The injury suffered by Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Le\’Veon Bell Monday night in the second preseason game against the Washington Redskins will now present yet another dilemma for the team come the time to trim the roster down to 53 players in a few more weeks.
If the early reports wind up being correct, Bell will miss at least the next six weeks and possibly more with a torn ligament in his right foot. Should the team think there\’s a good chance that he will be ready following the bye week, then they are unlikely to put their second-round draft pick on the injured reserve list with the designated to return tag. Instead, they will carry him on the 53 man roster until he is ready to play. Remember, Bell is not eligible for the Reserve PUP list because he was not on the Active PUP list at the beginning of training camp. They only have the two choices I stated above in regard to his status come the start of the regular season.
As far as tight ends Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth go, it all depends on what you read right now from the local beat writers and national media. The general speculation on Miller is that he will be removed from the Active PUP list prior to the start of the regular season and carried on the 53 man roster until he is ready to play. The Steelers did the same thing last season with running back Rashard Mendenhall. With Spaeth, he\’s not eligible for the Reserve PUP list either and many believe that he will also be carried on the 53 man roster until he\’s ready to play.
Tight end David Johnson was removed from the Active PUP list on Wednesday, so either he makes the 53 man roster or is cut. His status will be determined based on how well he plays in the final two preseason games. Cross your fingers he plays well, because the Steelers really could use him as both an in-line tight end and backup to Will Johnson at fullback.
So what about linebacker Sean Spence? That decision is the easiest one the Steelers have right now. Being as he is currently on Active PUP and not ready to return, he will simply be moved to the Reserve PUP list in a few more weeks. At that point, they will then have a 9-12 week window to work with as it relates to him. He must miss the first six weeks of the season, but must begin practicing by the end of week 9. Once he begins practicing, the Steelers will then have another three weeks from that point forward until they must either place him on their 53 man roster or on injured reserve.
As you can clearly see there remains a strong possibility that three injured players will have to be carried on the 53 man roster to start the regular season. In doing so, the Steelers will likely need to short themselves at other positions in order to carry their replacements. So essentially they will be looking to build a 50 man roster if all the above holds true. Keep in mind they can only dress 46 players for each game.
Last season, the Steelers had somewhat of a similar problem as they carried Mendenhall, James Harrison and Stevenson Sylvester on their 53 man roster. In addition, safety Ryan Clark had to be inactive for the season opener in Denver because of his sickle-cell trait that prevented him from playing in the high altitude.
This too shall pass this year, but I can only imagine what those final few meetings will be like following the last preseason game. Just pray nobody else goes down before the start of the regular season as these decisions will be hard enough to make as it is.