I have already spent some time earlier today expressing my opinion on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to expose first-year cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz to waivers in order to make room for kicker Randy Bullock when a need arose due to injury to their starter. I believe that there were other candidates for release that made more sense.
Be that as it may, however, the Steelers now find themselves in an interesting position, in that, because Shabazz was a member of the 53-man roster, and Bullock will eventually be released, perhaps as early as the team’s next game, depending on how Chris Boswell is doing, they now have a future roster spot available to them to add somebody with essentially no penalty.
Now, the obvious candidate there would have to by rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers. There were multiple reports beginning in the middle of last week that the Steelers were heavily working Ayers in practice in preparation for potentially activating him to the 53-man roster for Sunday’s game,
I don’t see any change in circumstances between now and then that would make it less likely for them to want to get him up to the 53-man roster. The wide receiver position is still far from where they would like it to be, and they are still trying to operate with essentially just three healthy bodies. That is simply not an effective way to run an offense with championship aspirations.
Veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey does not appear to be any closer to returning from a foot injury that has sidelined him for the past several weeks, while second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates is still barely logging any meaningful snaps.
On Sunday, against the Giants, Coates played a whopping four snaps, which translated to about five percent of the total snaps for the Steelers offense. I don’t believe that he even received a target throughout the game. while he was targeted three times in the previous game, he still only played 10 snaps, and only five of them came before the team starting benching starters at the end of the game.
While Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton—himself a former practice squad player at the start of the season, for the first five games—have done about as well as one could hope for, adding Ayers to the mix would at least give them depth, as well as options.
Of course, that roster spot soon to be opening doesn’t have to go to the wide receiver position. In fact, there may well be an imminent need elsewhere. For example, rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is currently in the concussion protocol. It is certainly not guaranteed that he will be cleared by Friday. They are already operating with only five defensive linemen.
They could even take this opportunity to do some pilfering for themselves, snatching a cornerback from somebody else’s practice squad. The Steelers very rarely do that, but it has happened, and this would be the exact set of circumstances under which it would occur.