The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Who is the most likely candidate to lose his roster spot if Demarcus Ayers is promoted from the practice squad?
For no less than the fifth time this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking at potentially promoting somebody who is currently on their practice squad to the 53-man roster, and for the second time, that player comes from the wide receiver position.
Reports began to circulate on Wednesday night that the coaching staff was working in rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers with the first-team offense and telling him to be engaged with the game plan, indicating that they were weighing their options, among those being the possibility of promoting him to the 53-man roster.
The Steelers, of course, have already put one wide receiver on injured reserve, while two others are currently injured, one enough that he doesn’t look like he is going to be able to contribute any time soon, while the other has not been able to do much of anything, despite playing.
Should Ayers be promoted to the 53-man roster, the most obvious possible move would be putting Darrius Heyward-Bey, the aforementioned injured reserve, to the injured reserve list, but this is only if they feel he will be unable to play.
The most likely move short of that is probably to have Ayers swap places on the practice squad with Daryl Richardson. The running back made the initial 53-man roster due to Le’Veon Bell’s suspension, but was moved to the practice squad after the suspension was over. With DeAngelo Williams nursing a knee injury, he was promoted again.
They could move him down again without much issue, I think, in terms of risking depth at the position. Another likely candidate would have to be Xavier Grimble, who has been injured the past couple of games, and who is much more expendable with Ladarius Green back.
Other potential candidates include former practice squad players L.J. Fort—who has already been released once—and Al-Hajj Shabazz—who started on the practice squad and has been back since. But Shabazz, like Jordan Dangerfield, is a regular special teams contributor, while the others named are not, or at least less so.