Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers' leading rusher last season, was among the 22 players the team released Saturday to get down to the 53-man NFL roster limit.
Dwyer, a sixth-round pick in 2010, rushed for 623 yards and scored two touchdowns a season ago. Dwyer also led the Steelers with 136 yards on 34 attempts in four preseason games, but he had endured problems with his weight since coming to the Steelers from Georgia Tech.
Dwyer was noticeably out of shape and failed the team's run test at the start of training camp in 2011. He also showed up 35 pounds overweight this spring before dropping the weight in time for training camp.
The Steelers kept five running backs, including Felix Jones, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia nine days ago. Jones is a former first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys whose best season came in 2010 when he rushed for 800 yards.
The other running backs on the roster are veterans Isaac Redman and LaRod Stephens-Howling, rookie Le'Veon Bell and second-year fullback Will Johnson. Redman has been listed as a co-starter with Bell on the depth chart the past few weeks, but neither played much in the preseason largely because of injuries.
Bell, the Steelers' second-round draft pick, was injured in the second preseason game at Washington and is expected to be out for another couple of weeks with a foot injury. Redman did not play in the final three preseason games due to a stinger, but he is expected to be ready for the regular-season opener next Sunday against Tennessee at Heinz Field.
The Steelers also activated 2012 team MVP Heath Miller from the physically-unable to-perform list. Miller, who tore three ligaments in his right knee in December, will be able to practice with his teammates and prepare to play at some point early in the season though his return date remains unknown. If he had remained on the PUP list he would not have been able to return until the sixth week of the season.
Miller is one of five tight ends on the 53-man roster, but only three are healthy. David Paulson, David Johnson, Michael Palmer and Matt Spaeth also made the team, but Spaeth is a candidate to be placed on the injured-reserve designated-for-return list.
The Steelers can place Spaeth, who is dealing with a Lisfranc injury, on that list Tuesday and add another player to the roster in his place. One player from each NFL roster can be placed on this list, and that player would be eligible to return to the roster after eight games.
This is the second season for this roster designation. Last season, the Steelers used it on first-round pick and offensive guard David DeCastro.
There were no other surprises in the roster moves announced Saturday afternoon, but three recent draft picks were among those released, including 2012 fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu as well as cornerback Terry Hawthorne and receiver Justin Brown, the Steelers' fifth- and sixth-round picks in the most recent draft.
Ta'amu, a nose tackle, was beaten out by Hebron Fangupo, a 28-year-old who spent his first NFL season on the practice squad and active roster of the Houston Texans last year.
The Steelers decided to keep five receivers, and Derek Moye, a Rochester High School and Penn State graduate, earned a roster spot with a strong preseason. He led the team with 10 receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown.
The other players released were: punter Brian Moorman, cornerbacks Josh Victorian and Devin Smith, linebackers Marshall McFadden, Terrence Garvin, Alan Baxter and Brian Rolle, offensive linemen Mike Golic Jr., Joe Long, Chris Hubbard and Joe Madsen, defensive lineman Brian Arnfelt, tight ends Jamie McCoy and Nathan Overbay, receivers Kashif Moore and Reggie Dunn, running back Alevester Alexander and safety Ross Ventrone.
The Steelers can add eight players to the practice squad at noon today.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published August 31, 2013 8:15 PM