Truth be told, the vast majority of a 53-man roster almost any year is very easy to put together. It’s probably rare that there are not at least 40 spots already set in stone, if not by the start of the preseason, then certainly by the finish, and it’s probably typically closer to 45 or more.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, players like Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Vance McDonald…really, just about any starter would never have been under any risk of losing their spot on the 53-man roster. That said, perhaps a veteran like Daniel McCullers, Xavier Grimble, Artie Burns, or Jordan Dangerfield could have lost out on a roster spot based on their level of play in the preseason.
For most of those players, those were the decisions, as Mike Tomlin said, are essentially being made as you walk off the field in the preseason finale.
“In some form or fashion, it’s almost instant in terms of thinking about the things that need to be done and the process in terms of meeting and having necessary discussions about getting the team cut down”, he said. But the final handful of roster spots take more time.
“Sometimes the most significant decisions don’t transpire until very late in the process”, he said. “The things that are discussion-worthy and have that level of complexity occur later in the weekend”.
Such players who likely had a discussion-worthy introduction to the 53-man roster included a pair of rookie college free agents in offensive guard Fred Johnson, who made the team as the ninth offensive lineman, and outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, who is one of 10 linebackers, including fellow rookie, sixth-round inside linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III.
Because of their level of fondness for him, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took some doing to make the decision to release second-year safety Marcus Allen, as well, ultimately opting to stick with the more veteran Dangerfield, who is a frequent contributor on special teams.
Was there any discussion at quarterback? As I wrote about earlier in the day, Aditi Kinkabwala wrote that she was told the team was open to moving Joshua Dobbs just before the deadline, but there’s no way for us to verify if there is any merit to that.
The decision to go with only five wide receivers, at least for the time being, is interesting as well and likely took some doing, as they ultimately ended up releasing not one but two veterans with an NFL resume, those being Eli Rogers and newcomer Johnny Holton.
Will one of them be brought back? If that’s part of the equation, then that is yet another decision that will have been made toward the final hour in determining what their initial 53-man roster, which could be fairly different a week from now, would look like.