Every once in a while, it proves useful, or at least interesting, to keep an eye out on a team’s roster listing in order to take note of minor tweaks and changes. The Pittsburgh Steelers website recently cleaned up its roster section a bit recently, in fact, revealing some curious bits that may or may not prove to be illuminating.
The first thing to note is that the site finally lists wide receiver Shakim Phillips, who is listed as having been signed on the team’s transaction list on the 12th of May. At 6’3” and over 200 pounds, that is a hard target to miss. With Phillips in the fold, the Steelers have six wide receivers on the roster standing at 6’2” or taller.
Among those six wide receivers is Devin Gardner, but his entry into the list is yet another curiosity. Signed purely as a wide receiver, as reflected in the transaction list, Gardner spent the last set of OTAs working at quarterback, which is the position that he played the final two years of his college career.
The Steelers have updated his status within the past couple of days, as he is now listed as “QB/WR” on the site, one of only two non-offensive linemen to be designated a ‘slash’ role, the other being WR/RB Dri Archer. This change seems to cement the idea that they are looking at Gardner as a multi-faceted player—at least for now.
There is one other curious adjustment apparent to me while looking over the roster that I happened to notice as well; the Steelers have eliminated the nose tackle designation.
All of the interior defensive linemen now are uniformly regarded as defensive tackles, which was not previously the case. Scroll back through the transaction list to 2013 when the Steelers signed Steve McLendon and you can see that he was designated as a nose tackle. This was also the case last season, and, I believe, up until just recently.
While Cam Thomas has always been listed as a defensive tackle, Daniel McCullers was listed as a rookie obliquely as a “DL”, although he may have also been listed as NT later on down the line. My memory is unclear on that, but either way, he is now listed as a defensive tackle.
Why might the Steelers have taken this action? The logical speculation might be that it is reflective of the team’s increasing reliance upon sub-packages, and their stated desire for McLendon and McCullers to be useful on those downs. They are likely to run their nickel defense more than ever this season, and this could be symptomatic of that.
Of course, it must be noted that the website roster list is not necessarily explicitly official, and is later shaped to conform, for example, the official depth chart. The listing of height and weight is also often to be taken with a grain of salt. But these are clearly not arbitrary or uninformed alterations, so I think it’s worth taking note of them.