Pittsburgh Steelers: Winners and losers of roster battles

Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Ryan Nassib (9) is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Vince Williams (44) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Giants won the game, 18-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers set off into their 2013 season with a few roster surprises.

The biggest shocker was at running back, where the Steelers cut Jonathan Dwyer and his $1.3 million salary. Dwyer continued to struggle as a receiver in preseason and had a tendency to run sideways instead of straight ahead in the open field. Replacing him with Felix Jones was primarily financial; however, Jones can catch, is more elusive, and available to return kicks if LaRod Stephens-Howling gets injured.

Jones is not Stephens-Howling’s replacement. Jones is the Stephens-Howling insurance plan. If Isaac Redman can’t go against the Titans, Stephens-Howling would be the starter. Jones needs to continue to work his way back into game shape.

Drew Butler won the battle at punter. And in-camp waiver addition Michael Palmer beat out Jamie McCoy to become the No. 4 tight end while Heath Miller recovers. Palmer must have been viewed as a better blocker. He also performed well on special teams. Blocking TE David Johnson continues to recuperate from last season’s knee injury and may play Sunday, but four full quarters may be too much. So Palmer will go from the street to the active game-day roster.

Aug 19, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Isaiah Green (39) attempts to catch the ball as Washington Redskins linebacker Bryan Kehl (53) defends in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Probably the best battle in camp was at the linebacker position. Rookie Vince Williams won the battle of the backup “Buck” inside ’backer while Kion Wilson beat out Brian Rolle, Terence Garvin and Marshall McFadden (played both ILB positions) to become Lawrence Timmons’ new backup.

Both Williams and Wilson will be active on special teams. There is a chance Williams could play his way on to the field in some blitzing schemes. He is an excellent tackler and has more speed than starter Larry Foote.

The Steelers’ secondary welcomes back safety Damon Cromartie-Smith with the teams choosing to go with five safeties in all: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden and Cromartie-Smith. Golden and Thomas have also been used as corners in the dime package.

While Cromartie-Smith hung on to his spot, the Steelers let go last year’s No. 4 corner Josh Victorian. He fell behind Isaiah Green after a couple poor preseason outings. Green was added to the Steelers at the end of the 2012 season like new No. 5 wide receiver Derek Moye. Green is fast (4.20-second 40-yard dash) and can immediately contribute on special teams.

The rest of the cast includes:

  • NT Hebron Fangupo and DL Al Woods beat out 2012 Round 4 pick Alameda Ta’amu
  • Offensive tackle Guy Whimper and C/G Cody Wallace (former Tampa Bay Buccaneer) complete the offensive line. The Steelers released C/G John Malecki to sign Wallace.
  • The practice squad group includes WR Justin Brown, LB Alan Baxter, T Joe Long, G Chris Hubbard, RB Alvester Alexander, DE Brian Arnfelt, OLB Terence Garvin and CB Devin Smith. The Steelers signed Smith and Alexander in August after they were cut from other teams. The former Wisconsin Badger and second-team Big 10 player Smith beat out fellow Big 10 corner, Terry Hawthorne. Hawthorne is the only 2013 draft pick to not make the team.

Click here for more info on the Steelers’ practice squad picks.

Topics: Felix Jones, Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers

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