Tribune-Review reporter Mark Kaboly dug into reasons why the Steelers released tight end Weslye Saunders.
Kaboly shot that theory down, reporting he was weighing in at 266 pounds - his lowest weight since college. He also shot down the idea he wasn't prepared for the Steelers' offense - or at least reported Saunders' claims he was up to speed and could contribute immediately.
One point he made via a blanket statement was Steelers coach Mike Tomlin "loves" TE David Paulson, the team's second tight end.
I think we have a winner.
Tomlin's affinity for the rookie from Oregon is one thing, but it doesn't explain why Leonard Pope was kept. We initially speculated Pope would be released upon Saunders' return from suspension. We also had suggested Pope was only signed to give the Steelers a veteran back-up behind Heath Miller for the four games Saunders would be out at the beginning of the season.
Pope has played with Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley in each of his two previous jobs - head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. There's something to be said about familiarity.
Maybe Saunders was so far buried in Tomlin's doghouse after his suspension all Tomlin needed was a reason to let him go. Paulson's rapid development could have been that reason.
The team wasn't going to keep four tight ends, and Paulson's speed has made him an asset on special teams as well, something Saunders wasn't expected to do. Pope started the year with less-than-inspiring blocking performances, but that seems to have changed recently, even with a diminished play count (due to Paulson's ascension over him on the depth chart).
If what Kaboly wrote about Saunders being in peak physical condition, though, Saunders will likely be snapped up very quickly. And it's possible Saunders could make Tomlin regret his decision.