Pittsburgh Steelers Roster Surprises: Charlie Batch In; Trai Essex Out; 4 WRs

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVAugust 31, 2012

Fresh off of an 11-of-14, 102 yard, one TD performance on Thursday to close out the preseason; today, he was rewarded the No. 3 QB job.
Fresh off of an 11-of-14, 102 yard, one TD performance on Thursday to close out the preseason; today, he was rewarded the No. 3 QB job.Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

The Pittsburgh Steelers got their roster cuts in well before Friday's 8:00 PM eastern deadline, and among the 22 released—and the 53 retained—there are some very clear surprises.

I surmised, in my preview of the team's fourth preseason game, that it could be the last for veteran quarterback Charlie Batch, but it appears this is not the case. Batch will be the No. 3 quarterback in Pittsburgh this year, behind starter Ben Roethlisberger and backup Byron Leftwich; cut, instead, was fourth-stringer Jerrod Johnson. 

To keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, the Steelers necessarily had to trim one player from another position, and the sacrificial lamb appears to be the receiving corps.

None of the marginal receivers vying for the No. 5 spot stood out on a consistent basis in training camp and the preseason. Head coach Mike Tomlin had commented on their play as "disturbing" earlier in August, but this is still quite a surprising move.

Gone are Toney Clemons, Marquis Maze, David Gilreath, Tyler Beiler and Derrick Williams; it's not impossible, however, that one or more of these players land on the Steelers' practice squad on Saturday.

However, they will be going into Week 1 with just Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders as dedicated receivers, which is a pretty aggressive move. It also helps that rookie Chris Rainey can be used in a hybrid receiver/running back role.

Another surprise release was veteran left tackle Trai Essex, with the team apparently preferring to move forward with rookie guard/tackle Kelvin Beachum. He'll be third on the depth chart behind Max Starks and Mike Adams, but could also be moved around the offensive line should the situation present itself.

Other notable cuts include linebacker Marshall McFadden (Adrian Robinson and Brandon Johnson have made the team) punter Jeremy Kapinos (who was waived/injured and will be replaced by undrafted free agent Drew Butler), and recently-signed free agent running back DuJuan Harris, who was used simply as depth in the final preseason game.

Third-round draft pick Sean Spence was sent to injured reserve; the Steelers will wait to put that designation on first-rounder David DeCastro. He will be given the designated eight-week IR spot on Tuesday, which will allow him to return to action before season's end, but he first needed to be listed on the 53-man roster for that to happen.

Suspended tight end Weslye Saunders does not count against the 53-man roster while he sits out, and for now that means rookie David Paulson has made the team.

Finally, undrafted safety Robert Golden, who has been a standout all summer long, snagged himself a roster spot, beating out Damon Cromartie-Smith, Terrence Frederick and Josh Victorian, who were all released.

The Steelers can assemble their practice squad on Saturday afternoon.