View Full Version : Postgame Analysis: Trimming Steelers roster from 75 to 53 won't be easy

08-30-2009, 11:51 PM
Postgame Analysis: Trimming Steelers roster from 75 to 53 won't be easy
Cuts will be a challenge for Tomlin
Monday, August 31, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Limas Sweed picks up first down in the first half against the Bills on Saturday night. He looks to have claimed the No. 3 receiving spot, but with roster cuts looming, coach Mike Tomlin will have to make some tough decisions.

Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll did not contribute much to the volumes of notes, quotes and anecdotes from NFL history, yet when he did say something, it could be memorable.

There was the time, during the down years of the late 1980s, when Noll was asked if the final roster cutdown before the season would be difficult. "Cutting," Noll replied with his deadpan look, "will not be tough; stopping will be."

The five cuts coach Mike Tomlin must make by tomorrow could fall into that category but paring his roster from 75 to 53 after Thursday night's preseason finale in Carolina will be tough. Coaches, of course, relish those tough cuts; it's better than the easy ones they will make out in Oakland, Calif., for example, where stopping might be the problem.

Some of the most difficult decisions for Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will occur in the secondary. Last season, the Steelers opened with nine defensive backs. Even if they expand to 10, it will be tough.

Say they keep six cornerbacks and four safeties. The corners would include the two starters, plus Deshea Townsend and rookie Keenan Lewis. That would mean either special teams whiz Anthony Madison, rookie Joe Burnett or new veteran Keiwan Ratliff must be cut. Two of the three would have to go if only five cornerbacks are kept.

But "position flexibility," as Tomlin calls it, might enable them to keep an extra cornerback at the expense of a backup safety, where the talent is not as strong. Townsend and starting cornerback William Gay also can play safety and Ratliff has played the position in the NFL.

"Keiwan Ratliff, who's really big for us, is a guy who has been a starter in the league, played a lot of football in his league," safety Ryan Clark said.

"He's doing really well. He's played everything since he's been here; he's played free safety in a game, nickel, corner, so a guy like that adds depth everywhere."

Keep him on the team, and he can become the fourth safety as well, with Ryan Mundy joining the practice squad. If the coaches decide to keep 10 defensive backs, that allows room for Madison and Burnett. If they keep nine, one must go.

"You drafted two young guys with a lot of talent," Clark said. "Are they ready to be first-day starters? No, but those are guys you can bring along and add depth."

Sweed comes up big

It appears Limas Sweed has a lock on the No. 3 wide receiver post and he adds a different dimension to the position. At 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, he is the tall receiver quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has yearned for since Plaxico Burress left after the 2004 season.

Sweed showed what that height can do when he stretched for a pass over the middle Saturday night that was thrown slightly behind him. It was third-and-8 at the Buffalo 45, and he pulled the ball down for an 11-yard gain that kept a field-goal drive alive.

It's not easy stretching high over the middle, a vulnerable position that invites defensive backs and linebackers to take a free shot. Sweed missed another potential big catch when he momentarily bobbled a pass along the sideline and got just one foot inbounds. Two years ago, it might have been a catch because he was partly driven out of bounds by a Bills defender.

"Those balls on the sideline, you always have to work on your footwork," Sweed said. "I felt like I would have been able to get it down, but he pushed my leg out."

In college only one foot is required to be inbounds, an adjustment all receivers must make when they advance to the pros.

"Yeah, it's a big adjustment for me, especially with my feet being so big," Sweed said. "My feet are so big, I can't just do what everybody else does. I can't do the little tap, nothing like that. Every time I try to do the tap, my size 15 1/2 is always sticking out of bounds."

'One of those things'

Tomlin has taken a softer approach when talking about running back Rashard Mendenhall than he has other players, especially second-year players. Mendenhall has 30 carries for 98 yards, one touchdown and one lost fumble. Preseason statistics often do not matter, but because he had a well-documented fumbling problem in his previous summer, Saturday night's fumble appeared alarming.

Tomlin did not sound worried.

"No," Tomlin quickly replied when asked. "It looked like we got some penetration from [Kyle] Williams, who is a good football player. He got underneath [Chris Kemoeatu] and created some penetration there. It is just one of those things that happens."

Tomlin praised Mendenhall last week after the Steelers played the Redskins and did so again Saturday night.

"He was decisive with the football; he was running downhill; he was finishing off runs violently."
No bubble guy

Casey Hampton may struggle with his size at times. He has never struggled with making a football team.

The Steelers drafted him in the first round in 2001 and he became a rookie starter and went on to play in four Pro Bowls. Yet someone asked him Saturday night if he could remember when he was a "young, bubble guy" and could relate to players in similar situations now.

"I never was a bubble guy, so I don't remember that," Hampton replied.
No snap decision

As a veteran center, Justin Hartwig had a chance to make Roethlisberger look good on one play Saturday night and he blew it. On fourth-and-1 at the Steelers' 48 in the second quarter, Tomlin sent the punt team onto the field.

Roethlisberger waved them off, then quickly lined the offense up for what appeared to be a quick snap. Across from Hartwig, a Buffalo defensive lineman jumped early. There was no snap and the Bills' player adjusted back into his stance. Again, he jumped and again there was no snap.

Had Hartwig snapped the ball either time, Buffalo would have been penalized 5 yards for offsides and the Steelers would have had a first down. As it was, Roethlisberger called timeout and the Steelers punted.

Tomlin, who hates pre-snap penalties, should call a no-snap penalty on his center on that one.

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on August 31, 2009 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09243/994449-66.stm#ixzz0Pim5iBLg

Galax Steeler
08-31-2009, 06:27 AM
I guess the heads are going to start rolling come tommorow. The first cuts shouldn't be that hard but when the final cuts come that could have them scratching there heads.

08-31-2009, 08:43 AM
It seems to be a more competitive race to make the team this year than in past years. Rookies are looking better it seems than other years, add in the guys we picked up or signed and it makes for stiff competition. I guess it is a good problem to have though to be loaded with solid talent and guys with alot of upside.