There were questions about who would make the Steelers’ final roster. But on Saturday, all of those questions were answered. The Steelers, along with the 31 other NFL teams, submitted their final 2011 rosters to the NFL.
Most of the Steelers roster moves were expected, but a few surprises were slipped in. Let’s take a look at the final roster.
Just like last year, most Steelers fans thought that the Steelers would carry Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, and Dennis Dixon as the 3 quarterbacks on the roster. Charlie Batch got almost no work during training camp or preseason, and it was a foregone conclusion that Batch wasn’t going to make the roster. But just like last year, an injury to Byron Leftwich in the final preseason game caused the Steelers to keep Charlie Batch. Can you say “deja vu”, boys and girls?
Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman were locks to make the 2011 roster. Rookie Baron Batch was starting to make a name for himself in training camp. It appeared as though he was going to make the 2011 roster until he suffered an injury. The injury to Batch helped two players. Firstly, it meant that Mewelde Moore was coming back as the 3rd down back. It also meant that Jonathan Dwyer, who came to training camp out of shape and looked unlikely to make the team, would be saved by a miracle.
Hines Ward’s spot was assured. So were the 3 young receivers from last year, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown. The question was which other two receivers would be kept on the roster. The Steelers had brought Jerricho Cotchery into training camp to add another veteran receiver. Apparently, they never wavered from that desire, and Cotchery made the final roster. Finally, Arnaz Battle retained his roster spot, primarily due to his special teams contribution.
Heath Miller and David Johnson were locks to make the team. But the third tight end was not as certain. Veteran John Gilmore was brought in to fill the spot, but rookie Weslye Saunders outplayed him in the preseason. So Gilmore is gone, and Saunders in in.
Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Maurkice Pouncey, Doug Legursky, and Willie Colon will be the starters. Rookie Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Trai Essex, and Chris Scott will be the backups. The backups came as a bit of a surprise. I actually thought Tony Hills would be among the group. Hills, a former 4th round draft pick, had finally begun to justify all of the space that he’s wasted on the Steelers roster for all these years. It even looked like he might be named the starter at right guard. Readers of Steelers Today know that I’ve never been a fan of Hills. In fact, I thought he was destined to be the next Trai Essex (a former mid-round draft pick who has remained on the roster for what seems like decades, despite never being good enough to break into the starting line-up). But when the Steelers decided to bring the original Trai Essex back, it apparently made Hills redundant. So they kept Chris Scott instead.
Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Chris Hoke, Cameron Heyward, and Steve McClendon. No surprises here. Next!
There were no real surprises on what may be the most dynamic group on the Steelers roster. LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior, and James Harrison will be back to wreak havoc on Steelers opponents. Larry Foote, Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester, and Chris Carter will back them up.
This is the group that makes Steelers fans nervous. Ike Taylor was a lock. But everybody else was a question mark. There were rumors that Bryant McFadden might not make the roster. And Steelers fans have prayed for years that William Gay would be cut. But in the end, both McFadden and Gay were kept around for another year. Keenan Lewis also managed to hold a roster spot despite his history of mental errors. The two draft picks, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, both made the roster without being able to show much during training camp and preseason. I guess the Steelers felt confident in their potential. That means they had to give up on the potential of last year’s rookie Crezdon Butler. However, my guess is that Butler will be added to the practice squad.
Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, and Will Allen. Any questions?
There was little doubt that Shaun Suisham and Greg Warren were going to make the team. But there actually was a competition between Dan Sepulveda and Jeremy Kapinos. Sepulveda was injured last year, and has a history of injuries that dates back to his college days. Kapinos filled in well for Sepulveda last year. However, I think everyone will agree that when he’s healthy, Sepulveda is a better punter than Kapinos. The question will be whether Sepulveda can remain healthy.
Overall, I think the Steelers did a nice job assembling their roster. They’ve kept a large core of veteran players. However, they’ve also done a good job of infusing youth into the team.
So barring injury, it looks like the Steelers will go into the 2012 NFL draft with the hope of finding a young nose tackle to eventually replace the aging Casey Hampton. They’ll also be searching for young cornerbacks who can eventually push Bryant McFadden and William Gay out the door. Sound familiar?
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