Now that we are at the end of the season, we get to the period in which teams start looking ahead to next season in some subtle, and not so subtle ways. For teams who are out of the playoff race especially, we typically see a flood of players placed on injured reserve, knowing that they will have no games to play in the postseason when or if they get healthy.
Back in 2012, when the Pittsburgh Steelers were entering the season finale with a 7-8 record and the only meaningless game of Mike Tomlin’s tenure was up on deck, the team placed Mike Wallace, Mike Adams, and Curtis Brown on injured reserve, some of whom had only temporary injuries that would keep them out a week.
Since there would be no week after, however, they were moved to injured reserve so that those roster spots could be used for other players, even if those players were not likely to contribute in the game, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Not that those roster moves are meaningless, either. Generally, the vacant roster spots are filled by players from the team’s practice squad, and in so doing, a team is able to set them up to keep them off the market for a while longer, since their contract will expire at the start of the new league year, rather than at the end of the season.
The Steelers that season called up David Gilreath and Alameda Ta’amu from the practice squad, and also claimed Hebron Fangupo off waivers. They all came to camp the next season and battled for roster spots.
This year, picture put Roosevelt Nix on injured reserve with a foot injury, and in turn added linebacker L.J. Fort to the practice squad. Fort is a player who they signed late in the preseason, but they liked him a lot, enough to keep him on the practice squad as a 12th linebacker, at the time.
He flashed a bit on defense in spite of having minimal practice time with the team, and also has a reputation of being a special teams player, and he could figure to play today, as I wrote about earlier in the week. But having him on the 53-man roster also prevents him from being eligible to be signed to a futures contract by another team.
The Steelers also released Jacoby Jones, knowing that he could just be inactive for the game anyway, and promoted Ross Ventrone from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Ventrone was on the 53-man roster to begin the season before being release to make room for a roster addition via a player coming off the suspended list.
Ventrone is obviously a player that the Steelers would be interested in bringing back next year, and so it would be best to keep him from being exposed and in their control should they make the decision to re-sign him. These call-ups could be especially relevant depending on certain possible retirements, cuts, or partings during the offseason. In the meantime, they can show their wares on special teams.