By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have already announced that center Maurkice Pouncey, running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, and linebacker Larry Foote have been placed on season-ending injured reserve. They have also announced their replacements on the roster.
In Pouncey’s place, the Steelers have signed center/guard Fernando Velasco, who started 16 games last season for the Tennessee Titans at both positions. He is a strong candidate to start as early as this Monday night. To replenish the running back position, the Steelers have brought back Jonathan Dwyer, who was released in the final wave of cuts, and he should be considered a candidate to start as well.
In Foote’s roster spot, however, the team did not add another linebacker. Instead, they signed kicker Shayne Graham.
Reports surfaced early after the team’s opening day loss to the Tennessee Titans that kicker Shaun Suisham suffered a hamstring injury of some degree during the pregame warmups, yet he was able to perform his few responsibilities during the game, which included one kickoff, one extra point, and one onside kick.
The signing of a kicker obviously means that the injury is significant enough that he is highly unlikely to be able to play next week. However, the fact that he was not placed on injured reserve obviously indicates that the injury is not season-ending by any means, and that Suisham will return, possibly in a few weeks. In the meantime, he will serve as a game day inactive.
It is not known, however, the severity of his injury, so any speculation as to how much time he could miss is just that: speculation. The reality is that it could be no more than just a single game. Should that be the case, then the Steelers may indeed still add another linebacker after Graham is released.
Teams do not carry backup kickers, and punters that are able to handle the kicker’s responsibilities—particularly field goals—are rare indeed. Thus, even if Suisham only misses just a single week, it would still have been a necessity to bring in somebody else just for that one game.
On the other hand, should Suisham miss significant time—perhaps months, though that seems unlikely—there is a pair of obvious candidates that would be able to replace Graham on the roster when Suisham returns.
Tight end Matt Spaeth is currently on the short-term injured reserve list, while linebacker Sean Spence is on the Physically Unable to Perform List. If Suisham is still unable to perform for the next several weeks—meaning Graham is still on the roster—then it would be quite easy to cut Graham when Suisham is healthy in order to make a roster spot available for one of the two injured players.