Final Phase Of Roster Evaluation Arrives With Return To South Side Facility

By Matthew Marczi

Now with the halfway point of the preseason finally breached, it is time for the next phase of roster development to begin. The Pittsburgh Steelers are now out of St. Vincent College and are back in their own homes in and around Pittsburgh. When they resume practices, they will be conducted at the South Side facilities, rather than on campus.

And with the change of scenery comes a change of objective, for the players, for the coaches, and for the evaluation process. With roster cuts set to begin just a week from today, 15 players will need to be ruled out of the competition for a roster spot, and now is the time to look for characteristics other than physical.

Bob Labriola spoke of this transition last week during one edition of Steelers Live on the team’s website. He talked to head coach Mike Tomlin about the differences between training camp and the return to Pittsburgh, and what changes from an evaluation standpoint. Describing the nature of training camp:

Up here [in training camp], it’s about evaluating people. Seeing what they can do. You’re trying to put guys into as many different situations as you can to try to figure out who your 53 are, then within those 53 how you’re going to break up the workload in terms of roles within the offense, or the defense, or on special teams.

The number one priority in the evaluation of a football player is, of course, whether or not he can play the game of football. And that is what gets done during the month or so that the team spends away at ‘summer camp’. They learn about who is a football player and who is just a guy wearing football pads. Introducing the live tackling drills this year was a part of that evaluation process as well.

Of course, the camaraderie and the bonding experience, the team unity that takes place away at training camp is also an invaluable team-building exercise that cannot be replicated at the team facility when everybody goes their separate ways back home at the end of practice that day.

Now is the time for the next level of team building, however, and part of that is determining which of the football players is also a professional, who gives the team specifically what it needs:

When the Steelers go back to Pittsburgh, the emphasis kind of shifts to being a professional. Preparation. Taking care of your body. The things that happen during the week, during the course of the regular season. If you’re on the scout team, do you give the first-team offense or the first-team defense a good look as it prepares to play whichever opponent it might be at the end of the week.

Now is when players learn how to fulfill the role of the scout team. Now is when they learn to study game tape at a professional level, preparing specifically for one opponent. Now is when the coaches see who treats their time in the league as a career, who dedicates their lives to the game. When the coaches are not holding their hand in training camp, who keeps their noses in the playbook; who stays in the weight room after hours? These are some of the questions the coaching staff will be asking from now through the end of the month, when the final cuts must be made.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    There are some very EASY cuts on the current roster.. but after those initial cuts there are some tough ones, especially regarding LB and DL

  • paltel

    It seems to me the toughest cuts will be TE simply due to injuries at the position. I’d be prone to sacrifice Spaeth and D. Johnson in order to avoid cutting talent at LB and DL.

  • steeltown

    I don’t think Spaeth gets cut, maybe IR with designation, but im indifferent when it comes to D.Johnson, he seems injury prone with not enough upside i’d strongly consider cutting him and it’s pretty easy to see Overbay and Tuitupou wont make the Team.

    I’d start the season with Paulson, Palmer and McCoy and take Miller off PUP with hopes he returns by 3rd or 4th week

  • Shea Fahr

    Yeah. McCoy actually impressed me a little against the Redskins. He definitely showed some toughness. And thank goodness Palmer was playing ST’s because nobody else seemed to be on coverage units.

  • dgh57

    Yeah right, we have problems with blocking on the o-line with lack of depth and you want to get rid of probably the best run blocking TE in the game!!!

  • dgh57

    I agree, both those guys showed something good the other night!

  • dgh57

    I agree. Nick Williams looks like a real physical specimen that can move! Did I see him bull rush a LT back into the QBs lap or was that someone else?

  • steeltown

    Im not sure exactly, but he did look pretty good (albeit against 2nd and 3rd stringers) but he had a sack, a tackle for loss and a QB hit in his FIRST action in the Pros

    I like him and Arnfelt, its really too bad we cant keep them both

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Loving Arnfelt. While sacrificing himself against a couple of guys so the LB’s can make the tackle, he sometimes does something spectacular, like making the tackle himself or blowing up a play. This kid’s got a future here.

  • paltel

    I like Spaeth, however he can’t block while he’s on crutches and imho he will not be 100% at any point this season. Stash him on IR for next year, but expecting him to return this season as the best run blocking TE in the game is wishful thinking.

  • Shelob9

    I think TE is too early to call. David Johnson was a hell of a run blocker two years ago when he last played. If he can quickly show that he can be a big help to the run blocking, I think he has a good chance of making the initial 53.

  • steeltown

    Good point.. we need all the blocking we can get at this point with Miller and Spaeth out

  • dgh57

    If the Steelers had intentions of putting Spaeth on IR for the year they would of done it already! IR with Designation to Return is the worst that will happen to Spaeth and he’ll be fine when he returns. Overbay, Tuitupou, and even D. Johnson will be cut at TE before Spaeth will.

  • Shelob9

    I’m no Dave Bryan, so I have no specific plays to quote or stats to back this up, but two years ago was the last time our power run game had power and a big part of that was Dave Johnson coming in as 2nd or 3rd TE and crushing dudes. I do remember him making some nice catches too when Miller was out that season. Trying not to be too influenced by the fact that he could become a 90 FB in the last two Maddens with little work:)

  • steeltown

    He is definitely an upgrade (if healthy) over Paulson when it comes to run blocking

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Keep DJ, Palmer, McCoy, find a trade for Paulson. Maybe Chip and the Eagles might want him. We seem to want to be run committed something he has yet to show he can do moderately well consistently (run blocking specifically in-line). Shop Hood or Heyward while we’re at it, they both seem to be the same player having hit their ceiling talent wise. There is some very good potential with the young players especially at DL that overtake one or both by next year. Blow up that Dline, this may be Keisel’s last year anyhow. Curious to see what Taamu does this year, the thought of moving McClendon out with N. Williams on the other end and Taamu or Woods playing nose is interesting.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    The weird thing about this whole process is that the 3rd preseason game is considered the “tune-up” game for the starters, so backups hardly see the field. Then after the 3rd preseason game, 15 backups, who didn’t have much time to show anything last game, are cut. They should just hold all players until after the last preseason game, and then cut them all down to 53. I don’t see the point in having 15 players cut after week 3 of the preseason.

  • paltel

    I hope you are correct about the extent of Spaeth’s injury, but I’m not hopeful Paulson, McCoy and Palmer I’d think would be the TEs starting the season, assuming Miller doesn’t get healthy real fast.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think they give the nod to David Johnson over Palmer, personally. The team has always liked him, and even in the spring, it was Johnson running first team over Spaeth and Paulson.

  • paltel

    Perhaps his veteran leadership is enough give Johnson the nod over McCoy. At this point I don’t see how you don’t keep Palmer for use an inline blocker

  • walter mason

    I think either Spaeth or Bell is going on IR.

  • walter mason

    I like the way you say that.

  • walter mason

    Having too many good players on the DL is a problem I wish we had on the OL.

  • Hopper

    Toughest part about roster cuts? Stopping!