Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Saunders is the teams second tight end, it's highly likely either Leonard Pope or David Paulson will be released.
The image I have is second-year tight end Weslye Saunders stalking around the entrance of the South Side facility like a caged animal. He's more than ready to break his league-imposed vow of silence with the team, and re-join his team in the short week of work before taking on the Titans in Week 6 Thursday.
Roughly around the same time the building opens, they are likely to announce the release of a player to make room for Saunders on their active roster. (Update: Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette noted the Steelers are able to request a roster exception this week, meaning, Saunders can be activated and can play in Thursday night's game, but they will not have to release a player to do that. He doesn't explain why they're able to make the request, or if they even did, but if they're able to, they certainly would have.)
The decision seems far less dramatic than that, however. The fact rookie David Paulson, and not Leonard Pope, served as the team's No. 2 tight end in a 16-14 victory over Philadelphia in Week 5 speaks for the situation.
Pope's release four games into the 2012 season seems imminent, making Paulson - the fourth 7th round draft pick to make the Steelers active roster since 2009 - a permanent member of the team.
And he did it with grit. Cutting his teeth on special teams, Paulson got his first career catch in Week 5, an eight-yard completion on 1st-and-20, the first positive play on the Steelers' nine-play, 51 yard drive that resulted in Shaun Suisham's game-winning field goal.
It seems un-Steeler-like to back up veteran Heath Miller (who went his first game without a touchdown reception in Week 5) with a second-year player and a rookie, but Pope hadn't exactly shown the kind of solid play expected from a veteran. He wasn't wretched, but Paulson showed his athleticism - a category in which the rookie leads by a healthy margin - on his reception, and has continued to grow with each passing game.
If anything, maybe Saunders should be worried about Paulson's development. As for the here and now, expect the Steelers to announce Pope's release whenever they will need to trim the roster.