By Christina Rivers
In what have been a busy few days, the Pittsburgh Steelers have focused on piecing players into their 2013 roster, creating an effective depth chart and moving personnel in order to be competitive this season in the National Football League. Following an 8-8 season in 2012 and a preseason where the team went 0-4, there were few surprising transactions. Prior to their home opener at Heinz Field on Sunday, September 8, where they will host the Tennessee Titans (9-7 in 2012), the Steelers continue to work out the necessary moves to put the right people in the right places. There is little doubt that the initial 53-man roster at the beginning of the season will see some changes as key players get healthy and return to action.
Following the Steelers loss to the Carolina Panthers in their fourth and final preseason game, head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t going to reveal the level of optimism he and the organization have for the team. “Matter of fact, I don’t want to talk too much about it,” said Tomlin, “Because I like that we’re still the underdogs and we’re the nobody team and everyone’s counting us out, that’s still fine with me.” Tomlin added, “Ready or not,” when asked if the Steelers are prepared for a new season. “I think that is the reality of this time of year. I feel comfortable with the men that we are working to battle with [against Tennessee].”
The Steelers went to work quick, trimming their roster as early as two days later. On August 31, the Steelers retained 16 players and released 22. Among the players who exited, third-year and former sixth-round (2010 NFL Draft) pick Jonathan Dwyer was released regardless of leading the team in rushing with 623 yards on 156 carries in 2012. Three recent draft picks were also cut: nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu, cornerback Terry Hawthorne and wide receiver Justin Brown. Brown was later added to the practice squad.
Monday, tight end Heath Miller was activated from the physically-unable-to-play (PUP) list, but his progress is being closely monitored by the team and a date for his return to the football field has yet to be determined.
Fellow tight end, Matt Spaeth has been placed on the IR-designated to return list. Spaeth will be eligible to return to practice after the sixth week of the season and would be eligible to return to the active roster after the eighth week of the season.
The Steelers also signed veteran offensive lineman Cody Wallace, recently released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A center and an offensive guard, Wallace, a fourth-round selection of the 2008 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, replaced offensive lineman John Malecki.
To round out the roster, the Steelers activated rookie linebacker Terence Garvin from the practice squad. This allowed Pittsburgh to add Kashif Moore (WR) to that squad with the following players: Alvester Alexander (RB), Brian Arnfelt (DE), Alan Baxter (LB), Chris Hubbard (G), Joe Long (T), Devin Smith (DB) and J. Brown. Punter Drew Butler was released and free agent Zoltan Mesko was added to the roster and is expected to make an immediate impact on special teams. Cornerback Isaiah Green was released as Antwon Blake was claimed from the Jacksonville Jaguars to take his place.
Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday that he will give Isaac Redman the starting nod at running back for the Steelers when they host Tennessee. While a rotation for the game was not shared, Tomlin said, “We know what Isaac is capable of. He has answered the bell for us in the past. We expect him to do it in a big way moving forward, starting this weekend.”
LaRod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones are expected to share time on special teams, with Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton specifically handling punt returns. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell will not see any playing time, despite his progress post-injury, according to Tomlin. “Young guys like him have to practice in order to be able to participate,” he told the media. “At the very best he will be a partial participant (in practice) this week.” Fellow rookie Jarvis Jones is expected to see some playing time against Tennessee, but Jason Worilds will start for the Steelers at right outside linebacker.
For more news and updates, visit Pittsburgh Steelers Central.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Her various works can be found on many sporting sites and magazines, including