The Pittsburgh Steelers finished off their 2011 preseason schedule with a 33-17 win over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. It's late and I've had a long week, so I'm not going to bother with recapping the game here. There are game recaps, newspaper articles, fanposts, and perhaps even other writers' posts here on BTSC this morning that can fill you in on the details.
As you'll see shortly, this post doesn't touch on the offense for the simple fact that you'll find a link to a fairly long piece I wrote about the offense and my projections for the 53-man roster on that side of the ball on SB Nation Pittsburgh. I'll synthesize it all prior to Saturday afternoon's deadline, or shortly thereafter once we know who Mike Tomlin has chosen to chase Super Bowl glory with. But for now, here's a few thoughts and talking points to get us started. Happy Friday.
- Nobody got injured. The starters, per fourth preseason game tradition, played sparingly, if at all. Obviously they stayed out of harm's way. But though not as important in the grand scheme of things when looking ahead to the regular season, it was equally agreeable to see no reserves go down either, regardless of how big or little their chances are at making the team or practice squad.
- Nobody played their way out of a roster spot. Frankly though, several guys made Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert's job that much more difficult. And for different reasons. It's been well discussed that the final cuts at cornerback will be the toughest that Tomlin must make. Curtis Brown and Crezdon Butler both got beat, with Butler's allowing a 41-yard score. Cortez Allen, meanwhile, suited up for the first time this preseason and held his own. It's hard to put too much stock into any tipped passes or other sound plays because of the watered down talent level he was competing against. Bottom line though is that Tomlin and Colbert have tougher choices than merely taking the best talent available. Game theory is in play here, something Homer J. (Mike Silverstein) alluded to in his preview post about this preseason finale. There's 31 other teams waiting to see who loses out in the numbers game, eager to snatch up the next James Harrison potentially that just may not be quite ready to occupy a roster spot on a Super Bowl contender like the 2011 Steelers.
- The only guy I think might be able to be stashed away is Donovan Warren. But the more I see him play and think about the situation, I wonder if Warren might actually make the team. I at least hope he does, for reasons I'll elaborate on in greater detail on Friday. (Hopefully he's still on the team before I finish doing so.) In a nutshell though, why not part ways with either Keenan Lewis (25 years old) or Crezdon Butler (24 years old) over the 22-year old Warren who appears to be more durable than Lewis and more naturally instinctive than Butler. Probably won't happen, I know. But he's sure looked good. I suppose the Steelers could activate him were a team to try to come and scoop him from our PS. By the way, if you're curious why I didn't mention William Gay, well, as much as it might pain you to accept, being that Gay is playing under a modest one-year deal, there's very little chance that he's cut. He's dirt cheap and we're going to be SB contenders. We know we can get to The Promised Land with Gay; it might be harder than it perhaps would be if we had better talent at his position. But we just don't know yet enough about the other options at nickel back to risk going blindly into a SB year with entirely unproven talent. He'll be gone next year, believe that. But he should be around this year, hopefully just forced to share time with any number of young guys that are being groomed to be his successor.
- With his 52 yard field goal, Shaun Suisham not only locked down the starting kicker duties, but also probably bought himself an extra two weeks of goodwill were he struggling for, say, a two-week stretch at some point. On a similar note, Swayze Waters earned himself a spot in Kevin Colbert's Rolodex with his 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Good work by both of them.
- Were the National Football League a true meritocracy, Jason Kapinos would be the starting punter of the Steelers in 2011. He beat out Daniel Sepulveda Thursday night with his two 60-plus yard punts. Kapinos did not become Shane Lechler over the summer, but he's punted the ball as well as Robo Punter and obviously carries far less drastic injury concerns. But Sepulveda is a former fourth rounder with significant money already invested in him. There's plenty other Kapinos's out there to bring in in the event of another emergency.
- I intend to write more about my 53-man roster projections on the defensive side of the ball, but the primary reason why you haven't seen me write much about the offense and who I think earns one of the precious 53 roster spots on that side of the ball is because I just finished writing a 1000-plus word feature on SB Nation Pittsburgh.