On the Steelers: Summers, Hartwig among 11 released

He probably did not know it at the time, but Frank Summers lost his roster spot with the Steelers the moment quarterback Byron Leftwich's knee was sprained Thursday night.

Summers, a fifth-round draft pick in 2009 who was listed as the Steelers' starting fullback all summer, was released along with 10 others that included two-year starter at center Justin Hartwig, who lost his job to rookie Maurkice Pouncey.

The Steelers kept Leftwich on their 53-man roster, giving them three quarterbacks for the first four games of the season while Ben Roethlisberger sits out his suspension.

Had Leftwich not been injured, he was to be their starting quarterback, and Charlie Batch and not Summers might have been cut. As it is, the Steelers will now choose between Batch and Dennis Dixon as their starting quarterback for the opener Sept. 12.

Others released Saturday were linebacker and 2008 rookie of the Year Patrick Bailey and four other second-year players: Cornerback Joe Burnett, guard Kraig Urbik, kick returner Stefan Logan and defensive end Sunny Harris.

Also released were wide receiver Tyler Grisham, safety Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, defensive tackle Steve McLendon and rookie defensive lineman Doug Worthington, a seventh-round pick.

Roethlisberger will not count toward the 53-man roster during his suspension.

Leftwich, groomed since last spring to open the season as the starter, sprained the MCL in his left knee in the final preseason game.

Eight rookie draft picks made it, the most in this century; only Worthington and Chris Scott, a fifth-round pick who is on their physically unable to perform/reserve list, are not on the 53-man roster.

The remaking of the Steelers backfield since last year continued as Isaac Redman and rookie Jonathan Dwyer made the team. They represent half of the backfield and neither has yet dressed for a regular NFL game. The only other backs are starter Rashard Mendenhall and veteran backup Mewelde Moore, although tight end David Johnson often is used to block in the backfield and offensive lineman Doug Legursky has been used to block at fullback in short yardage.

Dwyer, a sixth-round draft choice, started slowly when he reported to camp heavier than expected, missed early time with a hamstring injury and then another week plus one preseason game with a shoulder injury. He came on strong in the past two weeks, however, leading the Steelers in rushing the final two preseason games and overall with 183 yards on 39 carries, a 4.7-yard average.

Coach Mike Tomlin wasted little of his praise on Dwyer throughout the summer, even refusing to do so near the end as the rookie flourished.


"I guess that's just to let me know I haven't done anything yet," Dwyer said. "I agree with Coach that I haven't done anything yet. I still have a lot of stuff to prove. I still have things I want to prove. I'm real hard on myself and just want to be as perfect as I can. I'm willing to go out there and play as hard as I can and give my best effort."

At least Dwyer got a roster spot for his efforts. Last year, Redman led the team in rushing in the preseason and was released. He spent most of the season on their practice squad, but was on their 53-man roster for one game, although he was inactive in that contest against San Diego.

Redman has risen to the point where he has been paired with Mendenhall this preseason in a two-back "pony" backfield. His play at fullback also likely allowed them to release Summers.

"I've come a long way," said Redman, an undrafted rookie last year from tiny Bowie State in Maryland. "Last year at this time, I was playing with all the second-string guys and I was in there until the end of the game. This time around, they got me in there with the 'ones' early and took me out early, so that kind of says a lot."

Hartwig started at center the past two seasons for the Steelers and they signed him to a new contract last summer when they gave him a $2.1 million signing bonus and a $1.6 million salary. He was to make a salary of $2.08 million this season and their intention was to start him again.

Pouncey foiled those plans when he showed how dominant he could be at center, and they moved him rather than have him play at right guard as first planned.

Urbik becomes yet another third-round pick to wash out; he was their second draft pick in 2009 (they traded away their second-rounder) ahead of both Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis. He did not suit up for a game as a rookie guard. He is still eligible for their eight-man practice squad, which they can start putting together today.

Other notable recent third-round picks who failed were linebacker Bruce Davis, who spent only his rookie season of 2008 on the team and wide receiver Willie Reid in '06 (and, to an extent, safety Anthony Smith also drafted in the third round that year).

For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com . First Published September 5, 2010 4:00 AM

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