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Shawn Lemon Release Comes As No Surprise

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a roster move yesterday after practice in an unsurprising move to bolster their depth at the cornerback position, which was unusually low with just seven on the roster.

That number included rookie second-round draft pick Senquez Golson, who is on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and many have suggested that the signing of a cornerback is an indication that it may be a while before he is activated.

The Steelers added Jordan Sullen, who is a first-year player, having come out as an undrafted free agent last year. The Steelers added Sullen to their practice squad last season in mid-October after they transferred rookie Shaquille Richardson to the Practice Squad Reserve/Injured List, and he remained with the team for two and a half months before he was released on December 30th to sign a wide receiver the same day that they released Justin Brown.

The fact that the Steelers signed an unheralded cornerback who has previously spent a bit of time in the system didn’t raise any eyebrows. What did cause a reaction was the corresponding move to open up the roster spot, as the front office elected waive outside linebacker Shawn Lemon from the Physically Unable to Perform List.

But that shouldn’t be much of a surprise, and here’s why: they simply didn’t need that many outside linebackers.

The Steelers have made two roster moves thus far in or close to training camp. During those two moves, they chipped away at arguably the two deepest positions on the roster in order to strengthen two of the sparsest. The first to go was one of 10 safeties. Next on the chopping block was one of eight outside linebackers, and it just so happened to be the one who wasn’t even able to practice.

While many were high on Lemon, the CFL project who racked up 13 sacks and forced eight fumbles during his 18-game 2014 season up north, reports from him during spring practices basically described him as “just a guy”.

For a 26-year-old first-year player to be just a guy at a deep position, he was already at a disadvantage. Add on to that the fact that he was dealing with an Achilles injury of indeterminate severity, and it should be becoming increasingly obvious why he didn’t last long.

The Steelers still have seven other outside linebackers, and they have already been trying to get all of them work without James Harrison participating. To be quite frank, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Shayon Green released if another move were made.

Training camp reports have not painted Green in a very good light. On the other hand, Anthony Chickillo and Howard Jones have both shown some positive traits during the first day of live tackling, and they figure to battle for the hypothetical fifth outside linebacker spot, if one even exists.

Otherwise, they will be competing for a spot on the practice squad, perhaps two. As for Lemon, we’ll see what his future holds. There were other suitors for him when he came out of the CFL, and the Steelers were a much more linebacker-desperate team at the time. It’s possible that he can land with another team, if not immediately, then perhaps after he clears waivers. But he will have an uphill battle trying to make any roster he joins at this point.

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