NFL roster cuts: Steelers narrow wide open receiver competition by eliminating three players

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

By releasing three receivers Sunday, the Steelers eliminated nearly a quarter of a crowded and seemingly deep section of the depth chart; but they still have more tough decisions to make.

The Pittsburgh Steelers began the preseason with ten receivers on their off-season roster. After the preseason's first round of cuts on Sunday, the group has been reduced to eight.

The team was already expecting Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to be their 2013 co-starters. Veteran Jerricho Cotchery was expected to contribute as a slot receiver, and Plaxico Burress was re-signed to be a fourth and hopefully a big red zone target for Ben Roethlisberger. Then, the team added Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown in the draft, and filled out their training camp roster with undrafted free agents Derek Moye, Kashif Moore, David Gilreath, J.D. Woods and Reggie Dunn. When Burress tore his rotator cuff in practice ending his season, rookie Tyler Shaw was signed to take his spot.

On Sunday, the team released Gilreath, Shaw and Woods. Shaw had joined the team very late in the training camp process and was well behind the rest of his competition. The rookie Woods joined the team after not being selected in the 2013 draft, and played well in the team's first preseason game. Gilreath joined the team as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and earned a spot on the practice squad, but a muffed preseason punt in 2013 seemed to negate any admiration he had earned from the coaches.

In the team's final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday evening, the next four receivers at the bottom of the depth chart will need to stand out like Gilreath did in 2012 if they do not wish to share his fate.

Moye and J. Brown have each excelled at times when given the opportunity. Both men being of bigger builds have attracted the intrigue of the organization as they continue to exhibit good hands and better on field awareness. Moore and Dunn have seen the majority of their respective snaps on special teams as returners. It's unknown exactly how many receivers the team will carry between the roster and the practice squad, but there will not be room for all four unless the team chooses to part ways with one of the others above them on the depth chart.

Thursday night's game will be the final opportunity to prove who deserves roster consideration, and who will find themselves in the NFL's unemployment line.

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