Pittsburgh Steelers: Jordan Dangerfield

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
Aug 26
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.
This is the 13th in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every Pittsburgh Steelers position. The final look is at safety.

Players on the roster: Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield and Ross Ventrone.

Projected starters: Polamalu and Mitchell. Polamalu remains the face of the defense, and the 12th-year veteran won’t have to play inside linebacker in the dime package this season. That bodes well for the eight-time Pro Bowler staying healthy after playing every snap last season. This does not: Polamalu has not played every game in consecutive seasons since 2004-05. Mitchell replaces Ryan Clark at free safety, and the Steelers signed the sixth-year veteran to provide speed and another playmaker on the back end of the defense. Mitchell had four interceptions last season with Carolina -- one less than the Steelers' safeties combined for in 2013.

Projected number on 53-man roster: Five. Golden makes the team based on his special teams play in the past and the strides the third-year man has made at safety. If the Steelers only keep four safeties, they will have a tough decision to make between Golden and Allen.

Rookie watch: The Steelers don't have any rookies but first-year man Jordan Dangerfield opened eyes in training camp and is a strong candidate for the practice squad, which has been increased from eight to 10 players for all teams. The 5-11, 200-pounder is a fearless hitter and he seems to be around the ball a lot in practice.

What we learned in camp: The Steelers tried to preserve Polamalu as much as possible, holding him out of live tackling drills as well as their first preseason game. Polamalu said he feels a little better from a physical standpoint going into this season, which certainly is a positive. Mitchell hasn’t had the easiest of transitions as he missed the first week of camp because of a groin injury and then stood out for two plays in preseason games for the wrong reasons. Mitchell took a bad angle on New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings’ 73-yard touchdown run in the preseason opener. Last Saturday against the Buffalo Bills he was penalized for taunting after a tackle he didn’t even make. Thomas looks like he is ready to make the kind of jump the Steelers expect between a player’s first and second seasons. The Polamalu protégé -- and eventual successor -- should be the No. 3 safety this season.

He said it: “We’ve made a lot of plays this camp, which is nice. But I don’t get infatuated, honestly with what happens in camp, I really don’t. There’s a lot of guys you see in preseasons that stand out in camp, more than you see stand out in the regular season, so I don’t get too infatuated with guys that are really making plays.” -- Polamalu.

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.”

W2W4: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
The Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) and New York Giants (0-0) open the preseason Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.

1. The 2014 draft class: The rookies are brimming with promise and a handful of them should help right away. Coach Mike Tomlin and his assistants get their first look at the players in a live game who collectively are a key to the Steelers rebounding from consecutive 8-8 seasons. First-round pick Ryan Shazier is unlikely to play after missing three consecutive practices because of the right knee injury that Tomlin has called a “boo boo.” Even if the ailment is a minor one, the Steelers would be crazy to take anything but a cautious approach with the inside linebacker. Second-round pick Stephon Tuitt has created as much of a buzz at training camp as Shazier. He is likely to start at left defensive end. It will be interesting to see the different ways in which the Steelers deploy third-round pick Dri Archer, a running back/wide receiver/return specialist, and wide receiver Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick, has made his share of plays in practice. Now it’s time to see if the 6-foot-4, 211-pound speedster can transfer that to a game.

2. Justin Brown: Tomlin almost always sidesteps questions such as the one posed to him Thursday when the eighth-year coach was asked if any players have surprised him during camp. He mostly spoke in generalities but did mention Brown specifically. That added more confirmation that few, if any, players on the Steelers' roster have improved more since last season than Brown. The 2013 sixth-round pick spent all of last season on the Steelers’ practice squad but he stood out during offseason practices and has continued his strong play in camp. Brown has already displayed toughness, returning to practice one day after undergoing surgery to fix a broken nose. Tonight he gets to show how much he has improved in a game. Brown has the inside track to a roster spot at a crowded position but it is early. He will have to produce in preseason games to hold off players such as Derek Moye and Darrius Heyward-Bey if the Steelers keep only five wide receivers.

3. The long shots: A handful of undrafted free agents and players who signed futures contracts have flashed during camp. They include safety Jordan Dangerfield, guard/center Chris Elkins and outside linebacker Howard Jones. They will receive extensive playing time with the starters expected to receive only a limited number of snaps. I’m especially looking forward to watching Jones, who signed with the Steelers in May after starring at Shepherd University, a Division II school in West Virginia. He has played well in camp and may have the easiest path to the 53-man roster since the Steelers are not especially deep at outside linebacker.
Here is the latest Pittsburgh Steelers' mail bag. My apologies but I lost a bunch of questions because my Twitter timeline got so jammed from training camp updates. Please re-send your question if I did not get to it here and keep the questions coming. I'm hoping to run another mailbag on Monday and I'm sure there will be plenty of questions from the Steelers' first preseason game.

And away we go...

@ScottBrown_ESPN Props, Jeremy, for getting three questions in despite limited characters. I’m not sure whose idea it was for Bell to drop a little weight but I will ask him this week. He didn't strike me last season as a player who needed to shed a few pounds so my guess is that it was Bell’s decision. A couple of tough cuts will be made at wide receiver and in my latest 53-man roster projection I only have the Steelers keeping five players at the position. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Derek Moye are my odd men out but it is still so early. Taylor has looked and he said he is healthy after battling through injuries last season. I’m anxious to see him in preseason games though Taylor and the rest of the starters will probably only play a series or two Saturday night against the New York Giants.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Dangerfield making the 53-man roster. I know Adams has struggled through the first half of training camp but I can’t see the Steelers giving up on the 2012 second-round draft pick. If they cut Adams, Guy Whimper is the No. 3 offensive tackle and he is not better than Adams. As for Dangerfield he has been impressive and I think he has a chance to make the team though the Steelers probably have to keep five safeties for that to happen.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Outside linebacker Howard Jones has impressed me and one veteran told me that he “has a chance to be a player.” The Shepherd University product has obvious pass-rushing skills and last Friday night he twice beat tight end Heath Miller in the backs on ‘backers drill. My concern with Jones, aside from his having to make the jump from Division II to the NFL, is whether he is big enough. It would be ideal if he could spend a year on the practice squad and get bigger. The Steelers, however, may not be able to sneak Jones onto their practice squad if he plays well in preseason games.

@ScottBrown_ESPN No, I think Shamarko Thomas will play more than just special teams this season. Will Allen has made it tough for Thomas to get on the field as a third safety because of how well the 11th-year veteran has played since re-joining the Steeelers last October. But I think Thomas makes a big jump this season and at some point supplants Allen as the No. 3 safety. When that happens remains to be seen.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Either cornerback Cortez Allen or right tackle Marcus Gilbert. I have my doubts as to whether the Steelers get a new deal done with outside linebacker Jason Worilds, and they can use the transition tag again or franchise tag on him next year if they want to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. That scenario is not ideal for either side. But it gives the Steelers protection if they don’t sign Worilds to a new deal yet don’t want to lose him after this season either. The problem with this scenario is it would leave the Steelers without a safety net in regard to Allen. They lost Keenan Lewis to free agency in 2013 and not signing him turned out to be a mistake. They certainly don’t want to lose another young cornerback, which makes me optimistic that the Steelers get something done with Allen before Sept. 7. The same goes for Gilbert, who played very well through the first half of training camp and is looking more and more like the right tackle of the present and future with Adams off to a slow start.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Nothing happening on either front and it’s looking like it’s going to take an injury for either player to return to the Steelers. I had Brett Keisel on my first projected 53-man roster but not the one that ran on Monday in large part because rookie Stephon Tuitt has looked so good in camp. He may start sooner rather than later at left defensive end and should play significant snaps this season. I still think Keisel would be a perfect addition so he could mentor Tuitt and add depth at defensive end. But right now it looks like the Steelers are committed to younger players at defensive end and outside linebacker. I don’t think the Steelers have ruled out re-signing either Keisel or James Harrison but, again, it may take an injury at their respective positions for them to pick up the phone.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Thomas has played well and he has gotten work with the first-team defense at left defensive end and nose tackle. He is the starter at left defensive end for now but Tuitt is such a talent that Thomas will only hold off the second-round draft pick for so long. The Steelers would love nothing more than for Tuitt to play his way into the starting lineup so they can use Thomas as a swing player between defensive end and nose tackle.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers signed wide receiver Jasper Collins and safety Jordan Dangerfield to reserve/future contracts on Friday.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Collins had short stints on the Browns' and Dolphins' practice squads last season. The former Mount Union standout signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent last May but Miami waived/injured Collins at the end of July.

The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Dangerfield signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent last May and spent training camp with the Bills before getting released in late August.

The Towson product had been out of football before signing a future contract with the Steelers.