If you have been following along recently, you know that we have recently learned that Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams has undergone an operation on his knee that is expected to sideline him for four to six weeks. You can probably expect the team to carry him on the 53-man roster through this, and that means that another roster spot is potentially vulnerable that otherwise would not have been.
If the Steelers were to place him on injured reserve, of course, it would end his season, because the team has already given Bud Dupree the designation tag, so, just to be clear, even if they wanted to place him on injured reserve and get him back for the postseason, they would not be able to. They either have to weather his injury or end his season, and potentially his Steelers career.
But I’m guessing that the former happens, and that means, whether or not it happens this week, that there is the potential for the Steelers to promote a running back—either Daryl Richardson or Karlos Williams—to the 53-man roster, as they currently only have two runners, without even the luxury of a Will Johnson-type player as an emergency ball-carrier.
The team is already trying to figure out how to sort out their roster with the pending return of Dupree, which could happen next week, and Ladarius Green, which could happen today, or at least before the end of Tuesday.
So that means that if both Green and Dupree return and they decide to call up a running back, three players currently on the roster need to get off. In that case, it would probably be prudent to explore some of the more likely options.
If there is any position on the roster that is currently overpopulated, with the return of Ryan Shazier, it is inside linebacker, and L.J. Fort has been separated as the chaff from the wheat, not dressing last week. He still has practice squad eligibility, and so is a prime candidate for release.
Cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz has already been on an off the roster once, currently back on, but that means that his roster spot is imminently vulnerable. It really depends on what the coaching staff is figuring about Justin Gilbert, whose contract is guaranteed through next season, thus eliminating financial justifications for releasing him. If they are really benching him, and want to keep Shabazz as the fifth player and special teams contributor, then another position has to be sacrificed.
Tight end is an obvious place to look with Green returning, and the obvious target there is Xavier Grimble, who has been on practice squads for a couple years before making a roster this year. While he has played over 170 snaps, including man the past two weeks as the lone tight end in desperation mode, the reality is that his role there would be subsumed by Green.
We also have to take a look at the wide receiver position and the evolving shoulder problem of Markus Wheaton. Could he end up on injured reserve as well? He has only played in a couple of games all year because of the shoulder injury.
The team has already called up Cobi Hamilton from the practice squad, and they have been using him. If they believe in him enough, then we may have seen Wheaton’s last snap on Pittsburgh, and it will have already happened weeks ago.
You can bet that over the course of the next couple of weeks, at least two and potentially three of the players named above are going to be moved off the roster, with Williams’ knee issue expanding that pool.