Pittsburgh Steelers: Devin Smith

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

Steelers cut nine, trim roster to 81

August, 26, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers released a couple of players who flashed in training camp as they trimmed their roster from 90 to 81 players on Tuesday morning

The Steelers have to make six more cuts before 4 p.m. ET today.

Safety Jordan Dangerfield, tight end Eric Waters and outside linebacker Vic So’oto were included in the first round of cuts the Steelers made. The team also released running backs Jordan Hall and Miguel Maysonet, wide receivers C.J. Goodwin and Kashif Moore and cornerbacks Devin Smith and Lew Toler.

Dangerfield and Waters stood out early in training camp, while So’oto’s sack caused the fumble that led to Shaun Suisham’s game-winning field goal against the Bills in the Steelers’ second preseason game.

There were no real surprises among the cuts that the Steelers made.

Moore and Smith each spent time on the Steelers’ practice squad last season but neither had a realistic chance of making the 53-man roster.
PITTSBURGH -- Sean Spence said the injury he sustained in the Steelers' 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles is only a minor setback and that he hopes to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Spence sprained the post collateral ligament (PCL) in his right knee last Thursday night and the injury will prevent the third-year man from playing in the Steelers' final preseason game.

But Spence said he will sit out the Steelers' game Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers only as a precaution.

"It's not a very serious injury. I should be good," Spence said. "I'm going to sit out this week and try to give it a go next week."

When coach Mike Tomlin announced last Thursday that Spence had been hurt in the Eagles game it resonated with fans because of what the 2012 third-round pick has overcome just to get back on the field.

Spence shredded his left knee two years ago in the Steelers' final preseason game, tearing all of the major ligaments and dislocating his kneecap. Spence also sustained nerve damage and the injury almost ended his career.

Spence has made it all the way back from that devastating setback, and he is a lock to make the 53-man roster.

The 5-11, 231-pounder said the severity of the injury he suffered two years ago let him know that he didn't experience anything close to that last week in Philadelphia.

Spence actually returned to the game briefly after hurting his knee.

"I went out there and did another play and it just didn't feel right," Spence said. "It's smart that I did stop because I didn't want to make it worse than what it was."

Neither Spence nor starting outside linebacker Jason Worilds practiced on Monday, Tomlin said.

Worilds also hurt his knee against the Eagles but Tomlin said it is not a serious injury.

Among the players who had been hurt but practiced in at least a limited capacity on Monday, Tomlin said, were wide receiver Lance Moore (leg), safety Will Allen (hamstring) and cornerback Devin Smith (hamstring).
This is the 12th in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every position. Next up is cornerback.

Players on the roster: Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Brice McCain, Antwon Blake, Shaquille Richardson, Isaiah Green, Devin Smith and Lew Toler.

Projected starters: Taylor and Allen. Taylor is hoping to bounce back after a tough 2013 season. The 12th-year veteran is no longer a shutdown cornerback ,but he is motivated to prove that he can still play at a high level after last season. The Steelers have been patiently waiting for Allen to put everything together. The 6-foot-1, 196-pounder has the potential to be a No. 1 cornerback. The time is now for Allen to establish himself as one, especially since the fourth-year veteran is in the final year of his contract.

Projected number on 53-man roster: Five. The Steelers could go with six if they don’t want to risk losing Richardson, who appears to be headed to the practice squad. The top five seem set here with Taylor, Allen, Gay, McCain and Blake.

Rookie watch: Richardson, a fifth-round draft pick, got off to a good start at St. Vincent College but seemed to fall off a little as camp progressed. A knee injury sidelined Richardson for the second preseason game and will keep him from playing Thursday night in Philadelphia. The Arizona product has to play well in the Steelers’ final preseason game to make the team. And that is assuming he is healthy enough to try and make a strong closing statement on Aug. 28 against the visiting Carolina Panthers.

What we learned in camp: The three weeks at St. Vincent College confirmed that cornerback is the biggest question mark on the Steelers heading into this season. Allen had a quiet camp, and is it realistic to expect Taylor, at the age of 34, to improve significantly following a trying season in 2013? Gay is fine as the No. 3 cornerback and McCain has solidified his spot as the No. 4 cornerback. Blake hasn’t made enough of a jump to think he will be much more than a core special teams player while providing depth at cornerback.

He said it: “I’ve seen real good progress. It’s still going to take some time and mistakes are going to be made but we’ve got to really get to it. There’s a difference between running the 40[-yard dash] and actually playing fast and we’ve got to play fast every snap.” -- Taylor
PITTSBURGH – A handful of players, including a trio of rookies fighting for roster spots, won’t play in the Steelers’ third preseason game on Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Coach Mike Tomlin has ruled out cornerback Shaquille Richardson (knee), linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (groin) and tight end Eric Waters (concussion) for the 7:30 p.m. game against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

Joining the rookies on the list of players who won’t suit up against the Eagles are center Cody Wallace (finger) and long snapper Greg Warren (knee).

Tomlin said Wallace is recovering from surgery he needed to fix a broken finger.

Among the players who are questionable for Thursday are fullback Will Johnson, safety Will Allen, running back Tauren Poole and cornerback Devin Smith.

All are dealing with hamstring injuries, Tomlin said.

Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is expected to play against the Eagles unless he has a setback in practice on Tuesday. Jones, who has been plagued by a groin injury, did not play in the Steelers’ 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills last Saturday.

Tomlin said the team will evaluate Jones after practice.

Tomlin did not say how much the starters will play against the Eagles, but they are expected to stay in the game for at least a half.

That means reserves who are trying to make the team will have to make the most of the limited snaps they receive in Philadelphia.

“We’re getting into the meat of this thing a little bit and if guys are going to make a move it’s kind of now or never,” Tomlin said Tuesday at a news conference. “I like that sense of urgency in the guys as we prepare this week, and I think it’s creating a good, competitive environment.”
PITTSBURGH -- The first-team offense ran the no-huddle attack almost exclusively in a 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills, and coach Mike Tomlin couldn’t have asked for much better results.

 The Steelers scored a pair of touchdowns in their first three possessions and averaged 9.6 per play with Ben Roethlisberger playing quarterback.

They also converted three out of four third down. The only time they punted with the starters in the game came was when tight end Heath Miller's 9-yard reception fell short by less than a yard short for a first down.

“It was a good start to the no-huddle,” said Roethlisberger, who completed 8 of 11 passes for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns while playing a little more than a quarter. “The communication was what I wanted to work on, and we didn’t have mental errors of what I saw so far.”

Indeed, the Steelers did not commit any penalties with their offensive starters on the field, and the line kept Roethlisberger off the ground. It also allowed the veteran quartebrack time to wait on a perfectly executed double move by wide receiver Markus Wheaton and throw a 16-yard touchdown pass that gave the Steelers an early 13-3 lead.

“We wanted to get Ben some quality work, particularly in no-huddle in the comforts of Heinz Field,” Tomlin said.

Here are some leftovers from the second preseason game:
  • It could be a good omen. Or it could mean nothing with two games left on the preseason schedule. But the Steelers have stayed relatively clean from an injury standpoint. The most significant injury is a meniscus tear to long snapper Greg Warren. The only injury of note in their win over the Bills was a shoulder dislocation suffered by guard Bryant Browning. “Don’t anticipate anybody else having any type of injury that would prevent them from playing in Philadelphia,” Tomlin said. That doesn’t include cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson and Devin Smith, each of whom sustained undisclosed injuries last Friday and did not play against the Bills.
  • The Bills rushed for 150 yards, and their success on the ground allowed them to put together extended drives against the Steelers’ first-team defense and control the clock. “Too many missed tackles, particularly in the early stages,” Tomlin said. “We had them in the backfield and the line of scrimmage, and they were squirting through and able to stay on schedule. They weren’t necessarily big runs, but if you can get them in second and 12s, it changes the whole complexion of the series. Those missed tackles didn’t allow us to do that.”
  • Three of Shaun Suisham’s four kickoffs were returned, and that was by Tomlin’s design. “The only way you get to know some of these kick coverage guys is to put balls in play,” the eighth-year coach said. “Shaun could put the through the back of the end zone like some of these people we’re playing, but we want to see what our kickoff coverage teams are capable of because we’re going to get into the season, and I’d rather know now than then.”

Position preview: Cornerback

July, 17, 2014
Next in a series that looks at every position on offense and defense with training camp approaching, we take a look at the Steelers' cornerbacks.

Returning starters: Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen. Taylor enters his 10th season as a starter and with something to prove. The 6-2, 195-pounder struggled to keep pace with marquee wide receivers in 2013 and the Steelers stopped moving him around the field late in the season. Allen has the size and balls skills to succeed Taylor as the Steelers’ No. 1 cornerback but he has to put it together for an entire season.

New faces: Brice McCain and Shaquille Richardson. McCain signed a one-year, $795,000 contract with the Steelers after falling out of favor in Houston. The Steelers used the first of their two fifth-round picks on Richardson, the only cornerback they selected in the draft.

On the bubble: Isaiah Green and Devin Smith. Green spent nine games on the 53-man roster last season but played in just three of them. Smith was on and off the Steelers’ practice squad in 2013.

By the numbers: Steelers cornerbacks have combined for 18 interceptions in the last five seasons. Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall has 21 interceptions during that span.

Did you know: Rod Woodson is the last Steelers cornerback to make the Pro Bowl and that happened in 1997. Mel Blount and Woodson are the only two Steelers’ cornerbacks to earn a Pro Bowl selection since 1979.

Quotable: “I’ve had an opportunity to be around great veterans who taught me and who have been here for a number of years. That’s what makes us a special group. We’re so close, there’s no ego and it helps us get better as a whole.” – Allen.

Outlook: This group will be closely scrutinized after the Steelers did little, at least on paper, to improve it. Taylor, who is 34, isn’t getting any younger, but he keeps himself in excellent shape and is plenty motivated after having to accept a pay cut to return to the Steelers. William Gay is a solid No. 3 cornerback who is essentially a starter with how often the Steelers employ their nickel defense. Antwon Blake is poised for a bigger role after playing primarily on special teams and McCain, 27, is young enough to bounce back after regressing last season in Houston. The Steelers need more interceptions from their cornerbacks, and Allen taking another step this season -- and staying healthy -- could go a long way toward the position producing more takeaways.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers have signed four players to reserve/future contracts, including cornerback Devin Smith, who spent part of last season on their practice squad.

The Steelers also signed linebacker Dan Molls, running back Miguel Maysonet and wide receiver Lanear Sampson.

All four went undrafted coming out of college in 2013 but three of them spent time on NFL practice squads last season.

The 5-10, 210-pound Maysonet is easily the most traveled of the four.

The former Stony Brook standout signed with the Eagles last April and spent all of training camp with the Browns. After Cleveland released Maysonet he spent time on the practice squads of the Redskins, Jets, Chargers and Colts.

That makes the Steelers the seventh NFL organization he has signed with in less than a year.

The 5-11, 205-pound Sampson spent most of the 2013 season on the Cowboys practice squad after signing with the Colts as an undrafted free agent out of Baylor.

Molls signed with the Chargers last April as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo. He was among the final cuts made by San Diego in late August.

The 5-11, 186-pound Smith is familiar to the Steelers after spending most of training camp with them as well several stints on their practice squad. The Wisconsin product also spent time on the Dolphins’ practice squad last season.