Steelers to carry 2 quarterbacks?
The Pittsburgh Steelers last season on offense carried 3 quarterbacks, 5 runnings backs (Stefan Logan kick returner), 5 wide receivers, 3 tight ends and 9 offensive linemen
On defense the Steelers carried 7 defensive ends, 8 linebackers, 10 defensive backs and three specialists, kicker Jeff Reed, punter Daniel Sepulveda, and a long snapper.
With Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first six games, a suspension that will likely be reduced to four games, an interesting dynamic centers around the Steelers quarterback situation.
Although the Steelers get an exemption for Roethlisberger while he is suspended, one scenario being seriously mulled by Steelers management is opening up the season with only two quarterbacks
Charlie Batch would be let go if the Steelers go in this direction. While Batch plays a prominent leadership role with the team, going with only Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon at the quarterback position is an interesting scenario that opens up a roster spot for at least the first four weeks of the season.
If Leftwich or Dixon go down with an injury, Batch would only be a call away.
With just 12 days until rosters are trimmed to 53, the Steelers have some tough depth decisions to make.
The toughest decisions to make are the final spots at running back, linebacker and in the secondary. The wide receiver position appears to be set as there’s been no indication that Arnaz Battle’s job is in jeopardy.
At the running back position, the Steelers kept four regulars in 2009 with kick returner Stefan Logan pegged as the 5th running back.
Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore are locks and Isaac Redman has solidified his roster spot as the No. 3 back. The true battle centers around the No. 4 running back spot.
Indications are 2nd year back Frank Summers remains the front runner to win that spot over Justin Vincent, Jonathan Dwyer and Dwayne Wright.
Summers saw some action with the first team at full back against the Giants and the team really likes his ability on special teams.
One likely scenario is the Steelers going into the season with four running backs and putting Jonathan Dwyer on the practice squad.
The Steelers kept 8 linebackers last season. LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Keyaron Fox and 2nd round pick Jason Worilds are locks for the first seven spots.
The Steelers have three linebackers in rookies Thaddeus Gibson, Stevenson Slyvester and special teams ace Patrick Bailey battling for 1 or 2 spots. The Steelers could very well carry nine linebackers instead of 8 due to a stronger emphasis on special teams.
Slyvester has performed very well in the preseason making an immediate impact. Slyvester led the Steelers with seven tackles against the Lions and stood out against the Giants, recording a sack and QB hurry.
He’s making a strong push for one of the final spots due to his play on the field and his special teams ability. Gibson, a 4th round pick out of Ohio State has not made the impact that Slyvester has in the preseason but he’s a intriguing player whose had some good moments in practice and the team is high on his potential.
If the Steelers carry 8 linebackers again this season, Gibson likely beats out Slyvester and Bailey as the Steelers are thinner at outside linebacker.
In the secondary, the Steelers carried six cornerbacks and four safeties last season. Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, Keenan Lewis, Joe Burnett and Will Gay are locked in at the cornerback position, while Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Will Allen are the three locks at safety.
The 6th cornerback spot will go to either Anthony Madison or Crezdon Butler. Madison who is a special teams ace, remains the favorite to win the No. 6 spot. Butler has down some really good things and is making a late push but he still remains a longshot to beat out Madison.
Meanwhile, Ryan Mundy will likely be the 4th safety.
Opening up the season with two quarterbacks would give the Steelers roster flexibility for at least the first four games. Therefore, the Steelers could go in a number of different directions.
One scenario for the Steelers would be to carry 2 quarterbacks, 4 running backs, 6 wide receivers, 3 tight ends, 9 offensive linemen, 7 defensive linemen, 8 linebackers, 10 cornerbacks and 4 specialists.
In this scenario the Steelers would keep six wideouts, Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El, Emmanuel Sanders, Arnaz Battle and Antonio Brown but also keep four specialists in Jeff Reed, Daniel Sepulveda, Greg Warren and Stefan Logan.
This would give the Steelers at least four games to figure out their return game. The Steelers are very high on Antonio Brown’s punt return abilities but Stefan Logan is still regarded by some as the better kick returner.
Other viable options could include keeping a 4th tight end acting as a full back, a 9th linebacker or a 5th running back instead of a 4th specialist.
With Antonio Brown inching closer to solidifying a roster spot and being regarded as a player that the Steelers don’t want to lose, Pittsburgh appears primed to keep 6 wide receivers for the short-term.
Keeping Charlie Batch makes the Steelers opening day roster likely look like this; 3 quarterbacks, 4 running backs, 6 wide receivers, 3 tight ends, 9 offensive linemen, 7 defensive linemen, 8 linebackers, 10 cornerbacks, and 3 specialists.