View Full Version : Steelers Face Tough Calls on Super Bowl Dress Roster

01-26-2011, 02:53 AM
Steelers Face Tough Calls on Super Bowl Dress Roster

Posted on January 25, 2011 by ted

Although NFL teams keep and fully pay 53 players on their regular rosters, only 46 are allowed to dress on gamedays, which includes an emergency No. 3 quarterback.

Pittsburgh standout defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) may return for his first action since Week 6, and Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) guaranteed he will play in the Super Bowl. Which means that the Steelers could have some difficult decisions two Sundays from now; their final two inactives for the Super Bowl will come from a group of seven players, all of whom are solid and regular game-day contributors.

Charlie Batch will dress as the emergency No. 3 QB. Five other players are easy decisions for the inactive list: RB Jonathan Dwyer (1), OL Tony Hills (4) and Chris Scott (0), DL Steve McLendon (7) and CB Crezdon Butler (4); a group that individually has only been active for a combined 16 games this season.

However, if Smith plays (and he should only dress if he can be counted on for at least 10-15 plays without a great chance of injury), the other two inactives will likely come from a list that includes the following players, each of whom would see action in the Super Bowl if the NFL did not have this stupid rule requiring some fully paid regular roster members to be inactive on gamedays:

WR ANTWAAN RANDLE EL: A nine-year veteran, Randle El has played in 150 of 151 possible games over his career, including every game the Steelers played in both of his stints in Pittsburgh.

Considering this, the Steelers are unlikely to inactivate a savvy veteran who serves as the teamís No. 5 receiver, their top weapon for trick plays, a safety valve as a punt returner, and who was a huge key in the Super Bowl XL win over the Seahawks.

However, Randle El does not play on any coverage units, where No. 6 receiver Arnaz Battle is a key contributor for the Steelers.

WR ARNAZ BATTLE: Battle plays on almost every Steelersí special-teams unit, which has been a shaky-but-much-improved area for Pittsburgh compared to 2009. Although he did not catch a pass this year, Battle, who has 178 career receptions, could easily fill in at receiver in case of injuries.

The Steelers cannot afford to give up any big special-teams returns to a high-powered Green Bay offense, so inactivating a special-teams standout like Battle would be a major risk.

DE NICK EASON: Since Smithís injury, the Steelers have often dressed just five defensive linemen but still finished with one of the five best single-season rush defenses in NFL history.

If Smith dresses, Eason appears to be the odd man out on the defensive line, particularly since the Steelers could have only five defensive linemen active, and use (primarily) just two against a finesse Packers offense.

The Packersí biggest matchup advantage against the Steelers is their Nos. 2-4 receivers against Pittsburgh defensive backs not named Ike Taylor. The Packers will likely feature four-wide sets throughout the game, which Dick LeBeau usually counters with a defense that only includes two defensive linemen.

Eason, however, could be more important to the Steelers for this one game than fellow veteran reserve defensive linemen Chris Hoke, even though Hoke is generally thought to be the better player.

Eason is a defensive end, while Hoke, a nose tackle, has only seen minimal spot duty at the position over his nine-year NFL career. LeBeau rarely uses a nose tackle when playing nickel and almost never employs one when playing dime.

If Aaron Smith does play, though, he could be susceptible to reinjuring his triceps. If Eason is inactive, that would leave the Steelers with only two true defensive ends on its dress roster for the rest of the game.

While Hoke is more stout against the run, Eason is more athletic and probably a better pass rusher from defensive end. The Packers ranked fifth in the NFL in passing offense and 24th in rushing offense. They are no threat to run effectively on the Steelers, but did pass for 383 yards when the two squads last met during the 2009 regular season.

Finally, Eason can also contribute on kick coverage, where he played well in the AFC Championship game. Hoke does not cover kicks.

DL CHRIS HOKE: Hoke has long been an outstanding backup to starting nose tackle Casey Hampton. Both were huge keys to Steelersí run defenses that have ranked no lower than third among all NFL teams over each of the last seven seasons.

One of the most respected and liked members of the team, Hoke has a knack for providing a spark off the bench. But because he has almost exclusively played nose tackle during his career, if the Steelers were ever going to choose to activate Eason over a healthy Hoke, this Super Bowl would seem to be the time. LeBeau, however, does love his core veterans, and it is difficult to see him deactivating one of his favorite players to dress a career journeyman.

LB JASON WORILDS: Although listed as the only reserve outside linebacker on the roster behind superstars James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, the rookie Worilds is the actually the teamís No. 4 outside linebacker. Starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons would move to the outside if Harrison or Woodley were injured, with veteran Larry Foote then starting on the inside.

That scenario actually unfolded in Week 7 in Miami. Worilds, however, was still a key contributor in that game, mostly as a pass rusher in obvious passing downs.

If Harrison or Woodley went down in the Super Bowl, nothing would be more important than being able to maintain outside pressure on the Packers elusive superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Although still a liability against the run at this point of his development, Worilds is already the Steelers third best pass rusher.

In addition, Worilds is also excellent on kick coverage, where his 4.5-second speed combined with his 260-pound frame makes him an imposing wedge buster.

S WILL ALLEN: Allen is a superb special-teams player on multiple units. Although he could have played if needed, Allen was inactive for the AFC Championship game due to a knee injury. He should be ready to return for the Super Bowl, but will he be given the chance?

While many thought he would be the Steelersí No. 3 safety (or at least a backup free safety when he signed as a free agent from Tampa Bay last offseason), Ryan Mundy has established himself as the top reserve at both safety spots.

Still, Allen has starting experience in the NFL at free safety with the Bucs, and the Steelers will want to dress all of their quality, experienced defensive backs against the Packersí potent passing attack. But it may be more important to dress an extra cornerback if it comes down to that choice. However, such a move would weaken the Steelersí special teams.

CB KEENAN LEWIS: A 2009 third-round pick, it is disappointing that Lewis has not been able to earn regular playing time at corner, the weakest area of the Pittsburgh defense.

Even more surprising was that when starting right corner Bryant McFadden left the playoff game against Baltimore two weeks ago with an abdominal strain, LeBeau inserted special-teams standout Anthony Madison (who is not NFL-caliber as a defensive back) as the No. 3 corner instead of using Lewis on the outside and moving William Gay to his regular nickleback spot on passing downs.

That showed that LeBeau does not yet have confidence in Lewis as a cornerback. Lewis is also a marginal special-teams player, who seems to make as many mistakes (running out of bounds as a gunner when not pushed, for example) as quality plays.

McFadden, though, is still nicked up, having missed time in recent weeks due to an abdominal strain, a sore hip and and pulled hamstring. So if Lewis is inactive, the Steelers are one McFadden tweak away from having to play Madison all game as their No. 3 corner, with no other corners available. That would be a risk against Packers receivers generally considered the deepest in the NFL.

If Smith is active, it is likely that two out of these seven players will not dress for the Super Bowl. And even if Smith does not dress, the Steelers must still deactivate one of these players.

Who that will be is difficult to guess. Still, having too much quality depth is a good problem to have, and it is the No. 1 reason the 2010 Steelers are playing for their seventh Super Bowl title, despite a plethora of injuries during the year.

http://www.steelerslounge.com/2011/01/s ... ss-roster/ (http://www.steelerslounge.com/2011/01/steelers-face-tough-calls-super-bowl-dress-roster/)

Discipline of Steel
01-26-2011, 08:09 AM
Hoke and Battle

01-26-2011, 09:08 AM
Lewis and Battle.

01-26-2011, 09:44 AM
I don't see any chance of Randel El or Hoke not dressing. Hoke plays a lot of snaps and El is used enough on Punt retruns (when they just need to guarantee a fair catch) and he I can see him getting a couple of catches.

I'd sit Allen. Hasn't done all that much this year and is coming off a knee injury.

As much as ST scares me; I think Battle would be my 2nd choice to sit. For one game you insert a starter in his place on ST.

And Smith woulld really need to be able to offer something. One of my all time favorites, but the SB is not a time to be sentimental. Just don't know what he can legitimately offer.

01-26-2011, 07:49 PM
It will be Allen and Worilds...they've sat before

01-26-2011, 08:13 PM
No way it is Hoke. Who is the backup NT if Hoke sits?

I also don't think that ARE sits because there will probably be at least one play drawn up for him if needed.

Eason plays as a regular rotational backup with or without Smith.

If Smitty plays then I think McLendon doesn't. The other would probably be between Battle, Lewis, and Allen. In that case I see Lewis sitting.

01-26-2011, 09:16 PM
ASmith had be REALLY ready to go. And since he couldn't go last game I doubt he goes this game.
Hoke is dressing, Period. When was the last time he was deactivated? Allen is not the player we hoped and he's dinged.
Randle El and Battle will both likely be activated. I'd say against GB, we'll have an extra defensmen activated, so its close. Probably an extra DB to run with the GB DBs.

01-27-2011, 03:59 PM
looks like Smitty won't be playing...

On the Steelers: Smith likely to miss Super Bowl

Thursday, January 27, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith sits alone prior to workouts at the Steelers' practice facility on the South Side Wednesday.

Another practice, another day of mostly watching practice for Aaron Smith. As the countdown to Super Bowl XLV progresses, it has become evident that the healing process in the defensive end's left arm will not keep pace.

It looks more and more as if Smith will spend Super Bowl Sunday the way he has spent the past dozen games, watching his teammates play football.

"You can't help but get frustrated sometimes," said Smith, the disappointment in his eyes and voice palpable. "Just the fact it takes time; you can't do anything to speed it up."

Smith's left triceps tendon was ruptured Oct. 24 while playing the Dolphins in Miami. He had surgery that week, and coach Mike Tomlin did not put him on injured reserve. Tomlin held out hope that the man the Steelers believe has been their best 3-4 defensive end in the nearly 30 years they have run that scheme might return to play by the playoffs.

The playoffs have come and gone and only the Super Bowl remains. Smith returned to "practice" two weeks ago but really hasn't done much on the field, he said. Tomlin listed him again as having "limited participation" in practice Wednesday.

Smith has a small scar 4-5 inches long reaching up the back of his left arm from his elbow, where the triceps tendon was reattached to the bone. It long ago healed, but the process of strengthening it has gone slowly.

"It would be nice if it were under my control," Smith said. "If you could outwork this, it would be great, I'd just outwork the problem. It's not something you can speed up, it's not in my hands."

Tomlin will not put him in a game if Smith does not have enough strength in that left arm to ward off blockers, tackle ballcarriers and protect himself.

"Just get it back to the point it's mature enough," Smith explained. "Even though it's healed, you have to get to that point where it's strong."

Smith made it clear that, if he cannot play, he does not want to suit up for the Super Bowl. There has been speculation that might happen, but he said that would be unfair to everyone and distasteful to him.

"The point in Dallas is to win the game," Smith said. "If I'm not able-bodied to help win the game, then why not put someone in who can help win the game? That's my feeling.

"If I was on the other end of somebody else and this guy wasn't able to play and you wanted to put a suit on him, I'd be probably upset because I want to win the game.

"No matter who suits up, put the best people out there to win the game. It wouldn't be fair to the guys, it wouldn't be fair to anybody."

At 34, this might be Smith's final chance to earn another Super Bowl ring. If it is, it won't be for lack of trying. He said he feels good and wants to return to play in 2011, that he has no thought of retiring yet no matter what happens Feb. 6.

"I have no intentions of not coming back," Smith said. "If I was getting killed every play, maybe. I try not to make any decisions on emotion or when you're frustrated. Let me come back and play football, and then we'll see. If I don't enjoy it or I'm getting killed, if that's the case, yeah. But I don't feel like that."

Some respect, please
A brouhaha developed in Green Bay this week when several players on injured reserve complained that the Packers were not taking them to the Super Bowl until Thursday and that they would not be included in the official team photo.

The Packers changed their plans. They will wait until their 15 players on injured reserve arrive in Dallas and will snap the photo Friday and include them.

That never has been a problem for the Steelers. Not only have they always included their players on injured reserve in the Super Bowl photo, those players are treated the same as all others. They fly on the team charter, which will leave Monday, and have the same accommodations. That is how it always has been.

"Of course," said offensive tackle Willie Colon, placed on injured reserve after his Achilles was ruptured in June. "That's how I think the other guys [in Green Bay] should be treated and not separated like that. A guy on IR, it's not his doing."

Offensive tackle Max Starks, placed on injured reserve Nov. 10 with a neck injury that required surgery, said what the Packers did "stinks."

"It's in the eyes of the organization. They've been doing this for a long time as well. If that's the way [the Packers] feel, that's the way they feel. I'm glad I'm in this organization and there's that respect.

"In this league every owner is different, and that's what makes some places more special than others, and that's why this is a special place because they include everybody. They realize everybody has put their hand in the pile at some point."

McFadden vows to play
Cornerback Bryant McFadden did not practice Wednesday but predicted he will play in the Super Bowl. He hopes his ailing abdomen reaches the point that it was the past Sunday for the AFC championship game.

The team's starting left cornerback had to yield that job to William Gay and played only in the nickel defense.

"The way I played this Sunday, if I can get 75-85 [percent], that's great for me, that's a blessing because this type of injury is very difficult. I feel if I can get there I'm in paradise. That's what I'm shooting for."

If that's the case, it's likely Gay will start at left cornerback against Green Bay, and McFadden again will play in the nickel.

More injury updates
McFadden, safety Troy Polamalu (Achilles), center Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot), safety Will Allen (knee), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott did not practice. Aaron Smith was limited.

For Green Bay, linebackers Erik Walden (ankle) and Frank Zombo (knee) did not practice. Those limited in practice were linebacker Desmond Bishop (ankle), offensive tackle Chad Clifton (neck), linebacker A.J. Hawk (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (knee) and center Jason Spitz (calf).

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11027/11 ... z1CGOvwa9C (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11027/1120960-66.stm#ixzz1CGOvwa9C)