Conventional wisdom would say that kicker tryout 2.0 spells the end of a season for yet another Pittsburgh Steelers place-kicker before it even begins; but not so fast since this camp/preseason has been anything but conventional from a roster standpoint.
The Steelers will likely keep twenty-five players on each side of the ball with three base specialists. That has become standard for the team of late. That being said stay with me and follow:
Since offensive tackle Mike Adams is on the PUP and likely to start the season there the Steelers receive a roster exemption for him which will be used to keep prospect tackle Alejandro Villanueva around. The team also will receive a roster exemption for injured Pro-Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey who will start the season on recallable-IR. This will be used to keep either Chris Hubbard or B.J. Finney around. I am leaning toward the later but will address that when my 53 man roster 5.0 is released prior to Tuesday cut downs with a list of projected cuts as the roster is trimmed to 75.
The Steelers will receive two more roster exemptions. These are the short term ones; as the two mentioned above can last anywhere between six and eight weeks, plus. These two are for the suspended Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. These are temporary exemptions that expire after two weeks (Bell) and four weeks (Bryant) upon their return and activation to the 53 man roster. While it seems logical for the team to keep an extra running back and receiver in this period that is not necessarily necessary. Without these two valuable offensive players the team will still have three active running backs; including Dri Archer for two games and five active receivers for four games; likely including rookie Tyler Murphy so it is very possible the team uses these short term exemptions differently.
If the Hartley MRI comes back that the hamstring is not torn or severely strained; either a grade zero or grade one strain, which represents no fibre disruption and makes up most of the hamstring injuries in pro-football vs. a grade two or three strain where there is fibre disruption it is possible Hartley could be back after week two, three, or four which would signify a five week recovery. If this is the case he likely remains on the 53 man roster using one of these two exemptions and a new kicker is brought in on a short term basis. This would still leave the team one additional short term exemption to use on any player that the team would choose to keep at any position on offense or defense.
So #SteelersNation time to cross your fingers and wish for a clean MRI for kicker Garrett Hartley and a maximum five week recovery time. The Steelers obviously will know post MRI which type of audition must be held; one for a stop-gap or another 2015 place-kicker but make no mistake we were best off with Shaun Suisham but we won't do better than Hartley right now or long term if indeed the injury is a bad one.