Decision On Brian Arnfelt Could Be Telling

By Matthew Marczi

Last week, the Steelers were forced to play without two starting defensive linemen, as both defensive end Brett Keisel and nose tackle Steve McLendon were forced to sit out the game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

That thrust both Ziggy Hood and Al Woods into the starting lineup at defensive end and nose tackle, respectively. The only remaining reserve was Hebron Fangupo, a player that is a pure nose tackle.

That is before the Steelers elected to promote defensive end Brian Arnfelt from the practice squad.

Arnfelt, a rookie undrafted free agent, was not only on an active roster for the first time in his career, but he also logged the first two snaps in the regular season after being used heavily in the preseason.

But his promotion was merely the product of a pair of injuries along the starting defensive line. With both Keisel and McLendon seemingly on track to return to play, if not the starting lineup, when the Steelers travel to play the Green Bay Packers, might Arnfelt find himself released toward the end of the week?

The Steelers carried seven defensive linemen for large stretches of last season in order to retain Alameda Ta’amu, but that was admittedly a redshirt year. This season, they already have Fangupo redshirting behind McLendon and Woods. Arnfelt would just be more dead weight on the roster.

Whether or not the Steelers release Arnfelt (and, in all likelihood, subsequently re-sign him to the practice squad) when and if the defensive line is back to full health, I believe, will be a good indication about how the organization feels about the young Northwestern product and his future with the team.

In contrast, the Steelers seemed to hold both Arnfelt and outside linebacker Alan Baxter in high regard as young undrafted defensive free agents, as both were initially retained on the practice squad.

However, the latter was eventually released back in mid-October in order to re-sign inside linebacker Kion Wilson to the practice squad. Pittsburgh has had ample opportunity to eventually re-sign Baxter since then, including after placing LaMarr Woodley on injured reserve yesterday, but instead they signed Jamaal Westerman.

If the Steelers retain him on the active roster through the remainder of the season, that will certainly suggests they have him penciled into their future, as they have three defensive ends hitting free agency next year. Keeping him on the roster at the end of the season gives the Steelers protection to maintain his services. Practice squad players are free agents and can sign with anybody.

About the Author

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

    Matt, do Teams have first choice at their own PS players before other Teams can scoop them up?

  • T R

    Nope. If they on practice squad they can be scoop by anyone but they must put them on their 53.. They cant scoop and put on their practice.. I think thats right. 🙂

  • Mike Carroll

    Yep. That’s true during the season. I was not sure about the offseason, but based on the last paragraph above, the same rules seem to apply in the offseason.

  • Shea Fahr

    Yeah but I mean as soon as the offseason starts.

  • steeltown

    With the futures of Hood, Al Woods and Keisel in question, waiving Arnfelt this late in the season would not be smart.

    If he is waived and for some reason not re-signed to the PS (i.e. Baxter) then that would be very telling as to their plans this offseason, meaning they probably plan on getting Hood, Al Woods and/or Keisel back under contract

  • Mike Carroll

    No doubt. They may have needed to bring up Arnfelt due to the injuries, but if they really do like him, it made a lot of sense to get him the 53 man roster before the end of the year.

  • steeltown

    Exactly..and to be honest there’s no real guarantee that Keisel will be able to play an entire game at this point, I would carry an extra DL player regardless (especially this late in the season)

  • Jollyrob68

    You kep Arnfelt on the 53 man roster you don’t risk someone else’s claiming him. He’s part of the future.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I just want Brett Keisel to retire. Not only he’d be taking away lethal playing time from Ziggy Hood (who have outperformed him easily) but putting hazardous move toward our future investment. I, along with every Steelers fans thank you for your service and contribution to the community and you, sir shall be missed (mostly your beard) but the time have came, you got to go.

  • Thomas Rancy

    maybe they send another to IR

  • dgh57

    If you have to cut someone like a Chris Carter to make room for Arnfelt once the other DL return from injuries do it. There’s only 2 games left and we just signed Westerman. Arnfelt is our future so why risk losing him this late in the season?

  • Douglas Andrews

    Keeping Arnfelt on the 53 for the rest of the season would be the logical move. From what he showed in preseason I could see him really coming on in a possible backup role in 2014. Heyward Hood McClendon Woods and Arnfelt could be used as your backup that’s if the Steelers are able to resign Hood and Al Woods.

  • NW86

    I can’t think of any reason to release Arnfelt. If Keisel/McClendon are able to play, then he just becomes one of the inactives on gameday.
    Even if someone gets hurt next week and you want to sign someone else, then you would just IR the injured player with only 1 week left.

  • Luke Shabro

    Chris Carter is fairly worthless, IMO. Let him go I say. I reallllyy don’t want to lose Arnfelt.

  • dgh57

    The signing of Westerman ahead of promoting Carter tells me Carter’s days are numbered(not that they weren’t anyways) as the Steelers know there has to be a cut coming so you add Westerman to replace Woodley and later subtract Carter to protect Arneft from the waiver wire when the injured D-Linemen return.

  • Jones

    Nothing like rewarding your performers with “lethal playing time”. That’ll show ’em, lol…

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    ie therefore eg for example