Making the Call on the Steelers' Hardest Remaining Cuts
Many of these first-round cuts are fairly obvious. Players are brought in who weren't drafted and who by all accounts are long shots. These players have the mindset that they will do all they can to try and make the team, and if not, show other teams their worth.
On the other side you have the core of veterans who are going to make this team. These are players who are returning starters, and their positions are not in question.
In between these two groups you have the bubble players. They are typically either aging veterans fighting to stay on the team or youngsters trying to sell the team on potential.
Here are five of those bubble players the Steelers are going to have to consider with these rounds of cuts.
Jordan Dangerfield, Safety
One of the real surprises of the 2014 preseason for the Steelers has been the play of safety Jordan Dangerfield. Dangerfield wasn't in the league in 2013 after being a training camp cut by the Buffalo Bills.
Nevertheless, Dangerfield is making the most of his opportunity with the Steelers this time around.
Pittsburgh's safety situation breaks down like this:
Starters: Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell
Backups: Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Will Allen, Dangerfield, Ross Ventrone
The Steelers will probably keep no fewer than four, but no more than five, safeties on the final roster, so Dangerfield is firmly on the bubble behind Thomas, Golden and Allen. His best bet to make the team would be to supplant Allen, an aging veteran.
Final Verdict: As much as I want to see Dangerfield make the team, I have a feeling the Steelers staff will err on the side of a stable veteran in Allen. It's too bad, because Dangerfield has been an exciting player so far this preseason. Hopefully, if he doesn't make the team, some team looking for a big-hitting safety will sign him and give him a shot.
Brian Arnfelt, Defensive End
I'm sure that going into this offseason, second-year defensive end Brian Arnfelt thought he had a roster spot in the bag. He was activated late last season to the active roster and played pretty well.
Then the offseason hits, and the Steelers let several players ahead of him on the depth chart leave via free agency. That was more good news for Arnfelt. Unfortunately, all that has happened since is he has slid down the depth chart.
This is unfortunate, because Arnfelt is a pretty good natural 3-4 defensive end. However, knowing he might not make the team is a good problem to have because it indicated the talent on this roster. Here's how the defensive end position breaks down as of now:
Starters: Cameron Heyward, Cam Thomas
Backups: Josh Mauro, Stephon Tuitt, Brett Keisel, Ethan Hemer, Nick Williams, Arnfelt
Arnfelt has a long road ahead of him to make the roster. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that the Steelers are bringing defensive end Brett Keisel back, which makes the odds of Arnfelt making the team even longer.
Final Verdict: Keisel's return might be the final nail for Arnfelt. It's hard to see him making the team short of an injury in the final two weeks by a player ahead of him on the depth chart.
Derek Moye, Wide Receiver
Second-year wide receiver Derek Moye probably isn't going to make the team, but he could contribute to another team. Moye is on the wrong end of some bad luck as he is part of an immensely talented group of wide receivers.
Moye got everyone really excited last season when he came in and caught a beautiful fade for a touchdown early in the 2013 season. Unfortunately, when your season peeks in September, it doesn't bode well for your future.
Whether or not Moye has a legitimate shot at the final 53-man roster will depend to a great deal on rookie Dri Archer. Archer is establishing himself as a real multitasker at both running back and wide receiver. This could allow the Steelers to only keep five wide receivers. Those five as of now would probably look like this:
Starters: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton
Backups: Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant, Justin Brown
Can Moye beat out Brown? Sure. Could the Steelers opt for six wide receivers? Of course. However, both feel like long odds at this point.
Final Verdict: Moye is a bubble player whose bubble will burst. Again, Moye is a talented player and should land somewhere that he can help a team lacking wide receiver depth.
Landry Jones, Quarterback
Hey, Landry Jones, thanks for playing. Here are some lovely parting gifts. The only reason Jones is considered a bubble player for a cut is because it is a numbers game. Pittsburgh really doesn't have any other options than to consider keeping Jones as the third quarterback.
OK, they do have one other option. They could have Jones' tenure with the Steelers come to a merciful end and start the season with only the starter Ben Roethlisberger and backup Bruce Gradkowski. Then Pittsburgh can just keep an eye out for a veteran or even promising rookie quarterback who finds themselves out of work.
It is unfortunate that the Jones pick hasn't worked out. Jones was an incredibly productive player in college, but he has been unable to put anything together in the NFL.
Final Verdict: Jones has to go. This team needs every roster spot it can get. Keeping a third quarterback who cannot play is a pointless exercise.
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle
The Steelers are in a position where they must be vigilant about whom they keep at offensive line. Short of an injury, the starters are in place. The depth, on the other hand, is still very much in question. Even through two preseason games, there hasn't been any reserves who have stood out.
Pittsburgh could be in a position to keep nine offensive linemen, which would benefit offensive tackle Mike Adams. Another thing that works in his favor is the news that the NFL will expand the practice squad (h/t to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport for this tweet) to 10 players. This team has several guys who they could opt to stash away and keep Adams.
The problem is, Adams just isn't very good. A powerful run-blocking tackle at times, his pass-protection skills are marginal, and he offers nothing in terms of versatility. It might seem like a given that Adams makes the team as a former second-round pick, but this team has to think about winning. That means putting the best players on the field every week.
Final Verdict: It is starting to feel like Pittsburgh is going to give Adams one more shot. They can stash guys such as Wesley Johnson and Will Simmons away and hope they don't need Adams to play a ton of reps this season.