NFL Nation: Eric Waters

Most significant move: The Steelers cut a pair of players who appeared in games for them last season. In the process, their plans along the defensive line came more into focus. The team released defensive end Brian Arnfelt, who appeared in two games at the end of last season, and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, who played in four games in 2013. Josh Mauro, an undrafted rookie, has the edge for the last defensive spot if the Steelers keep seven defensive linemen, and rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers, a sixth-round pick, is almost sure to stick on the 53-man roster. Defensive end Ethan Hemer may be the odd man out with defensive end Nick Williams and nose tackle Roy Philon likely grabbing spots on the practice squad. Arnfelt entered training camp with a good chance at making the team, but the second-year man fell out of favor with the coaches and Mauro passed him at defensive end. Williams still has a chance to unseat Mauro if he plays well in the Steelers’ final preseason game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Running back shuffle: The Steelers are down to five running backs after releasing three at that position Tuesday, including Tauren Poole, who got a long look from the coaches. A roster spot is there for the taking if either Josh Harris or Stephen Houston seizes the final opportunity against the Panthers. The Steelers may go with three running backs and fullback Will Johnson even given the uncertain status of starter Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Coach Mike Tomlin has said the team is considering all options as far as punishment following their arrest on marijuana possession charges. (Bell has also been charged with driving under the influence.) That includes a suspension -- and the Steelers can maneuver around the collective bargaining agreement by simply deactivating Bell, Blount or both for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Browns. I don’t expect the Steelers to sit either for an entire game, and a suspension from the NFL wouldn’t come until next season. That means Harris or Houston will have to play his way on to the 53-man roster, or the two could be vying for a spot on the practice squad. The Steelers will also keep an eye on the waiver wire to see which running backs become available at the end of the week.

Steelers’ moves: Arnfelt, S Jordan Dangerfield, C Chris Elkins, Fangupo, WR C.J. Goodwin, RB Jordan Hall, LS Luke Ingram, RB Miguel Maysonet, OT Emmanuel McCray, WR Kashif Moore, Poole, CB Devin Smith, OLB Vic So’oto, CB Lew Toler, TE Eric Waters

W2W4: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
The Buffalo Bills (1-1) and Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) play Saturday night at Heinz Field.
  • The first-team offense will get its first extended action of the preseason, and you can look for the starters to play at least a quarter. Ben Roethlisberger put together a nice drive in the only series the veteran quarterback played last Saturday night against the Giants, but the Steelers couldn’t finish it. They had to settle for a Shaun Suisham field goal after the offense stalled inside the Giants’ 10-yard line. “That’s certainly a trend we don’t want to start, not finishing off our drive,” tight end Heath Miller said. “We need to be better in the red zone.” The Steelers also need to be better when it comes to extending drives. They converted just 2 of 14 times on third down in the 20-16 loss to the Giants.
  • All signs point to rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier playing in his first preseason game. Shazier, who didn’t play against the Giants because of a bruised knee, was a full participant in the Steelers’ final practice of training camp. The speedy Shazier has been impressive when he has been on the practice field. Now it’s time for the first-round pick to show what he can do in a game. The first-team defense should be intact with Shazier’s anticipated NFL debut and strong safety Troy Polamalu also expected to play against the Bills. Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t play Polamalu against the Giants, but the eight-time Pro Bowler needs to get some game action with new free safety Mike Mitchell.
  • A number of players who showed progress in camp could make a move in the game, and that is critical to their push for a spot on the 53-man roster. Tomlin said that the last week of camp (which concluded with a pair of joint practices with the Bills at St. Vincent College) and the Steelers’ second preseason camp is when separation among players fighting for a roster spot really occurs. That should keep fans from changing the channel after the starters have been taken out of the game. Linebacker Dan Molls, who led the Steelers with nine tackles against the Giants, should see extended playing time if Vince Williams (concussion) and Jordan Zumwalt (groin) don’t play against the Bills. Other players to watch include defensive end Josh Mauro, tight end Eric Waters, running back Tauren Poole, outside linebacker Howard Jones and safety Jordan Dangerfield. “I told a couple of guys we’re calling for a third defense [in practice] and in a couple of weeks there will be no third defense,” Tomlin said earlier this week. “So if you’re on the third defense you better make a move.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers agreed to terms with 10 undrafted free agents Saturday night, and history says one or a couple of them has a good chance of making the team's 53-man roster.

Heck, an undrafted free agent that the Steelers have yet to sign could end up sticking with the team.

Consider that the Steelers signed West Virginia safety Terence Garvin after a tryout last year and he made the team after moving to linebacker. Garvin played in 15 games before hurting his knee, and he shined on special teams while also getting snaps on passing downs.

The Steelers' rookies will take part in a three-day minicamp that starts Friday, and here are five undrafted free agents to watch:

OLB Howard Jones, Shepherd: Jones arrived at the Division II school in West Virginia as a wide receiver and left as Shepherd’s all-time sacks leader (34 1/2). The 6-foot-4, 238-pounder opened enough eyes to receive an invitation to the NFL combine where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds. Jones has a real chance to make the Steelers given their depth issues at outside linebacker.

DE Josh Mauro, Stanford: The 6-6, 282-pounder is certainly built for defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Mauro has long arms and good strength, and he recorded 51 tackles, including 12 for losses, and four sacks in 2013. The Steelers could still use depth at defensive end and Mauro is an intriguing prospect.

DE Ethan Hemer, Wisconsin: Former walk-on is no stranger to overcoming long odds in pursuit of his dream of playing in the NFL. Hemer recorded just 13 tackles in 2013 but the 6-6, 285-pounder played well enough to earn All-Big Ten honorable mention honors from the league’s coaches.

TE Eric Waters, Missouri: Only caught eight passes for 72 yards and a touchdown last season as the Tigers primarily used him as a blocker. Waters opened eyes at Missouri’s pro day when the 6-5, 245-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds and recorded a vertical leap of 39 inches.

S Devon Carrington, Stanford: The 6-1, 204-pounder recorded 33 tackles and broke up four passes in his final season for the Cardinal. A highly regarded recruit coming out of high school, Carrington played as a true freshman at Stanford but never established himself as a full-time starter. Could be interesting as a developmental player.

The rest of the undrafted free agents:

G Will Simmons, East Carolina

DT Roy Philon, Louisville

QB Brendon Kay, Cincinnati

OT Kaycee Ike, UAB

OL Chris Elkins, Youngstown State



Thursday, 11/27
Sunday, 11/30
Monday, 12/1