Steelers Vs. Panthers: Non-Starting Defensive Players To Watch

Aug. 25, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Al Woods (65) jumps to make a tackle on Buffalo Bills quarterback Vince Young (10) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Steelers beat the Bills 38-7. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

We mentioned earlier about the possibility of the Steelers keeping two quarterbacks on their final 53-man roster, which is due to the league at 9 p.m. ET Friday. In doing that, it would free up a roster spot, which could go to one of a number of places.

Where it seems most prevalent is on the defensive side of the ball. That seems to be the spot with the most talent, regardless of who's at the top of the depth chart.

The extenuating circumstances early in the season will play into that decision. Ryan Clark will not play in Denver due to a medical condition, and Ryan Mundy will start in his place, opposite Troy Polamalu. Does that mean the Steelers won't have to decide between cutting veteran Will Allen, or surging rookie Robert Golden, instead, choosing to keep both of them?

LB Stevenson Sylvester will miss the first game, maybe the second as well. That not only creates a shortage among in-game linebackers, it hurts the special teams depth as well. Can that extra spot be used on OLB Adrian Robinson for the sake of kick and punt coverage more than anything else?

Watch Golden in particular this game. Not only is he talented enough to make one wonder how it is he wasn't drafted in the first place, but if he isn't a future starter with this team. He plays with great instincts, and always seems to be around the ball.

Right now, it's really hard to leave him off the roster, particularly with an impressive interception in Pittsburgh's Preseason Week 3 win over Buffalo.

With Clark out in Week 1, and the need for special teamers, it's hard to leave Allen off the roster, too.

As far as the linemen go, NT Casey Hampton just returned to practice, and likely isn't going to go full-bore until next week, roster cuts need to be made less than 24 hours after the team's final preseason game. Because of that, it's likely the team has come to a consensus on defensive linemen. In wake of Hampton's recovery and rookie NT Alameda Ta'amu's less-than-stellar performance thus far in the preseason, any extra spot could be used to keep another linemen versatile enough to play in sub-packages either inside or out.

NT Steve McLendon isn't an option at defensive end right now, certainly not with the amount of snaps he's likely to log as Hampton continues his recovery. That makes it very tempting to keep both Corbin Bryant and Al Woods, giving the Steelers eight defensive linemen (going along with Hampton, McLendon, Ta'amu, Ziggy Hood, Cam Heyward and Brett Keisel).

Something's got to give, and it appears a solid player from Pittsburgh's front seven may end up the odd-man out. They can't cut Ta'amu even though he's been easily the least productive member of this unit. There's little chance he'd clear waivers, but then again, the Steelers did cut Ryan McBean - a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2007 - his first year. Odds are good they keep Ta'amu and continue to work with him on adapting to the very difficult nose tackle position in this defense.

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