inside players. Being as Vince Williams was a sixth-round draft pick, he will need to make the team as a solid special teams player as there is no way the Steelers want him seeing time on defense as a rookie. Being as Stevenson Sylvester has the only real experience of the three, I am really starting to think that both he and McFadden will make the roster with Williams perhaps heading to the practice squad.

DaMon Cromartie-Smith – Cromartie-Smith is the John Malecki of the defense. How so? It\’s a do or die year for him as he no longer has practice quad eligibility. Being as the Steelers might have a hard time finding a sixth cornerback to keep on the 53 man roster, and being as second-year safety Robert Golden can play cornerback in a pinch, the team might be best served fortifying the safety position, as well as special teams, by keeping an extra safety in lieu of an extra corner back. I feel I may have underrated Cromartie-Smith, who appears to be off to a nice start in training camp.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • steeltown

    Tis true, word on the street is the Van Dyke injury ‘could’ keep him out awhile, that bumps Victorian up the ladder. Like Bryan I already see C.Brown making the roster, so it depends on how many CBs they plan on keeping as to whether Hawthorne or Victorian or both make the Team

    Truly hope Hawthorne returns soon

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Given the age, recent injury history, and contract status of the starting safeties, I think Cromartie-Smith is likely to make the roster.

    I’d really like to see a guy like McFadden not just make the 53, but push himself in to a position where he contributes. There is a glaring need for guys who can tackle hard enough to cause fumbles in the middle of the field. I will certainly focus on him in the pre-season.

  • Shea Fahr

    Yes and since he can play both inside spots, he is looking to be the first one in to give Timmons or Foote a blow. I am truly happy for him because you can tell how hard he has worked. He has to be the first Guy up in case of injury ect..

  • ATL96STEELER

    Pretty far off topic, but I couldn’t help but respond to your screen name…very cool, good to know others remember him.

  • ATL96STEELER

    I never thought C. Brown would not make it…although I was thinking Hawthorne would eventually beat him out for the nickel spot.

  • dgh57

    We always keep a player or two on the roster(example Dwyer & Robinson) because of fear he may be claimed off the PS. I like V. Williams and worry about losing him to such a claim.

  • steeltown

    Very true.. barring them falling flat on their faces I would fear losing V.Williams AND Hawthorne, based purely on potential, especially once Teams get some film on them during preseason… guess we’ll see how everyone fares come preseason

  • JohnnyV1

    Still too early for me to predict after only a day or two in pads and no games played.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Hmmm, good point on DaMon making the roster over a cornerback. If Golden can actually play cornerback, than I would much rather have DaMon make the roster over some one like Victorian, who normally wouldn’t have a chance unless there’s an injury situation.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Your avatar is what I’ve been using as my twitter avatar. When I was young I used to love to watch him throw.

  • JC

    I disagree with Sylvester making the 53 man roster. In my opinion, Vince Williams will emerge as the better inside linebacker and special teams player during the pre-season and we can finally move on from Sylvester.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    For this reason I sometime wish we could get contracts but send them oversea or to D-Leaue so you don’t lose players with great potentials.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Although you just never know sometimes, I’m honestly not real worried about somebody trying to pick Williams up, especially given his reputation as a two-down backer. I remember many people were worried about losing Redman his first year, but he stayed put. But then you look at players like Ra’Shon Harris, and just last year David Gilreath and Toney Clemons, and you just don’t know. As of right now though, I have to say that I think Williams, Hawthorne, and Nick Williams are all headed to the practice squad, and probably Justin Brown too if he can’t win a kick return job.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Kind of a forgotten pioneer.

  • Rick Austin

    I agree with you Sylvester has x shown nothing since he’s been here.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That may very well be the case, although I would not rule out Stevenson Sylvester as the first ILB off the bench just yet. We’ll need to see how the preseason plays out first I think. Sylvester spent time in the offseason last year learning the buck, so he also has that versatility. It should be another fun positional battle to keep an eye on.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Indeed, I wrote about this myself last week. DaMon definitely has a chance due to the slim, inexperienced depth at S, Golden’s position flexibility, and his special teams play.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Kind of hard to say that without even seeing Williams at all, isn’t it? I mean, offseason reports for rookies are often glowing…remember, Williams is just a sixth round two-down inside linebacker right now. Next man up isn’t always the solution, and I’m not ready to say Williams is better than Sylvester. We’ll need to see what the preseason tape says.

  • dgh57

    I see plenty of upside in V. Williams and think he only needs some coaching at the pro level and some reps this preseason to get the hang of the pass coverage game. He seems to be a smart guy from him telling other players how to line up in the OTAs which gives me reason to believe he’s a fast learner. Williams could be that player they keep because they don’t want to risk him being claimed because they have done that before. Preseason will tell all.

  • Matthew Marczi

    True, but generally when they keep a guy because they worry about losing him off of the practice squad, it’s as a extra, luxury pick at that position (see Adrian Robinson and Robert Golden as fifth OLB/S last year). If Williams makes the roster, I think it would be more likely at the expense of another position rather than having him as the fourth ILB. Of course a lot of that is up to him and how much he shows and how much confidence he puts into his coaches. As you said, the preseason will tell the story. Should be fun to watch.

  • JC

    It’s kind of hard to say Sylvester will make the 53 based off what he’s showcased thus far in his career, isn’t it? You’re also making an assumption by saying that Sylvester will beat out Williams based solely off his experience without even watching him play yet. I understand that Williams is a 6th round pick who generally only played two downs in college, but he was a run stopping thumper at FSU. Whereas Sylvester, who was also a late round pick, was known as a good pass coverage linebacker at UNLV who played more like a safety ,but obviously hasn’t transitioned to inside linebacker yet in the nfl. Two very different players, but for the time being, I’ll stick with my opinion that Williams will beat out Sylvester. At least I hope he does because if the “next man up” is Sylvester, they may be begging James Farrior to come out of retirement.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, a couple things…one, Sylvester was a linebacker in college. Two, Sylvester hasn’t really even had much of an opportunity to play, so you can’t blame him for “what he’s showcased”. In 2010 the Steelers brought Larry Foote back to be the third ILB. Last year, Timmons only missed like two snaps all season, and Foote pretty much only came off in dime packages. Sylvester got to play one snap last year and Brandon Johnson played two. Can you blame him if the starters don’t come off the field? The Steelers don’t rotate ILBs like they do DEs. I understand your concern with Sylvester, but I don’t think that makes Vince Williams the solution, let alone a better option, especially not as a rookie. My point was that we haven’t even seen Williams at all yet. At least we’ve seen Sylvester in the preseason and on special teams. I don’t think there’s enough information available right now to project Williams ahead of Sylvester. And, frankly, that was the point of the article, to take what we know now and try to project, knowing it could change on a dime. Maybe Williams will start blowing up practices and earn second team reps tomorrow. But it hasn’t happened as of yet.

  • Dan

    5 Quandries so far about this season:
    1.) If I put up a $1 against your $1,000, and bet that Burress will have a big come back and catch at least 60 balls OR 8 TDs, would you take the bet?
    2.) I knew Percy Harvin wouldn’t make it through the season without a major injury, but I did think he’d make to the first day of training camp.
    3.) Why does everybody keep saying the Bengals will win the AFC North?
    4.) I don’t know how it was decided, but I’m glad the game in London is a home game for the Vikes and not us.
    5.) I wonder what makes some people turn out like Aaron Hernandez and some like Tim Tebow? Florida is a weird place.

  • DAYSNWAYS

    McFadden will be next man up – Williams will make the team, Sly’s days are numbered, how many seasons has he been with us now and he still can’t supplant Foote. Then we have the Spence factor too!

  • steeltown

    Another training camp/preseason injury to Carter or Sly could change the outcome as well

  • JC

    I never said Sylvester was a safety in college, I said he played like one. Your argument that Sylvester hasn’t been given a chance doesn’t stand in my book. He had a huge window of opportunity to become a starter last season and was beat out during the camp/pre-season by an old, average Larry Foote. Also, keep in mind the Steelers let Sylvester loose and he cleared waivers so they picked him up again. I’m making assumptions and giving my opinion about Williams and Sylvester much like you are. Again, in my opinion, Vince Williams will beat out Sylvester during the pre season.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Don’t care too much about Sylvester/Williams, would love to see Shark in the box in passing situations and Foote on the bench if he’s fast enough to get there in time.

  • Brent

    1) I dont see Burress grabbing 60 balls maybe 8 tds though.
    2) not a question so I have no answer.
    3)The Bengals have some real weapons on offense and a stout defense as well. Personally I’m not sold on Dalton.
    4) The Steelers and Heinz have an agreement in the contract that 8 regular season home games will be played there every year so unless htey add more games to the schedule the Steelers wont be losing any home games.
    5) Hernandez is from Conn not Florida and up bringing has a lot to do with it.

  • Brent

    I wouldn’t say there is a Spence factor right now. We dont know anything about how he will be when he gets back.

  • Matthew Marczi

    No…you said he was a defensive end, but you edited your post. In fact nearly your entire post is different now. First you said he was still struggling to transition from defensive end and now you’re saying he plays too much like a safety. :)

    Foote was brought back to be the eventual starter once Farrior was gone. The team feels a lot more strongly than you about Foote, so maybe you think Sylvester had this great opportunity to surpass him, but I don’t think he ever had a chance. You also completely ignore the fact that he sprained his MCL in the preseason. It caused him to miss the first three games last year, so of course he did not have the opportunity to start.

    I understand that you are giving your opinion. Everybody is free to give their opinions in public, of course. But giving your opinion in public means you are open to feedback on your opinion. I’m just saying that you’re basing your opinion a lot more on your perception of Sylvester than you are of Williams because you haven’t seen him yet, which suggests it’s just wishful thinking right now. Williams is the one with the uphill battle for a roster spot, not Sylvester.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It will be interesting to see if Thomas gets much playing time on defense, if at all, as a rookie. He is basically the least experienced member of the secondary, yet everybody seems to have such a high opinion of him. The Steelers have used three safety looks more and more over the past two seasons, but that coincided with them gaining trust in their backup safeties. How quickly will Thomas earn their trust on the field? And in what situations, for example, would they rather have a third safety than a fourth corner? Because if he ends up getting playing time because one of the starting safeties is hurt, that is not good news. Although as they age, I suppose I could see them getting spelled for a series or two…

  • Matthew Marczi

    Indeed, injuries are unfortunately often the decision maker. It quickly decided the fullback battle last offseason, and decided that John Clay would help simplify the battle at running back.

  • JC

    Your opinion is public as well Marczi. I understand your a newbie writer, (which by the way it’s extremely odd to criticize your readers on a post regarding your article), but people are allowed to disagree with your opinions. I knew you from high-school by the way … It’s shocking you’re even qualified to discuss football as a writer.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I may be new to this site, but I am not new to writing. If you actually knew me from high school, you would not be shocked at all. You have already demonstrated that you would edit your previous posts after a point you made was already disproven (such as Sylvester playing defensive end in college), so I have no reason to believe that you knew me at all. More likely, you are grasping at a false sense of authority, and you deleted your profile to make it less obvious that you’ve never known me. I have respectfully questioned your opinions and given evidence to support my claim (that is not “criticizing” my readers [and this is also not my article]), yet you have devolved into ad hominems by claiming to have known me a decade ago and expressing astonishment that I know how to use a keyboard. If that is the way you wish to conduct yourself, then perhaps you have no place here.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Unfortunately, you’re very right.

  • steeltown

    As well as Drew Butler over Kapinos