The Pittsburgh Steelers trimmed their roster to 53 players today, with some surprising cuts among them. The team remained orthodox in some ways, such as keeping three quarterbacks, while breaking with tradition in others by keeping only three outside linebackers or going with less-tenured players over veterans.
I happened to have flipped the wrong way at the last minute on a few of these decisions, predicting breaking tradition when they stuck with it and expecting traditionalism when they defied expectations.
The most talked about move will certainly be the front office sticking to their guns and retaining three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster despite a league-wide trend of fewer and fewer teams doing so.
The expansion of the practice squad in recent weeks only made it more palatable to dump a quarterback on the scout team, but the Steelers decided to give Landry Jones another year of seasoning, despite a very underwhelming preseason performance.
Meanwhile, the Steelers did indeed choose to retain nine offensive linemen, but the majority assumption was that Guy Whimper would be among them if that number were kept. He was not, instead losing his spot to Chris Hubbard, a second-year former undrafted free agent interior offensive lineman. Both spots could prove to be tenuous depending on what the waiver wire brings, however.
I did speculate during the offseason that the Steelers might carry 11 defensive backs this year, and the late injury to Brice McCain and signing of B.W. Webb made that happen. This, too, could change, however, if McCain proves to be a candidate for the short-term injured reserve list.
That could be good news for one of the other surprise cuts, outside linebacker Chris Carter, who survived three seasons before missing the roster for the first time.
Should McCain or another player land on the short-term IR, the outside linebacker position would be the likely target to fill, because the Steelers kept only three pure outside linebackers.
I also predicted that the glut of talent at wide receiver would result in an abundance of players being kept, when as little as five was widely speculated.
Instead, eight in total were kept, including Dri Archer as a wide receiver slash running back, and Derek Moye expected to be signed to the practice squad provided that he clears waivers. The Steelers chose to decide the three-way ‘battle’ between Moye, Justin Brown, and Darrius Heyward-Bey by keeping all of them.
Many were less surprised than I was that the Steelers chose to keep Michael Palmer over David Paulson. I predicted that the latter would be kept, incorrectly estimating the team’s view of the third-year tight end, despite the fact that I too would likely have gone with Palmer over Paulson given a decision-making role.
Still, I believe the team’s willingness to part with players such as Carter, Paulson, and Whimper reveal a front office that perhaps isn’t as predictable as it has been in the past. Or perhaps the available talent is more mercurial than in recent years.