The Pittsburgh Steelers traded for cornerback Dashaun Phillips Wednesday night and that move has solicited all sorts of reactions as you would probably expect it would. Some already have Phillips making the final 53-man roster while others view him as just a two week body. With a few weeks remaining until we ultimately find out the fate of Phillips, here are a few things for you to think about as to why Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert dealt for the cornerback.
Back end slot depth needed for remainder of preseason – With two preseason games remaining, the Steelers really only have two healthy slot cornerbacks and they are William Gay and Mike Hilton as both Senquez Golson and Cameron Sutton have both missed a ton of time due to hamstring injuries. Will Sutton make it back this week? We’ll see, but even if he does, it seems as though he might cut his teeth on the outside initially before moving inside. Additionally, the team isn’t likely going to want Gay to play much in their third preseason game and probably none in the finale. As for Hilton, who in my opinion is still a roster lock even after the addition of Phillips, the team might take it easy on him (one half at most) during the final two preseason games as well. Being as Phillips has slot experience, he figures to get a lot of burn there in the final two preseason games and most notably in the finale.
Free two week look now that cut-down rules have changed – The new NFL cut-down rules probably somewhat played a role in Colbert trading for Phillips. If you remember back to a few weeks ago, Colbert said he isn’t a big fan of the new rule that eliminated the 90 to 75 cuts. In short, he said teams no longer have the ability to bring in fringe roster players for looks ahead of final decisions needing to be made and especially when it comes to looking at potential practice squad players outside the organization. In trading for Phillips, which cost the Steelers essentially nothing, they now have two weeks to closely evaluate the cornerback to see if he might be worth carrying on the practice squad should he ultimately not make the final 53-man roster.
Final thoughts – Considering that the Washington Redskins traded Phillips straight-up to the Steelers for rookie undrafted center Lucas Crowley, who has played all of 10 preseason snaps so far in his NFL career, tells you a lot. Phillips wasn’t going to make the Redskins final 53-man roster and that’s not overly surprising based on how quickly he fell out of favor with them last season. This doesn’t make the trade bad for either team, however, as each now gets a few weeks to fully evaluate the players up close and personal.
Personally, I think Phillips is a long-shot to make the Steelers final 53-man roster and even if he does, it’s hard to imagine him seeing any action outside of potentially some work on special teams barring injuries. The Steelers likely scouted Phillips during the first two weeks of the preseason and deemed him worthy of a closer look. If that closer look goes well, he really seems best-suited to be signed to the practice squad. If that happens, he would then be one injury away from being on the 53-man roster.