The exhibition games are over, let the cuts begin.
The Steelers began today with 75 players on their roster, not counting one exemption. They must reduce their roster to 53 by 6 p.m tomorrow, but nearly all their cuts will take place today.
Gentlemen on the bubble, start your apprehensions.
The biggest decision the Steelers must make comes at quarterback. They want to keep Byron Leftwich as the backup and they will keep rookie Dennis Dixon as No. 3. But they have salary-cap problems and what do they do with Charlie Batch?
Coach Mike Tomlin said they wanted to give Leftwich an extended look last night, and he played late into the third quarter. Leftwich completed 6 of 14 passes for 82 yards. Dixon completed 5 of 9 for 42 yards.
Being close to the salary cap complicates the decision.
"It always does," Tomlin said. "It is something you acknowledge that exists because it does."
They could release Batch as injured with his broken collarbone and sign him later when he's healthy, if that's their wish. It's unlikely they will carry four quarterbacks until Batch is healthy and then release Leftwich. Or, they could just stay with Leftwich and release Batch.
It's not an easy decision. The organization loves Batch and would like to have him here for 2009. Even if they keep Leftwich this season, he is under a one-year contract and likely would sign somewhere else in March so he could compete for a starting job.
Not going whole Hog yet
The Steelers trotted out their "Hog" package again last night, a new offensive formation in which the quarterback splits out as a wide receiver and the ball is snapped directly to the running back.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians used the formation twice last week in Minnesota with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Willie Parker, and he used it twice against the Panthers with Leftwich and running back Rashard Mendenhall, who gained 8 and 4 yards on the plays.
The package is so-named because it was borrowed from the University of Arkansas, which used the formation last year with running back Darren McFadden, the No. 1 pick of the Oakland Raiders.
Another wrinkle in the formation: The left tackle lines up on the right side, creating an unbalanced line.
Rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed nearly had a spectacular, 32-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, a play that was challenged by Tomlin but not overturned by replay.
Sweed (6 feet 4, 210 pounds) caught a pass from Leftwich in the back corner of the end zone, reaching up over safety C.J. Wilson and appearing to get both feet in bounds. The officials, though, ruled he was out of bounds, and replay supported the call -- showing that Sweed's backside hit out of bounds before he could touch his second foot, his left foot, in the end zone.
Linebacker Larry Foote said he plans to run today and that he should be ready to play in the Sept. 7 opener against Houston. Foote injured his knee in the third preseason game but said there was no damaged, that it was merely "stretched." ... Linebacker Arnold Harrison left the game in the third quarter with a torn ACL, ending his season.