View Full Version : Last call for three Steelers' rookies?

08-30-2012, 12:54 AM
Last call for three Steelers' rookies?
Steelers rookie safety Robert Golden might catch a break with Ryan Clark unable to play the season opener in Denver's high altitude.

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 7:37 pm

By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | 0 comments

Tonight, in the fourth and final preseason game, we will see little or maybe nothing from the front-line Steelers. The first-team offense and defense will play a series and call it a night. There's a chance some starters might not even play. No sense taking a chance for more injuries to strike a team already dealing with so many health issues.

But that doesn’t mean the annual preseason finale against Carolina is meaningless. Let’s allow coach Mike Tomlin to explain.

“This game presents a significant opportunity for guys to make a final statement in their charge to etch out a role for themselves within this group, or simply be a part of the group,” he said. “We looked at the recent history of the series to reiterate to some men that this is a legitimate opportunity, the last opportunity to make a strong push to put them on the right side of the ledger.

“I talked openly about the recent history of the game and what it provided to certain men. (Linebacker) Stevenson Sylvester and (running back) Jonathan Dwyer represented themselves well in the past games, and they staked their claim on their position. I want the guys to know that this is a very tangible thing.”

With that in mind, Times pro football writer Mike Bires takes a look at three rookies trying to secure spots on the final 53-man roster.


He may be an undrafted free agent who didn’t earn any postseason honors when he played at the University of Arizona but Robert Golden is playing so well at free safety that it’s going to be hard for the Steelers to cut him.

Golden, who returned an interception 47 yards in Saturday's win at Buffalo, is listed in the Steelers’ depth chart as the third-team free safety. But when the Steelers open the regular season Sept. 9 in Denver, they won’t have starting FS Ryan Clark, who has a medical condition that doesn’t allow him to play in the high altitudes of Colorado. It's almost a given that the Steelers will take four safeties with them when they play the Broncos.

Even though he never made any of the Pac-12 all-star teams, Golden was good enough to make 38 straights at Arizona including some at cornerback. And if he hasn’t already wrapped up a roster spot -- he's certainly out-played wannabe safety Damon Cromartie-Smith up to this point -- Golden may do so tonight with a strong performance against the Panthers.


The Steelers have just four tight ends on their roster: starter Heath Miller; backup Leonard; third-stringer Wes Saunders; and David Paulson, a rookie taken in the seventh round of this year’s draft.

While playing college football at Oregon, Paulson flourished in the Ducks’ wide-open offense. He caught 31 passes including six for touchdowns as a senior and 24 balls including four for TDs as a junior.

Admittedly, he’s a guy whose forte is catching the ball, and not blocking. At 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds, he’s more of a finesse player. But with Saunders on suspension for the first four weeks of the season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing drugs, there may be a roster spot for Paulson.

The Steelers could go with just Miller and Pope and have fullback Will Johnson move to tight end in three tight end sets. But if Paulson plays well tonight, he may secure a roster spot when the Steelers make their final cuts on Friday.


Judging by the way Jeremy Kapinos hangs out with kicker Shaun Suisham and long snapper Greg Warren, it seems as though he will be back as the Steelers’ punter. Kapinos’ stall in the locker room is in a corner near Suisham’s and Warren’s. Those three veterans are always together during practice periods that don’t involve special teams.

The only problem with Kapinos is that he has a mysterious back injury that’s kept him sidelined for most of the preseason.

Meanwhile, Butler, a rookie out of Georgia, dresses in another part of the room and almost seems as if he’s a loner when it comes to the specialists. But for the most part, he’s held his own. Granted, he hasn’t boomed all of his 19 punts but among NFL punters with at least 10 preseason kicks, Butler ranks seventh with a 48.2 yard average.

Last year when Kapinos took over for injured Daniel Sepulveda (knee), he averaged 45.0 yards per kick.

So it appears Butler has an adequate leg, and perhaps most importantly, he’s injury free. Maybe he can sew up the job tonight if he punts well against the Panthers.

08-30-2012, 01:08 AM
For some Steelers, a meaningful preseason finale vs. Panthers

By Alan Robinson

Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 37 minutes ago

For more than a few Steelers starters, it will be a case of waiting until next week. After all, there’s no reason to take a chance on a season-ending injury in the less-than-meaningless final preseason game.

For three dozen or so of the 75 players still left on a roster that will get trimmed dramatically less than a day later, the Steelers’ game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday at Heinz Field is all about whether there will be a next week.

Derrick Williams, Corbin Bryant, Jake Stoller, Ryan Lee and Al Woods don’t know if there will be. John Malecki, David Paulson, Brandon Hicks, DuJuan Harris and Will Allen don’t know, either.

Even old reliable Charlie Batch, the 15-season quarterback who always seems to have one more season left in him, doesn’t know if there will be a next week for him.

Think this game isn’t meaningful to them?

“We’ve got a lot of guys still trying to make this team, and we’re still in the evaluation process for a lot of specifically young guys who are fighting for their NFL lives right now,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “We’re going to try to give those guys as much as we can to give them a chance to be at their best.”

With numerous returning players from teams that went 12-4 each of the past two seasons, the Steelers’ cutdown to 53 players on Friday would seem to be an easy job. It won’t be.

Complicating matters is that at least two players on their active roster, rookie guard David DeCastro (knee) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee), are weeks away from returning. And there is no assurance that linebacker James Harrison, who recently had arthroscopic knee surgery, will be ready to play in Denver on Sept. 9. Linebacker Jason Worilds (wrist) hasn’t played or practiced since camp started.

DeCastro had knee surgery Wednesday to repair a torn medial collateral ligament and a dislocated kneecap, and the Steelers may decide after evaluating the post-operation medical report whether they can carry their first-round draft pick for weeks to come.

The roster crunch might weigh against Batch’s chances of spending an 11th consecutive season with his home-city team.

Coach Mike Tomlin kept a number of starters — including Roethlisberger, Mendenhall, Harrison, Hampton, James Farrior and Troy Polamalu — out of the final preseason game at Carolina last season.

Receiver Mike Wallace, who ended his 35-day holdout and returned to the team Tuesday, cannot play because of the rule that restricts contact for a player in his first three days after reporting. But nose tackle Casey Hampton (knee) could get a few snaps after returning to practice Monday.

As for which starters will play — if only for a series — Tomlin said, “It’s going to be done on a case-by-case basis. Some of those guys who are nicked up and dealing with stuff, obviously we’ll err on the side of caution.”

For the on-the-bubble players, Tomlin hinted there can be no caution. He related to the team this week how players such as running back Jonathan Dwyer and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester secured roster spots with strong performances in the last preseason game.

“We talked openly about the recent history of the game and what it’s provided certain men … (who) represented themselves well in this game and really staked a claim on a position and a spot. I want the guys to know this is a very tangible thing,” Tomlin said.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera, whose team is playing its second game in five days, estimates a dozen Carolina roster spots will be decided.

For those who don’t make it, this game could be their last — preseason or not — in the NFL.

“There’s always a problem getting to that 53,” Tomlin said. “There are some tough decisions to make.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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08-30-2012, 01:22 PM
Out of the long shots, I like Golden. That was a nice play in Buffalo. And the kid can fill in at CB, even. They may have found a long shot there. And with us being so thin at safety, we really need to find a decent back up. Plus he can play in dime as another DB who has some cover skills.


08-30-2012, 02:00 PM
Out of the long shots, I like Golden. That was a nice play in Buffalo. And the kid can fill in at CB, even. They may have found a long shot there. And with us being so thin at safety, we really need to find a decent back up. Plus he can play in dime as another DB who has some cover skills.


you do realize that when you make posts like this about Robert Golden that you lower the 99% average of posts you make about Jonathan Dwyer? :D