On the Steelers: 8 draft picks land on 53-man roster
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The Steelers have their 53-man-roster-plus-one with three quarterbacks keeping the seat warm for Ben Roethlisberger during the next four games.
Virtually no surprises accompanied their reduction from 75 to 53 over the weekend, even though a handful of veterans were waived as a new wave of young players hit their roster, including a 21st-century record of eight draft picks.
A closer look at the fallout:
• They kept their two rookie outside linebackers, Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson, the only backups on the outside after they released Patrick Bailey. Neither is ready to play the position after both converted from college defensive ends, so, if there is an injury, Lawrence Timmons would move outside, one reason they started him there Thursday night.
• Scouting/drafting is not a science, as Chuck Noll often said. It is why third-round picks such as Kraig Urbik and Bruce Davis wash out so quickly. The Steelers are not the only ones making these "mistakes." It goes with the territory. Scouts and personnel men, however, should tone down their criticism of Mel Kiper for his various college player evaluations. His record is no worse than many teams doing the drafting, only he gets paid to offer his opinions about it.
• Doug Legursky is living proof of the lack of science in drafting and scouting. He started 32 consecutive games at Marshall, virtually all at center, but was not drafted. The Steelers signed him as a rookie free agent in 2008 and released him before training camp. They signed him again Aug. 2, released him again, then signed him to the practice squad. He made the team last year as their backup center and made it again this weekend. He joined them the same time they drafted Urbik on the third round as their second overall pick in 2008.
• In case you missed it, three Steelers with Super Bowl rings bit the dust in Washington when the Redskins cut Willie Parker, Tyrone Carter and Carey Davis.
• Among those who should be signed to the practice squad is Frank Summers, but the coaches should re-think how they use him. Summers is not a blocking back, he's a runner, and the attempts to make him into a lead blocker did not go well. They should allow him to run. He did not have a carry this preseason while Justin Vincent had 11 carries and Dwayne Wright, who was waived on the first cut last week, had eight. As a rookie, Summers had three carries.
• Once again, there is no true fullback on the roster, a job that will be split between Isaac Redman, a running back in college, and tight end David Johnson with possibly the occasional use of Legursky in short-yardage situations.
• Few trades occur before the final cutdown, which is why center Justin Hartwig and his $2.08 million salary was released. He will play elsewhere, but not at that salary.
• Keeping injured Byron Leftwich on the team means the Steelers have him in mind as their ultimate backup quarterback. He signed a new two-year contract after the Steelers acquired him in a trade with Tampa Bay.
• Tackle Tony Hills raised his play tremendously from the start of training camp, convincing them to keep him on the roster as the backup to Max Starks on the left side.
• The Steelers have six wide receivers on their roster and, if they decide to use rookie Antonio Brown as their return man, it is likely all six will dress for games. They've dressed as few as four wide receivers in the past.
• Coordinator Bruce Arians has returned the "pony" backfield to his playbook. He wanted to try it in 2008 with Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall but that idea went out the window with Mendenhall's injury, and then Arians abandoned the idea last season. He used a lot of it this summer with Mendenhall and Redman, and it seems to be viable because Redman can block as well as run.
• Anthony Madison, all 5-foot-9, 180 pounds of him, made the team. It shows that, even though they released Patrick Bailey, the Steelers are serious about improving their special-teams play. Same for keeping veteran special teamer Arnaz Battle instead of the Wes Welker-like young receiver Tyler Grisham.
• The final roster cuts won't be final until later in the week, at least as they pertain to the opener. James Harrison made the "final" roster in 2003 but was released two days later so they could sign someone else.