Under the most recent CBA, NFL teams must trim their rosters down from 90 to 85 after the first week of preseason games. Luckily, since they played in the Hall of Fame Game, the Pittsburgh Steelers earned another week to evaluate players at the back end of their roster. Nevertheless, come Tuesday, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin will need to remove at least five players from their roster. Therefore, let’s investigate who could be among the first of the Steelers preseason cuts.
One note before we begin: as of press time, there are currently 91 players listed on the Steelers’ active roster. This is because defensive end Calvin Taylor was waived and sent to the Reserve/Injured list with an injury settlement. With that explained, let’s take a look at some of the most likely cut candidates.
T.J. Carter, DE
Despite the injuries suffered by two other defensive linemen (the aforementioned Taylor and DeMarcus Christmas), T.J. Carter should be one of the first cuts made by the Steelers on Tuesday. In two games, Carter has taken only seven snaps each on defense and on special teams. He has been particularly absent from the stat line in both, recording only one assisted tackle. On an already crowded defensive line, Carter needs to be making more of an impact to stay on the roster. He has been absent from training camp reports, indicating he is not making an impact in practice either. With the third preseason game approaching, in which at least a few of the starters might see playing time, Carter would most likely not see the field, thus making his spot on the roster expendable.
Peter Guerriero, RB
Unfortunately, the Peter Guerriero Experience may only be in town for one week. The Steelers signed Guerriero last week after the Hall of Fame Game and he got into the contest against the Eagles late. He struggled a bit early but found his speed as he got more carries. He finished with seven carries for 20 yards and helped the Steelers close out the game late in the fourth quarter. However, with Benny Snell on the mend and several players locked in a heated battle for RB4, Guerriero’s presence on the team is no longer required.
Tyler Simmons, WR
Tyler Simmons encapsulates the fleeting nature of preseason success. Last week against the Cowboys, he reeled in his one target for a five-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. This past week against the Eagles, Simmons earned no targets. Furthermore, he is seeing very little duty on special teams as a gunner; furthermore, he is also missing out on punt returning opportunities to players like Isaiah McKoy and Matthew Sexton. With players like Sexton adding punt returning and McKoy providing more intrigue as a deep threat, Simmons seems to be on the outside looking in. If Tomlin and special teams coach Danny Smith want to see more of what McKoy and Sexton can do, removing Simmons from the equation is probably the solution.
Brandon Walton, OT
Of these predicted Steelers preseason cuts, this would be the one I feel most unsure of. Brandon Walton has played 53 snaps over the course of two games, all at left guard. He performed better this past week against the Eagles; however, his snaps came very late in the game and he was not asked to pass block nearly as much. The Steelers also brought in Malcolm Pridgeon, another player that will compete for playing time at guard. Walton could be on the chopping block this week mostly due to the starters seeing some playing time against the Lions. The coaching staff could view him as expendable depth, especially with other players displaying more positional versatility.
Jamar Watson, LB
Sometimes in life, you just get beat fair and square. That is what happened to Jamar Watson this preseason, with regards to Jamir Jones. Watson is an outside linebacker from Kentucky that the Steelers picked up as a UDFA. Unfortunately, he is simply being outperformed by Jamir Jones. While Watson has only recorded two pressures, Jones has made two tackles and pressured the QB six times, including four QB hits and one sack. Jones is also earning special teams snaps over Watson and performing well there. There was some consideration that Watson could play inside linebacker as well. But will the addition of Joe Schobert, pushing several players down the depth chart, Watson’s fate could be sealed.
Other Possible Steelers Preseason Cuts
Two more players I could seeing being released this week are tight end Marcus Baugh and linebacker/long snapper Christian Kuntz. Baugh has primarily played late in the last two games. But he has struggled as a receiver and as a blocker; he dropped his one target of the preseason and has been abysmal as a pass blocker (albeit in limited opportunities). The Steelers only have four other tight ends on the roster and some are still nursing injuries. But Baugh’s uninspiring performances so far could earn him his walking papers.
The final player that could be cut this week in Christian Kuntz. Kuntz has been able to stick on the offseason rosters due to the fact that he offers depth at two special teams positions: linebacker and long snapper. Obviously, if something were to happen to current long snapper Cameron Kanaday, Kuntz would be the first man up. But he does not offer much upside as a special teamer; additionally, the coaching staff might want to focus on developing chemistry between Kanaday and Pressley Harvin III as the potential starters at their respective positions. However, given the lack of long snappers with NFL experience, Kuntz could make it through the whole preseason as well.
Keep your eye out on Tuesday for the announcement of which players make the cut for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Additionally, check out Around the Block’s Pittsburgh Steelers’ podcast, Around the Burgh, hosted by myself and Shayne Kubas, for all your Steelers opinions, takes, and information.