Roster Cuts: Why 53 is the Loneliest Number

It’s official- after an accelerated offseason and some agonizing decisions, the Steelers’ roster is set at the final 53 players that will be carried into the season.

Most of the cuts don’t come as much of a surprise, but the loss of some players is worth examining, as well as the retention of others.

  • Punter Jeremy Kapinos: Kapinos was arguably the better punter in camp, but Sepulveda stays on the roster. Some might argue that the move was solely motivated by Sepulveda’s status as a fourth round draft pick, but this generally hasn’t been the way the team has operated, given their willingness to part ways with highly drafted players such as infamous second rounder Limas Sweed. The more important fact to take away from this move is the team’s confidence in Sepulveda’s health, which has been his biggest concern in years past, and their continued belief in his abilities as kickoff specialist.

  • Tight End John Gilmore: Another relatively uncontroversial decision, but the team’s second tight end situation remains murky. David Johnson is listed on the depth chart as both the starting fullback and the second tight end, which means that the team is content to let the void created by Matt Spaeth’s departure go unfilled. Presumably the team will run fewer two tight end sets, or include rookie third tight end Weslye Saunders in the mix, or even move Johnson over and go without a fullback. Whatever the case, the move is a departure from the team’s previous beliefs.

  • Tony Hills: This cut probably came as the biggest surprise, given that Hills was still very much in the mix at right guard. Although Doug Legursky officially won the job, it was hardly with a resounding endorsement, and most people thought that, after the line’s injury woes last year, the team would be willing to secure as much depth as possible. Instead, Ramon Foster will serve as the backup at left guard, while Trai Essex backs up Legursky on the right side. As I wrote in my first piece of the year, here we go again.

  • Byron Leftwich: Leftwich’s broken arm was actually surprisingly fortuitous, as his move to injured reserve likely saved the job of either Leftwich himself or Dennis Dixon, depending on management’s viewpoint. It’s clear that the team still believes in Charlie Batch, despite his age, and given his performance in Ben’s absence last year, that belief is understandable. What makes less sense is their insistence on keeping Leftwich on the roster and not pursuing another quarterback to fill Batch’s shoes in the near future. I personally don’t believe that Dennis Dixon is ever going to mature into an NFL quarterback, but he at least has some speed and has been competent, if not spectacular, in his starts against the Ravens in 2009 and the Falcons last year. If Batch ages quickly or completely loses all ability, then Dixon could definitely fill in for a game or two and let Mendenhall and the defense do the rest. Leftwich, however, hasn’t had one good moment since eviscerating a weak Redskins team on a Monday night in 2008. If the knock on him when was he was young that he was slow and had a deliberate release, just try to imagine him now. Dixon certainly hasn’t endeared himself to the team recently, given his “holdout” that wasn’t in training camp, but he definitely deserves to be the 3rd QB over Leftwich even when he returns.

  • Jonathan Dwyer: Dwyer is worth mentioning simply for the fact that he did not get cut. If rookie Barron Batch hadn’t been forced onto injured reserve, this very well might not be the case, but supposedly Dwyer came into camp considerably overweight, and has shown a considerable amount of improvement recently. After dropping the 20 pounds he added during the lockout, he’s been the team’s best runner in the preseason, racking up 175 yards and a touchdown, and he will undoubtedly be fighting to prove his worth for when Batch returns. I’ve always liked Dwyer a little bit as an eventual third down, or even goal line, running back if he shows commitment, and this season may the be the one in which we see whether he has it in him or not.

While all these moves may seem insignificant, each one is meaningful in some small way. At least that’s what I tell myself as spend my time studying this rather than doing schoolwork. But in any case, we’ll know for sure, as the season begins in just six days!

Back to the Pittsburgh Steelers Newsfeed