Keeping in mind, as the late coach Fritz Shurmur once said, "There is nothing 'final' in final roster cuts," the Steelers' "final" roster cuts yesterday contained only mild surprises.
- UPDATE: The eight practice squad signings announced today include: Tyler Grisham (WR) and Da'mon Cromartie-Smith (DB), who were on the practice squad last year; and newcomers Morty Ivy (LB), Trevis Turner (OT), Corbin Bryant (DL), John Malecki (G), John Clay (RB) and Jamie McCoy (TE/FB).
Additional roster shuffling may occur today -- but more likely the week after the first game (when signings can be made without guaranteeing contracts for the year).
As for yesterday's cuts:
The coaching staff clearly wanted to make a decision once and for all on Tony Hills, entering his fourth training camp after being drafted in the fourth-round in 2008 out of the University of Texas. Drafted as a tackle, Hills never saw much playing time --often inactive on game days, in fact -- but was given a chance this camp to show what he could do at guard, a move we found curious since his footwork always seemed to be the big question mark concerning his play at tackle; and also his height (6'6") would seem to work against him at guard, where mobility and leverage are prime assets. Well, the coaches started Hills against first-team units (not that those guys were necessarily taking the pre-season all that seriously) of the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons. Clearly, the coaches wanted to give him a reasonably legitimate shot and see what could do. That he was replaced abruptly following the Eagles game, with Doug Legursky suddenly anointed the starting right guard, had to be an ominous sign for Hills. His time was up. He may land elsewhere or even return here at some point. He made it to the final cut, after all, so he must have something going for him.
A fifth-round choice in the 2010 draft, cornerback Crezdon Butler had what appeared to the layman's eye (whadda we know?) to have a reasonably good pre-season, although it didn't help that he got scorched on a 41-yard pass in the final pre-season game. The coaches may have decided they saw a little too much of that last season, when he appeared lost in space a bit too often -- yes, we do watch this stuff pretty closely -- and it must have made Butler feel uneasy when the Steelers drafted cornerbacks Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen in the third and fourth rounds this year. Both those guys look like keepers and simply bypassed Butler on the depth chart. Lots of teams need help in the secondary right now, so Butler should land a roster spot somewhere today -- maybe with the Giants, the Redskins, the Falcons, the Eagles, the Cowboys, the Broncos, the Browns or the Bengals. They all need help at cornerback. *Update: Crezdon Butler signed on Sunday with the Arizona Cardinals, where Ray Horton, his former secondary coach with the Steelers, now serves as defensive coordinator.
Punter Jeremy Kapinos will land a job, too. Let's hope Daniel Sepulveda stays healthy.
The Steelers must like the upside of rookie tight end Weslye Saunders, the only undrafted rookie to make the team (out of the University of South Carolina), and what's not to like? At 6'5", 270, he's a beast, he can run, and apparently has good hands. He's got to be a big improvement over the disappointing Matt Spaeth. Ten-year veteran John Gilmore, apparently signed in the off-season as a safety net, would have been a reasonable choice to make the team, but the coaches clearly see potential in Saunders, who reportedly had been considered a potential first-day draft pick:
"At one point in time, Saunders was recognized as one of the best tight ends in the country and was projected as a 1st or 2nd round pick. But then Saunders was suspended and removed from the South Carolina football team for violating team rules, receiving improper benefits including heavily discounted rates at a South Carolina hotel, and making improper contact with an agent."
Heretofore unknown defensive end Jarrett Crittenton, an undraft free agent from Middle Tennessee State, merits kudos for lasting to the final cut. With Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward ahead of him on the depth chart, it's a minor miracle he made it this far. If he doesn't get picked by another team, he will probably get signed to the practice squad.
That's it, Fort Pitt.