The Pittsburgh Steelers trimmed their roster down to 75 a day earlier than they needed to, a process that included placing two players on injured reserve, another on the Reserve PUP List, and waiving injured three rookie undrafted free agents.
With the addition of kicker Josh Scobee via trade, that meant that the team had to waive or release a total of 10 players. The majority of names came as no surprise, but a few names may have raised some eyebrows, both in terms of which names were on the list, and which were not.
Certainly the name that has drawn the most attention was Ian Wild, a first-year safety who spent the last two seasons playing linebacker in the CFL. He had been playing reasonably well before he saw his playing time fall off a cliff in the last game, in spite of registering a special teams tackle.
Another name on the waived list that may be a bit surprising to see on the first wave of cuts is defensive end Joe Kruger, who spent time last season on the practice squad and logged a decent amount of snaps during the preseason, showing good punch at the point of attack.
Finally, there was wide receiver C.J. Goodwin, who spent all of last season on the practice squad. The first-year receiver had a good game in the second preseason game, coming down with two tough catches in traffic, including one in the end zone.
Though I had since reconsidered the idea that the Steelers would use Martavis Bryant’s vacated roster spot during his suspension on another wide receiver, I had Goodwin as the early favorite to land that spot. The team has chosen to keep undrafted rookie training camp signing Jarrod West over Goodwin.
It’s worth noting that Goodwin was released during the first wave of cuts last season only to be immediately signed to the practice squad as soon as possible, where he stayed all year long, despite other wide receivers coming and going.
As for Kruger, he was part of a significant dump at the defensive end position, also seeing the departures of Joe Okafor and Niko Davis. Evidently the team was more pleased with the performances of Ethan Hemer and Matt Conrath.
I thought that Kruger was a better performer overall than Conrath, though the latter did have a batted pass in the last game that should have turned into a pick six. He also registered a sack in a previous game, though it was generated from pressure up the middle by the nose tackle.
As far as Wild goes, it would certainly be fair to say that he was without a doubt not the worst safety on the roster. I felt that he outplayed Alden Darby, especially after the latter’s performance in the previous game, and certainly did more than Gerod Holliman. He was also perhaps the most versatile man in camp.
Both of the aforementioned, however, are more free safeties than strong safeties, which surely played a factor, although what factor that might be I am not entirely clear, as they seem to have more free safeties on the roster.
The reality is, however, that none of these players were likely to make the 53-man roster. Wild may have stood the best chance, but if the Steelers did decide to carry a fifth safety this season—and they might as the replacement for Bryant’s spot—that it would go to a player that has already earned his special teams keep, and who goes by the name of Ross Ventrone.
Whether they were cut now or at the end of the week, they weren’t making this roster, and as we saw with Goodwin last season, that does not preclude the Steelers from adding them to the practice squad. Being a first cut may even help to discourage other teams from displaying an interest by causing concern about why they would be in that group.