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Colbert Explains Fairness Of 46 Active Players On Game Day Rule; Roster Construction Principles

Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert

Even though all 32 NFL teams can have 53 active players, at most, on their rosters, only 46 can dress and participate in every game. Many believe that all 53 players should be allowed to dress and play in games every week and during a Wednesday interview on the ‘Tunch & Wolf Show’ on Steelers Nation Radio, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked about that specific rule and if he doesn’t care for it.

“Again, I used to as well until it was explained to me and when you hear it explained, it makes great sense,” Colbert said. “Because if I’m playing your team and we both have 53 guys and you have five guys injured and I only have two, I’m going to have an advantage, because I’ve got more healthy players than you do it and that’s why they did that. They came up with seven as a number that on average, okay, nobody’s going to exceed that. So, you go into a given game, you’ll both have the same amount of players. And once it was explained to me that way I accepted it.”

Colbert also shared a few other thoughts of his on the general construction of an initial 53-man roster and those stemmed from the question/statement below that show co-host Craig Wolfley asked him.

Wolfey said to Colbert: “How much do the circumstances figure into the final two to three guys? I mean, this is got to be incredibly hard. You have a situation where you’ve got four quarterbacks that are really performing well. I mean, a guy like Josh Dobbs, I look at it and go, wow, that’s really hard. When you have circumstances that, you know, like overflowing at one position that creates problems, but yet you can’t, like not, you know, one less outside linebacker or something to cover up other positions.”

Colbert then quickly responded.

“No, and again, to have too many competing and being competitive for the spot, that’s a good thing,” Colbert said. “I’d much rather have too many than not enough. I can’t disagree with the way the quarterbacks have performed in the preseason and that’s great for us and it’s great for them. And you always have to balance off your 53 when you start making those moves. You just look at them. Is this player better than this one?

“Now, if you have seven, eight receivers and your number eight receiver’s better than your fourth linebacker, well you’re not going to keep eight receivers. Are you going to keep six? Well, that’s been done in the past. So, you’re looking at that sixth receiver versus a fourth linebacker, or a fifth runner, and you know, who’s going to contribute? And what we try to do, as a staff, we’ll sit down and say, okay, this is 53, right? And these are the 10 practice guys would like to get, but who’s 46, who’s dressing on game day? And that can change.”

It will certainly be interesting to see how a few of these final roster spot battles wind up shaking out the next few days and especially at positions such as linebacker, both inside and outside, as well as wide receiver and running back. Colbert makes a great point that you first need to look at the 46 players you want dressing on game days and then go on from there. Additionally, each position group likely has a maximum number and thus it doesn’t make sense to exceed that number no matter what the talent level looks like at the bottom of it. The quarterback position, for example.

Colbert and the rest of the Steelers staff will need to have this year’s roster trimmed down to 53 active players by Saturday evening and head coach Mike Tomlin indicated Tuesday that the process can certainly take some time.

“You know, Kevin and I aren’t paid by the hour,” Tomlin said when asked how long it usually takes after the team’s final preseason game is over to trim the roster down to 53 active players from 90. “We don’t punch a timer, man. The key is to make good, prudent decisions for this organization and put the best collection of men together that can help us pursue the World Championship this year.”

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