The Pittsburgh Steelers released quarterback Troy Smith on Monday and thus opened up a spot on the 90 man roster. Five quarterbacks was one too many to take to training camp, so it is pretty safe to say that another quarterback will not be signed to fill that spot. With two long snappers, two kickers and two punters currently on the roster, I think we can rule out a specialist being added. With those positions out of the way, let\’s look at positions where a player might be added for camp.
Running Back – Rashard Mendenhall will start training camp on the PUP list, so that leaves the Steelers with just five healthy running backs right now including Baron Batch, who could still be considered border line coming out of the backend of his ACL rehab. The Steelers have started their preseason games the last two years with six healthy running backs on their roster, so my best guess would be that we could see one signed between now and the start of camp. Will it be a veteran for the minimum like Ryan Grant, Cedric Benson or Carnell Williams, or will it be another young undrafted type? Hard to say really, but my guess is that it would be the latter of the two if one is indeed signed. Should it wind up being a veteran, it could be a signal that they are not too happy with the depth behind Isaac Redman.
Tackle – The first name that will pop into everyone\’s head when you mention adding a tackle would of course be Max Starks. Starks however is still likely a month or more away from being cleared by the doctors as he continues to rehab from his ACL surgery. I just can\’t see him being signed until he is medically cleared. When you look at the Steelers depth at tackle it is pretty shaky. Marcus Gilbert is of course going to start the season on either the right or left side, but behind him is Mike Adams, Trai Essex, Jonathan Scott, Chris Scott and Kyle Jolly. With all due respect to Essex and C. Scott, I mostly view both as guards. The Steelers website list Essex as a guard and C. Scott as a tackle just so you know, and Essex did receive reps at both tackle spots during the OTA\’s and mini-camp. That pretty much leaves J. Scott and Jolly. Outside of Starks the two other big names still unsigned are Marcus McNeill and Chad Clifton, but both likely command too much money and are better served waiting for an injury around the league to happen. There is still no word as to exactly why Trevis Turner was released earlier this off-season, so I suppose he could be an option to return assuming he has not been forced to give up his football dream in order to provide for his wife and three sets of fraternal twins. The longer it takes for the Steelers to fill this roster spot, the more likely that they could be holding it for Starks in my opinion.
Linebacker – 14 linebackers are currently on the Steelers roster after Brandon Johnson was signed just a few short weeks ago. Keep in mind that there is an outside chance that both Jason Worilds and James Harrison begin training camp on the active PUP list. Worilds missed all of the off-season activities as he continues to recover from wrist surgery and Harrison was limited by his knee ever since the first OTA session. Stevenson Sylvester also missed a little time reportedly, but it is unknown for what reason or the seriousness. Depending on the health status of the group, the Steelers might feel that they need one more camp body.
Nose Tackle – Like Mendenhall, Casey Hampton will start training camp on the PUP list, so that leaves Steve McLendon, Alameda Ta\’amu, Kade Weston and Mike Blanc. Four should be plenty, but perhaps they want one more camp body.
Now those four positions are the four that jump out the most to me and I have listed them in the order of what I feel is the probability. There of course could be an argument made for adding another fullback or safety as well, but I wanted to highlight the positions that were the most obvious. Mike Wallace and David DeCastro still remained unsigned, but I feel the numbers are good at both wide receiver and guard as they are.
There is no hurry to fill the spot as training camp is still a good ways off, so this move could come today or right about the time the team reports to Latrobe. We\’ll just have to wait and see.