By Matthew Marczi
With the news that Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote may very well be lost for the rest of the season followed a ruptured bicep suffered in the team’s opening game loss to the Tennessee Titans, there may very well be a roster move in the near future to bring back one of the team’s preseason inside linebackers.
The most likely candidate would be to bring back Marshall McFadden, who was the Steelers’ second-team Buck linebacker and was with the team last season as well. He was a surprise cut, and is currently on the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders.
It is possible that the Steelers ultimately keep just four inside linebackers on the roster, assuming Foote is eventually placed on injured reserve, with McFadden eventually being moved to the practice squad, but a more permanent move to the 53-man roster seems most likely. In order for the Steelers to be able to move McFadden to the practice squad, they would, by rule, need to keep him on the 53-man roster for at least three weeks anyway.
Also currently without a team is Brian Rolle, who filled in for most of the preseason as the second-team linebacker next to McFadden. He does not have practice squad eligibility, and no team has as of yet signed him to an active roster.
Another possibility, depending on his current health, is to welcome Stevenson Sylvester back into the fold, who appeared to be a lock for the roster heading into the preseason. However, he was wiped out on special teams after Markus Wheaton tripped over Shamarko Thomas’ back and into the linebacker.
Sylvester attempted to play one snap on the ankle on defense afterward, but he could not do anything, and quickly left the field. It was initially believed that he would be able to start practicing by the end of the next week, but he never did, and he was released in the first wave of cuts, from the 90-man roster down to 75. Nobody claimed him off waivers, so he is currently without a team.
He has had about a month to recover from the ankle injury at this point. If he is healed and ready to go, perhaps he could be the most likely roster replacement for Foote. Sylvester has spent the past three years on the team, and even though his status for this season was shaky at best, by the time the preseason games began to get under way, it appeared that he was in a good place.
As a restricted free agent, the Steelers elected not to tender the fourth-year player an offer, the only restricted free agent that the team did not re-sign. However, they did eventually sign him during free agency for the veteran minimum salary.
Linebackers coach Keith Butler spoke of this season being a do or die year for Sylvester early in the offseason, but by the time training camp came around, he said that Sylvester could be the first linebacker off the bench. The injury obviously derailed those plans, both for Sylvester and for the team. Larry Foote’s latest derailment now has the Steelers scrambling for yet another answer.