The first five Steelers players have hit the unemployment line, as the team trimmed its roster from 90 players to 85 on Tuesday, with the release of Defensive tackle Abdullah Anderson, cornerback Stephen Denmark, wide receiver Isaiah McKoy, kicker Sam Sloman and guard Brandon Walton.
Let’s not make too much of the team’s first cuts, as none of the players that were released had any real chance of making the team, but we might be able to learn something about how the team feels about the remaining players based on the five Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and company chose to leave behind.
At the start of camp, Walton was the No. 2 left guard. When Kevin Dotson returned from injury, he assumed that mantle, moving Walton down the depth chart. Now, Dotson has passed Rashaad Coward and assumed the starter’s role at that position that so many assumed he would have this season. Walton’s departure, as opposed to the third-team options at any of the other offensive line positions, means the team is comfortable that Dotson is back to full health and will be able to handle a normal playing regimen the rest of the way through the preseason.
The opposite may be true at running back, where Benny Snell Jr. and Kalen Ballage returned to team-period action on Tuesday, but Nos. 5 and 6 running backs Tony Brooks-James and Pete Guerriero both survived the first round of cuts. That’s probably a sign that the team doesn’t think its stable of running backs are healthy enough to part with its depth yet.
The final lesson is here is one we already knew, but it’s always good to be reminded of. McKoy was a surprise to me as the first wide receiver cut. I didn’t think he — or any of the other wide receivers below Ray-Ray McCloud on the depth chart — would make the team. But I didn’t expect him to be the first man, out either. McKoy has NFL size and speed and has been really impressive in kickoff returns in practice.
Then I typed out his stat line.
In two preseason games, he was targeted six times, and caught two of them for four yards. He also returned one punt for a seven-yard loss. Yep, all the size and skill in the world still doesn’t matter if you can’t produce.
News and notes from around the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League.
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AROUND THE NFL
🏈 2019 Winners and losers from Week 2 of the Steelers preseason. Parker Hurley
🏈 1968 Former Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk was born in the Buffalo suburb of West Seneca, New York. An 11th-round pick out of Maine in 1990, Strzelczyk beat the odds to become a Steelers regular, playing in 133 games and making 75 starts at both guard and tackle in his nine-year career. He tragically died at age 36 in 2004
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