There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum, hundreds upon hundreds of new players enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: CB Brian Allen
Roster Vulnerability: Medium/High
Role Vulnerability: Medium/High
As we get closer and closer to the draft, it feels more and more likely that the Steelers are going to address the cornerback position there at some point, even though they used their cap space to bring in Steven Nelson to start. Their pre-draft interest in the position seems convincing enough.
And that spells bad news for the players on the bottom of the roster, in particular Artie Burns and Brian Allen. The two of them may end up competing for just one roster spot. It’s also a possibility that neither of them ultimately make the team.
At the top of the roster already are Joe Haden, Nelson, Mike Hilton, and Cameron Sutton. These are the players who are locks or near locks to make the team. At least from this point forward, it’s hard to imagine Sutton not making it unless the team drafts two cornerbacks.
Given that Allen has yet to play on defense, and the team already released him last year, carrying him on the practice squad for the first several weeks before he was called back up to the 53-man roster. If they were already willing to move on from him once, it can happen again.
This will be a be a big offseason for him, during which he will need to show defensive development and become a player the team believes it can put on the field if necessary, or risk not making the team. It’s a possibility that they can still even re-sign Coty Sensabaugh after the draft, who started most of last year.
And one has to think that the Steelers are more willing to give Burns, a former starter, a longer look than Allen. If the competition is even close between the two, Burns figures to win out. So a lot is riding on his making progress at his position between now and the end of August.