Johnny Unitas could have been a Steeler Hall-of-Famer, but he was cut by the Steelers in 1955
You have heard that classic rock song, "Should I stay or should I go?", right? The Steelers will soon be deciding who should stay and who should be cut. This is not an exact science. The Steelers once cut hometown hero (and future hall-of-famer) Johnny Unitas, whereas they recently cut ties with Limas Sweed who probably took up a roster spot for a couple years too long.
It has been described as a cutthroat business. One minute, you are on top of the world boasting that you are a member of the proudest franchise in the NFL and the next minute it's "grab your playbook, coach wants to talk to ya". Cutting players from the roster is never easy. It's kinda like telling someone that their dog died. These decisions are sometimes easy and sometimes they can be brutal. How do you decide to keep or get rid of a 3 year veteran who is an average player at his position but plays well on special teams versus taking a leap by keeping a 5th or 6th round pick in his rookie year? Does the rookie stay motivated when the season starts? Will he develop into a better player than the veteran you already have? Do you have salary cap considerations that price a 10 year veteran off your team? That's what the Steelers face this year. Sure, most positions on the defense are already set. (If healthy) Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett “the Deisel” Keisel will be the starting defensive line. James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior and Lamarr Woodley will be the starting backers. And Ike Taylor (when healthy), Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and (probably) Bryant McFadden will start. The tough selections will be Crezdon Butler, Donovan Warren, Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis. Which of those guys makes it and who gets put on the practice squad or cut altogether? Has Baraka Atkins done enough so far to earn a roster spot? If so, does that mean that Larry Foote becomes a salary cap casualty?
The offense is even harder to figure out. Trying to select who will be the starting 5 up front is like predicting the numbers for the next powerball drawing--you might get a couple but you probably aren't getting all 5. Pouncey is a lock (barring injury). Will it be Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Ramon Foster and Willie Colon? That is the educated guess right now but the Steelers could still re-sign Flozell Adams or Max Starks at any time to put that group in jeopardy. Who will take over the right guard spot? Tony Hills, Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky or the never ending saga that is Trai Essex? We will have to watch it play out.
It sounds like Antonio Brown had the best training camp out of anyone.
It was said that he was in excellent shape, caught the vast majority of passes thrown to him and the only person who could cover him was Lawrence Timmons (who is more of a freak of nature than Javon Kearse ever was). I remember last year seeing Tyler Grisham catching a lot of balls in camp but not seeing him get much game time after the season started. In his case, the positions of RB and WR usually come down to numbers. Do you want to carry 6 or 7 WR's? 5 or 6 RB's? Who makes the practice squad? Is Emmanuel Sanders healthy enough to start the season or should the Steelers place him on the PUP list?
Tonight’s preseason game will be the last time we see the first team offense and defense in full force before the regular season starts. The first round of cuts are scheduled for 8/30/11. Most of the cuts next week will be expected. The final round of cuts just before week 1 of the regular season is where we could see a surprise or two. Tonight is the last chance for some guys to make their case as a Pittsburgh Steeler. I have no doubt that the Steelers will do their best to keep the top 53 guys they have in camp. Whether those 53 perform well enough to make it back to the super bowl is up to them.
photo courtesy of examiner.com