The Pittsburgh Steelers announced the release of eight players on Sunday. In addition to moving third-year players James Washington and Jaylen Samuels to the reserve/Covid-19 list, that gave them 80 players on their offseason roster—the number that they would be required to reach by August 16.
It is also an important number to be at now, because it means that the Steelers will be able to practice altogether as a team. Per the terms of the CBA addendum, teams who choose to carry more than 80 players on their offseason roster prior to the mandatory cutdown date will be required to practice in split squads, who must practice at different times or at different facilities, using separate locker rooms.
I have argued that this was the right decision to trim the roster down early, but we also have to keep in mind that the Steelers will still have to release four more players, in time, because they have four players on their reserve/Covid-19 list. While it’s theoretically possible that they could release players from that list once they are eligible to return, only one, Arrion Springs, is likely at risk of that happening.
How can they still need to release four players if they just released eight? Because they also signed two players after the initial two players were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list. After Springs was moved to reserve, they signed running back Wendell Smallwood. After second-year cornerback Justin Layne was moved to the reserve list, they signed safety Curtis Riley.
So the Steelers have to account for four more roster spots in the long run once they clear their reserve/Covid-19 list, which for the sake of the players on that list will be relatively soon. As of this writing, nine players around the league have already been activated from the list. For a quick reminder, you don’t have to test positive yourself to be put on the list.
So the question then becomes, who are the four players that are likely to be released in order to maintain an 80-man roster as the players on the reserve/Covid-19 list are activated? Even if we take Springs as one of those players, it still leaves three more.
One obvious candidate that sticks out to me, whom I’m surprised was not included in the initial group, is fullback Spencer Nigh, who was signed out of Auburn as a college free agent. They signed Derek Watt in the offseason, so they don’t need another fullback, but he could potentially move to linebacker, as he has high school history on defense.
Since they only have one kicker and one long snapper, they could also consider releasing their second punter, another rookie undrafted free agent in Corliss Waitman. A reserve tackle—between Christian DiLauro, Jarron Jones, and Anthony Coyle—or a cornerback—such as James Pierre, Alexander Myres, and Breon Borders—will also likely be under consideration.