View Full Version : Steelers face tough decisions when shaping roster

09-02-2009, 11:01 PM

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Steelers face tough decisions when shaping roster

By Scott Brown
Thursday, September 3, 2009

Frank Summers can't remember missing a game before he came to the Steelers. So when the team informed him a couple of weeks ago that a bad hamstring would prevent him from playing against the Washington Redskins, the news hit the rookie running back as hard as anything he has experienced on a football field.

"I almost had tears coming out my eyes," Summers said.

The UNLV product is hoping he doesn't have similar feelings later this week when final cuts are made.

As coach Mike Tomlin and his staff finalize the Steelers' 53-man squad, they will have to make tough calls between keeping promising players such as Summers and veterans with whom they have a comfort level.

"Every situation is different. At times, what you know may weigh heavily in a veteran's favor," said Tomlin, whose team plays its final preseason game tonight against the Panthers in Carolina. "At times, the potential upside and continued growth of a young guy may weigh heavily in his favor. Don't necessarily have a formula for it."

No team does, but all have to make the kind of decisions that will shape their season. Players who make a 53-man roster will inevitably see the field given the injury factor and NFL roster limitations.

The question teams may wrestle with when weighing the pros and cons of every player is whether a youngster that has considerable upside can be trusted in games, and whether a veteran's skills won't decline to the point he becomes a liability instead of an asset.

"There's loyalty, there's all that kind of stuff," said former NFL coach Herman Edwards, now an analyst for ESPN. "There's also the point that eventually the young guy has to play and the only way to do it is you have to put him in the game.

"That's the only way to get experience. Practice is one thing. The game is when you really find out. The veteran guy will do the right thing."

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said a number of factors come into play when teams have to make a choice between veterans and younger players.

"It might be the group that he's in," Arians said in reference to the other players that have already made the team at a given position. "The maturity factor is huge. You always want the best players, but you want the guys that are going to prepare and be ready to play when their name's called. Each scenario is different."

So is the state of every team.

Teams that are building may be inclined to keep younger players over veterans when final cuts are made. On teams built to win now, such as the Steelers, veterans may have an edge over younger players.

What makes the looming cuts difficult for the Steelers -- they have until 11 a.m. Saturday to make them -- is that they have a lot of established veterans but also a promising rookie class.

"I think this is the first year I've been here where you look around and you're like, 'Wow, man, they're going to have some tough cuts to make,' " said right tackle Willie Colon, a fifth-year veteran. "Come cut day, I'm going to cover both my eyes because I don't even want to see who's getting cut. Some of the younger guys that are good and could definitely make a ballclub somewhere won't here because of numbers."

For Tomlin, that is a nice problem to have.

"I prefer tough cuts," Tomlin said. "Easy cuts are not fun for a guy in my position."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

09-03-2009, 03:20 PM
Any speculation on if they will need to keep Mike Reilly as a 4th QB since Dixon is hurt? That would mean having to potentially make an additional cut to keep him on the roster when he would have in all likelihood been cut himself. Can't say I envy the coaches.