Battle For Steelers 9th Offensive Lineman Spot Remains Clear As Mud

While Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver David Gilreath made a statement Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts that he would like consideration for a possible 5th wide receiver spot on the 53 man roster, we have yet to really see 9th offensive lineman emerge just yet.

The Steelers are thought to be wanting to keep 9 linemen again on the 53 man roster and the battle for the 9th spot figured to be between veteran Trai Essex and rookie Kelvin Beachum, but neither have played well at all through the first two preseason games.

Through two games, Beachum has been worked at both left guard and left tackle and has played spotty along with being flagged 5 times in total. He is certainly not 53 man roster material at this point and is borderline practice squad worthy right now at best. His play must improve over the course of the next two games.

Essex has worked at both tackle spots through two preseason games and has not looked good at either. While he can play all 5 positions on the offensive line, he certainly is not the master of any of them. His work at right tackle last night against the Colts was average at best and it included several pressures allowed.

Against the Colts the Steelers started the game with Marcus Gilbert at left tackle and Ramon Foster at right tackle. One could speculate with Max Starks not yet ready to play and rookie Mike Adams demoted, that it was a perfect time to test the position flexibility of both players. While I haven\’t finished my offensive line grades yet for the game, both appeared to play well through my overview runs of the tape.

Should the coaching staff indeed deem that both Gilbert and Foster played adequate at their new positions, one could speculate that due to the much needed roster spots, because of all of the injuries, that they might just consider carrying 8 offensive linemen initially on the 53 man roster.

Keep in mind that the Steelers normally only dress 7 linemen on gameday and with Ryan Clark due to sit out the week one game in Denver, and the possibility that several linebackers might need to be inactive as well due to injuries, carrying 8 certainly makes sense at least for week one.

Based on their play thus far, it is not like the Steelers are at risk of losing either Essex or Beachum to another team should they have to release both during the final round of cuts. Should Beachum do enough over the course of the remaining two preseason games to warrant a long-term look, he can easily be signed to the practice squad. Essex, on the other hand, can just wait by his phone in Pittsburgh.

Roster spots for the 2012 Steelers look to be even more precious than they normally are thanks in part to the prospects of James Harrison, Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester all looking like they might not be ready to play against Denver. There is still a long way to go until a decision to only carry 8 linemen needs to be made, but it is something to keep in the back of your mind over the course of the next few weeks.

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