The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a potentially interesting personnel dilemma this week involving some fringe players within their organization, a dilemma that largely hinges upon two notable injuries.
At the moment, it is uncertain whether quarterback Mike Vick or cornerback William Gay will be able to practice, and to dress, for the Steelers in their next game. Vick suffered hamstring injury a week before this past Sunday that had him sidelined for the game, while Gay came out of this past game with a dinged shoulder.
As it currently stands, the Steelers have three healthy quarterbacks and three healthy cornerbacks. But they also have their practice squad quarterback on the 53-man roster that they would probably like to send down, and they have two cornerbacks on their practice squad, one of which they would probably like to call up.
Rookie undrafted free agent quarterback/wide receiver Tyler Murphy was called up from the practice squad in order to serve as Landry Jones’ backup on Sunday as Jones made his first career start, simply because the team had no other options in-house with Vick sidelined.
It figured that his stay on the 53-man roster—his second stay, as he spent the first two weeks on the roster as a wide receiver—would be short, but the Steelers may want to hold off on sending him back down until they know that Vick can be counted upon if necessary.
But the more pressing concern has to come at the cornerback position, which will be of paramount importance should Gay, by far their most trusted and reliable cornerback, is unable to dress. The ninth-year veteran has never missed a game in the entirety of his career.
Without him, the Steelers would be down to Antwon Blake, Ross Cockrell, and the sparsely used Brandon Boykin, for whom the team traded during training camp.
In today’s league, you cannot go into a game with only three cornerbacks. If one gets injured in the game, you are significantly limited in how you can combat the opposing offense, especially if it is one that has the aerial firepower to exploit your sudden lack of coverage-savvy defensive backs.
While the Steelers seem to have no qualms about carrying just four cornerbacks on the roster, the ability to do so rests on all four of them being healthy and able to dress, and if that is not the case for Sunday, you can guarantee that a roster move will be made.
That move would figure to be to promote Doran Grant from the practice squad, whom the Steelers drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Grant, the 5’10” cornerback out of the defending NCAA champion Ohio State, made the initial 53-man roster before being cut to make room for pickups from other rosters a day later.
This would be the move to make, it would seem. Sending Murphy back down to the practice squad would still enable him to practice, and he would not be dressing over Jones as the backup anyway. But perhaps they want to see Ben Roethlisberger go through a couple of practices first. Both players on the practice field anyway, so this is all semantic until Saturday on 4 PM.