The Steelers released their first eight players on Saturday, and 29 more cuts will come during the coming days. Every year, there seems to be one cut that takes everyone by surprise, but the Steelers could have a bigger plan for the roster. Who could be the surprise cut this year?
CB James Pierre
Pierre is the one player the Steelers do not have a direct, in-house replacement, so it is a given right now that he makes the roster. But the replacement could come from outside the team on waivers. Pierre has struggled mightily so far this preseason and at training camp. The one thing he has going for him is proven production on the field in the past. If a guy is going to be the CB4 on the outside, Pierre has admirably filled in for cornerback injuries in the past.
But if the Steelers find someone they like better on the waiver wire or trading block, outside cornerback feels like a spot, outside of backup center, that the Steelers could add someone onto the roster late in the process. Pierre will make the initial roster; I am confident in that. However, he could be one of those players cut a day or two later once the waiver wire becomes clearer.
TE Zach Gentry
Gentry is a sleeper in this scenario, and the fact that he is dealing with an injury probably makes this more unlikely. But most people have it taken for a given that Pittsburgh will throw four tight ends on their roster. Darnell Washington’s started creeping up on Gentry’s playing time, and at this point, Gentry is probably in line to be a gameday inactive. He has great depth and insurance in case of an injury, but the Steelers have another young tight end in Rodney Williams, who had a fantastic summer.
Williams grew tremendously from his rookie season to his second year in the league. He spent most of last year on the practice squad, but Williams came into the league as more of a vertical threat at tight end. Now, he can block his behind-off and bring special teams value. Williams could be a surprise addition to this roster, and Gentry could be off, but I’m still leaning toward Gentry making the team.
S Miles Killebrew
Killebrew is the special teams ace of the Steelers in a room where they are overturning a lot. That gives him an inside edge to make this team, but since these are surprise cuts, Killebrew makes the list for one simple reason. When the Steelers dealt with safety injuries, Killebrew took zero first-team reps. Kenny Robinson and even Trenton Thompson flew ahead of him in that pecking order.
With the team likely to keep only four safeties, they could opt for more utility in Robinson or Tre Norwood. What makes this a surprise and less likely is that Elijah Riley should make the team at slot cornerback, and he can provide ancillary safety depth and slot cornerback depth. He is a true DB when they list him in that position. For a team turning over their special teams core, Killebrew seems like someone who should make it, it’s just a question on if they believe Riley provides enough utility at safety.