When the Pittsburgh Steelers released their 53-man roster for the first time, it raised some eyebrows, offering surprises about whom they chose to cut, whom they chose to keep, and how many players at certain positions made the team.
Many were expecting to see some changes made soon after through the waiver wire or with other late signings. There seemed to be an increase in the usage of the phrase “initial 53-man roster”, accordingly, assuming it would be different in short order.
But it doesn’t seem as though change is coming. It seems, rather, that the Steelers were able to put together the roster that they wanted, in terms of assembling the best 53 players.
That means keeping six wide receivers in addition to a running back/wide receiver hybrid. That means keeping 11 total defensive backs. And that means carrying only three true outside linebackers, with a fifth inside linebacker capable of moving over in a pinch.
That also means, evidently, that second-year former undrafted free agent offensive lineman Chris Hubbard is expected to stick, much unlike John Malecki a year ago, who made the final 53-man roster before being replaced through waivers by Cody Wallace.
Another waiver pickup from a year ago, Antwon Blake, remains with the team, while the cornerback that he bumped to the practice squad, Isaiah Green, is gone, despite the Steelers carrying two extra defensive backs on the practice squad.
Head coach Mike Tomlin talked about “Mother” Hubbard in his press conference yesterday, describing the former practice squad player as “bigger, stronger, faster”, and praising his mental improvement in terms of understanding the game.
Hubbard beat out veteran offensive lineman Guy Whimper for a roster spot this year. Whimper spent all of 2013 with the Steelers, starting at both guard positions and playing everywhere but center during in-game situations.
The extra wide receivers and cornerbacks, it was believed, were influenced by the late injuries suffered by Martavis Bryant and Brice McCain. The Steelers added cornerback B.W. Webb off waivers the day before the final roster was set, and he was on it as a sixth corner.
The assumption was that his addition was a response to McCain’s groin injury, but as McCain told the media, he was able to work through individual drills in practice this week and believes that he will play on Sunday.
While Bryant did not participate in practice, Tomlin said yesterday that he will “leave the light on” for Bryant in terms of participating in the season opener, which is certainly a much more positive view than some speculation that suggested he could miss several weeks.
That also suggests that the numbers the Steelers chose to keep likely weren’t influenced much at all by the aforementioned injuries, and that they simply believed the position itself and the available talent made in the team’s best interests to stock up on receivers and defensive backs.