Should The Steelers Consider Only Keeping 7 Offensive Linemen On Their 53 Man Roster?


The most-recent training camp battle piece that I posted Monday morning  centered around the backup tackle spot has generated a lot of good thoughts as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers needing to carry any of the three players listed in that battle on the 53 man roster.

We already know that Kelvin Beachum will be the sixth offensive lineman on the roster, as he can back up multiple positions, so is it outlandish to think that the team might only carry seven offensive linemen on the 53 man roster out of training camp in an attempt to free up an extra roster spot elsewhere? No, not really and that is why I included the poll option of none of the three players listed making the roster for you to choose.

In order for the Steelers to carry only seven offensive linemen on the 53 roster; however, it would likely mean that John Malecki would be the seventh, as he can play both guard and center.

Beachum played right tackle last season thanks to both Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams going down with ankle injuries, and he figures to once again be the first player off of the bench should that happen in 2013. Starting left guard Ramon Foster also showed his position flexibility last season when he was forced to finish the 2012 season finale against the Cleveland Browns at right tackle after Beachum left the game with a concussion. That means the Steelers have four players on their offensive line that can play tackle and in theory, they would be able to survive two in game injuries at any of the five positions on their offensive line as a result.

Over the years, head coach Mike Tomlin has made a habit out of only dressing seven offensive linemen on game days, so the position flexibility of Beachum, Foster, Malecki and even Maurkice Pouncey would ensure that he can effectively handle any combination of two injured linemen during a game as long as both Gilbert and Adams didn\’t both go down in the same game.

Let\’s face it, would you really want Guy Whimper and Joe Long in a game anyway? Even if either were to make the 53 man roster as an eighth offensive linemen, they would likely be a game day inactive, so why not keep Long and Nik Embernate on the practice squad to groom and serve as practice bodies? Doing this would enable the Steelers to carry an extra positional player on the roster such as a sixth wide receiver, a fourth tight end or even an extra defensive back.

So what say you? Could you see the Steelers only carrying seven offensive linemen on the 53 man roster out of training camp with two more being assigned to the practice squad? It\’s certainly something to consider.

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About Dave Bryan

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

    Does any NFL team have only seven? Does a typical tean carry eight or nine?

  • steeltown

    I think carrying only 4RB’s and 4Safeties this season will open some spots for an extra WR or CB if needed

    I cant remember the last time I felt comfortable regarding Health and OLine..so no way would I want to keep only 7OL… I guess it all depends on how much they really value these guys, yes, in theory they could only carry 7OL (with 2OL on the practice squad) since they tend to only dress 7OL on game day anyway, but that would be at the expense or possible expense of losing a guy like Embernate, Long or Golic Jr. to another Team. They chose to keep guys like Golden and A.Robinson on the active roster last yr for this exact reason. So again it all depends on how much ‘promise’ these guys show in camp or preseason

  • SteelerFanInMD

    It sounds very risky to carry only 7 OL’s, given the Steelers history of OL injuries. Can they mitigate the risk by using TE’s as backup linemen?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    The 8th and 9th linemen this team will employ during the regular season may not be on the roster yet.

  • Dan

    Only if your really high on somebody you can keep on the practice squad, AND if you’re confident in some TE or some other player who will be active on game days to play OL in the event more than 2 go down in a single game, AND if you really really need that roster spot for something else. So in general I’d say no. We need to make the OL a higher point of emphasis…not a place to look for $ or roster spot savings.

  • steeltown

    I bet Spaeth (6’7 270lbs) might be able to fill-in in an emergency

  • SteelersDepot

    FYI: Mike Tomlin only dressed 8 offensive lineman once in 2012. The other 15 games he dressed 7

  • Chris Ward

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers only dress seven O-lineman on game days looking at Tomlin’s past history. I think having Beachum and Foster as swing guys is their best option at this point then having Long or Whimper be the back up tackle. Then have Malecki be a back up interior player at both guard positions and he could also play the center position too. I think Joe Long will make the practice squad and Golic and Embernate will battle in camp for a spot on the practice squad. Whimper I would be surprised if he makes the 53 man roster. I think the Steelers O-line has enough flexibility to fill in at spots if in case a player would get injured with 7 dressed O-lineman.

  • steeltown

    I somewhat agree with your assessment..and they do usually dress only 7OL.. I just worry about losing another young prospect with upside because we waive them and try to stash them on our practice squad

  • NW86

    I suppose it’s possible to carry only 7 week one, but it’s only a matter of time then until they need to make a roster transaction. When 1 guy gets banged up for 1 week, they’ll need to sign someone. Not sure it’s worth it.

  • NW86

    Good questions, and I don’t know the answers. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s about 50/50 with teams carrying 8 or 9. I doubt there is anyone who only carries 7.

  • NW86

    Who knows, maybe that’s D. Johnson’s best chance of making the roster. Emergency TE, emergency FB, and emergency OT! That said, I would be worried if he, or any TE, had to come in at OT.

  • CW

    I can’t see this as being a good idea. We need at least eight getting regular reps just for emergencies like a game where two linemen were sidelined for the game due to injuries.

    To be honest I’d rather they sign Eric Winston in addition to keeping eight linemen for insurance around the start of training camp and hold onto a couple extra practice squad offensive linemen as well.

    Even though Tomlin rarely dresses eight linemen for games, it just seems way too risky to only have seven to start with.

  • NW86

    Good point. I think what you’re saying is that they may only keep 7 when they first make their cuts, then sign an 8th off another team’s waiver wire the next day. Similar to the way they got Van Dyke last year.

  • Shelob9

    Does anyone ever worry that the emphasis on position flexibility is causing us to not keep the best possible player at any given position? For example, two years ago Trai Essex took snaps at every single line position. That kind of flexibility was awesome to have, but Essex was never very good. There were probably Better backup tackles and guards available to us, but was it worth going fo RTYe jack fo all trades, master of none option? I honestly don’t know.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    If they go with 7 OL, it will be precisely because no one shows the upside/talent to play that another team would be interested in. There are only 6 spots taken right now, so if someone practices and plays well they will get the one or 2 spots available. I think it would only be a situation where no one steps up that would have them go with 7.

  • hergieburbur

    NO! We have been way too snakebitten the past few years with injuries to take the risk.

  • Shelob9

    We are only going to dress 7 on game day anyway. It’s not like we’re in danger of having someone sign Golic or Long from the practice squad. It’s not like we’re talking about Mike Adams, a second round draft pick who we had to keep on the roster last year as a week one inactive. Why risk loosing someone like new LB Williams or WR Brown or even Curtis Brown, if he’s the odd man out, for a OL who isn’t going to play or leave us for another team?

  • hergieburbur

    Honestly? I worry less about that now that I did 4 years ago. Essex is the perfect case in point, he wasn’t really good at any one spot. I think the guys we have with flexibility now are better than the guys we’ve had in the past.

  • Shelob9

    I seem to remember many seasons ago Spaeth on the sidelines preparing to play tackle, but whomever was injured on the previous series ended up going back in instead. Can’t remember when exactly.

  • hergieburbur

    How many of those 15 games though was at least one guy injured and still on the active roster? I think we have seen too many injuries lately to take the risk.

  • hergieburbur

    I vaguely recall that as well. There was also a game last year where Miller was on the verge of being called on as well.

  • Shelob9

    I think it was Spaeth’s rookie year, or the year after. Not exactly sure, I’m remembering based on which bar I was at, which means it was before I quit drinking so…

  • Shelob9

    Better example, Starks. They didn’t want to keep him the last two seasons because he could only play one position, but he was a better LT then anyone we’ve had since Marvel Smith.

  • Jason Brant

    Considering the health of our offensive line recently, this would be a monumental risk.

  • SteelersDepot

    One argument against doing this would be if one of the seven were to suffer a hamstring or some other type of injury during the pregame warmups as that would then mean only having six for a game.

  • steeltown

    Golic Jr had a number of suitors calling him after the draft, he decided to come to Pittsburgh. I bet him and Embernate could be plucked off the practice squad.. Long might be able to be stashed on the PS as he was picked up off the street by us last yr

  • steeltown

    Agreed, but its hard to gauge why/what another Team is interested in.. Golic Jr and Embernate both had multiple Teams calling them immediately following the draft… Teams covet these guys based on their college film and potential

  • JohnnyV1

    No, never will happen. Our two projected starting tackles haven’t shown the ability to stay healthy.

  • Jason White

    Well Dave I certainly understand your logic on this one. Normally I’d agree 100% (the last couple years I thought about it) but the injury bug seems to be attracted to the Steelers, especially across that O-line. As of now I think the risk of injury is too great until these guys prove they can remain healthy. While I understand that an 8th and 9th lineman would be a gameday inactive thus kinda voiding the idea that they would be there to fill in, however I say we gotta let guys like Embernate and Long make the decision for the coaching staff.
    They need to show the coaches that they can’t afford to try to hide them on the practice squad. Teams will take notice of a guy like Embernate if he has a strong showing in the preseason and with so many subpar lines in the NFL he is bound to be grabbed up. Doesn’t always mean a player like that will get taken. I remember when Redman was a rookie and he didn’t make the team in ’09 because Stefan Logan impressed so much that he won the extra roster spot I was sure belonged to Isaac. I was nervous the whole season that someone would snatch him up. Luckily it didn’t happen.
    I guess in a perfect world Beachum would nail the center position making Malecki more expendable and the high upside I think Embernate has would win him a job and Joe Long would prove himself as a worthy backup at tackle.
    Damn training camp needs to be upon us. Haha

  • steeltown

    Aha yes, I wasn’t even thinking about that, in addition to the seeing multiple guys go down in a single game.. it really makes it a gamble to only carry/dress 7OL

  • Shelob9

    Sometimes I think, based on reading these comments that letting Ryan Lee and Jerrod Johnson go, so they could go on to amount to squat elsewhere will live on in infamy like the decision not to draft Dan Marino.

  • steeltown

    Sorry I was in the middle of re-writing my comment, but yes, Ryan Lee came to mind

    I guess in the end, this yr more than in previous yrs I think maybe we should dress 8OL on game day.. atleast until Gilbert, Adams and DeCastro prove they can stay healthy,.. but they wont dress 8OL though

  • Matt Welty

    This makes a lot of sense, especially when you point out that 8th and/or 9th O-lineman wouldn’t likely dress anyway for the games. Better to keep them on the practice squad and activate them weekly if need be. Maybe we should also pray the 7 active player stay healthy also?

  • Luke Shabro

    I don’t like the idea of 7 a ton but I see the merit in it. I think if you keep Golic Jr. or Joe Long you guys who are capable of playing guard and tackle. I pray to God we don’t keep Guy Whimper who is not just RT-only capable but is an awful right tackle at that. Sure wish we had Ryan Lee still.

  • steeltown

    Exactly why dressing 7OL is risky..

  • Luke Shabro

    I’m a huge Ryan Lee fan. I feel like he could be a guy like Mike Brisiel or Alex Boone

  • Stephen Dale

    as brittle as the steeler linemen are, keeping on 7 when Beachum is the 6th man, is not a good idea. putting talented OL on the PS is only an invitation for another team to steal them. one or two of the UDFA’s may well warrent a spot on the final 53. There is ample space for talented players as Pittsburgh doesn’t have that many of them to start with.. who knows, maybe J Jones proves to be the “bust” some envision, trim Gay and Brown (DB’s) and there is space for the OL…..

  • hergieburbur

    How many times did we have an injured starter as that 8th and or 9th man last season? After the first few weeks, there is always the chance that one of your better players is gonna be scratched,

  • TJimmy

    Given the history of injury with this group should they only only keep 7 linemen? No, no, a thousand times no.

  • cencalsteeler

    With them implementing a new scheme, they should carry a minimum of 8. It’s a new system and it will take time for them to nail it down. While learning, there will be mistakes which may lead to injuries. As they gel, maybe it can be reduced back down to 7.

  • Michael Mazanowski

    With Gilbert on the OL we will need to keep 10 because he might fall on a few legs!

  • Michael Mazanowski

    So what say you? Am I watching Cloud Atlas….omg Halle Berry!
    I want the true true! What a weird movie!

  • Michael Mazanowski

    I would watch anything with Halle in it!

  • Ahmad

    If the OL didn’t have a history of injuries I would say carry 7. I think they should carry 8 just to be safe.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    With the injuries we have incurred I would feel uneasy since we have had games where injured players had to go in to finish games. I personally would rather carry more OL.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    and we had several games where it seemed having 8 dressed would have been a better idea especially with the state the OL was in

  • charles

    Hopefully out of undrafted and former or current PS a couple forge to the front based on attitude or talent. The line of scrimmage may be larger than Big Ben. If we had eight or even nine who show good talent or bad attitude it would be a huge plus.
    Last year is over and so are the injuries, don’t base a decision on last year evidence.
    If we only carry 7 it should be because of a lack of talent.

  • steves

    I remember when Pouncy had to play guard cause everyone was hurt. OL is our weakness and we have to strenthen it by keeping an 8th OL man until they show less breakdowns.

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Oh I love the thumbs down button fag-nuts!

  • Brendon Glad

    I think it’s an excellent thought to ponder. Since Tomlin usually dresses 7 and 2-3 OL are needed on the practice squad merely to be able to “practice” I think it is a very possible scenario. I think the preseason will dictate how it plays out.
    Example: Willie Parker. He flashed WAY too much in the preseason to risk cutting him. Therefore, Cowher made the wise decision and sacrificed either a TE spot or an OL spot for the sake of keeping an extra RB. No one will ever know if he could have cut him and got away with it, but Willie has 2 SB rings as a starting RB, so I’m going with “Good decision Cowher”. And I think Stephan Logan kind of did that too, at the sake of a DB.
    I think if a ‘position-player” comes out of the weeds and forces his name on the league, then you have to be ready to adjust. I think teams respect the Steelers enough to make stashing guys on the practice squad who will eventually be stars a little more difficult. But with offensive linemen, it’s a little easier to do still.
    So I think what you premised in your article is very possible.

  • Brendon Glad

    Even with Gilbert getting pancaked into an offensive lineman’s (or 3’s) knees during the season. Probably still will have 2-3 guys on the practice squad ready to step in for that scenario, if that becomes Gilbert’s M.O.

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Lol! Love it! True true!

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Trust me, Malecki, Long and Whimper will be ready and willing when someone gets hurt and a transaction is needed. The 8th lineman, who won’t get a hat on Sundays, should be someone who might actually start in the future, not waiver wire caliber. The Steelers have a terrible history of keeping washed up vets who never dress on Sunday, maybe they think it gives them a vote of confidence after and injury when they do have to play the next week….they usually suck anyway. Steelers should ‘expand’ their roster by cutting these washed up vets, leasing them a nice condo for the season, and the re-sign them if needed. On the plus side, I can hardly remember any decent player that they lost to another team because they kept a washed up vet…I think they cut Deebo but fortunately got him back.

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