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Old 09-05-2009, 11:10 AM   #1
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Default On the Steelers: Roster takes on new shape

On the Steelers: Roster takes on new shape
Offensive backfield will have different look
Saturday, September 05, 2009

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
Stefan Logan secured a roster spot with the Steelers after his punt return for a touchdowan against the Panthers Thursday night.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made all his cuts yesterday, but then he did not make any. He said he cut his roster from 75 to 53 and told all those players involved, yet he did not make it official by sending in the paperwork to the NFL. And he certainly did not make it public.

Those requirements come this afternoon.

But the bigger names involved have surfaced, and the Post-Gazette has identified some of them. By looking at those, some conclusions can be drawn:

Three running backs were released, which left them with four, including rookie Frank "The Tank" Summers, who can play fullback as well. That means they will enter the season with one fewer running back, and it likely means they will go with five wide receivers, plus kick-returner Stefan Logan.

Summers replaces veteran Carey Davis, who was waived injured, in that role of fullback and backup tailback. Although it is not known what happened to injured tight end/fullback Sean McHugh, rookie tight end/fullback David Johnson made the team, and he will play the role that McHugh held last season, lining up in the backfield as a lead blocker as well. McHugh was to make $1 million in salary this season on the tender he signed as a restricted free agent and likely also will be waived injured.

Anthony Madison, who did a nice job on special teams the past few years, was done in by two rookies and his own $1 million salary tender. The Steelers drafted cornerbacks Keenan Lewis in the third round and Joe Burnett in the fifth and also like veteran cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, signed as a free agent.

Ryan Mundy of Woodland Hills High, Michigan and West Virginia made the team after failing to do so last season as one of their sixth-round picks. He helped himself with his play Thursday night in Carolina, where he returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown, sacked a quarterback, broke up two passes -- one with a huge hit to jar the ball loose -- and had six tackles.

He and another first-time NFL player, Stefan Logan, nailed down roster spots Thursday they already were favored to get.

"There were some guys who helped their cause, no doubt, and are here today because they put exclamation points, if you will, on their work with their performance," Tomlin said.

"You can say Logan put an exclamation point on stating his case for being here, Ryan Mundy put an exclamation point on stating his case for being here."
Willie Parker is the man

In case there was any doubt, Tomlin erased it when he emphatically declared that Willie Parker again will open the season as the team's prime back.

"Willie Parker's our runner," Tomlin declared.

How Rashard Mendenhall, the No. 1 draft pick last year, might be used was left unsaid.

"Rashard's done a nice job, he'll get his opportunities to get his touches," Tomlin said, and then emphasized, "but more importantly than anything else, Willie Parker is our runner."

With Mewelde Moore holding down the job on third downs, the opportunities for Mendenhall might not come too frequently early in the season.

Tomlin would not say who might be used in short-yardage situations, but that also could be Parker.
Bruce Davis, one and out

Many NFL scouts believe third-round draft picks bring the most value for the price that is paid for them. One who did not is Bruce Davis, told yesterday he will be released today.

Davis was the 88th player drafted in 2008 when the Steelers took him in the third round. He is the third third-round draft choice to wash out from the three drafts of 2006-08. The other two were both drafted in the third round in 2006, wide receiver/kick-returner Willie Reid and safety Anthony Smith.

Davis did not show at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense what he displayed as a pass-rushing end at UCLA, where he had 25 1/2 sacks in his final two seasons.

The red flag flew last season when Davis could not cut it on special teams. Typically, players drafted as defensive ends with the idea they will make 3-4 linebackers are good special-teams players as rookies. Davis was bypassed by undrafted Patrick Bailey, who was so outstanding on special teams last year he earned the team's rookie of the year award.

It's a waste to cut a third-round draft pick after just one season, but it's a bigger waste to keep him around if he cannot help you now or in the future.
Timmons in doubt

Tomlin declared virtually all his injured players healthy except linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

Timmons has a high ankle sprain from the third preseason game Aug. 29. He walked around their training facility yesterday without the protective boot he wore several days ago and without an apparent limp. Tomlin said he was scheduled to see a doctor yesterday and his status for the regular-season opener Thursday against Tennessee at Heinz Field remains in doubt.

Quarterback Dennis Dixon, though, has improved to the point where he could throw in practice when the Steelers begin preparations for the opener tomorrow. Dixon's shoulder was separated in the second preseason game Aug. 22.

"I think he's looking up," Tomlin said. "I think he'll be cleared to throw this week, which is right on time."
For more on the Steelers, read the new blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09248...#ixzz0QGTRqlOx
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