The Pittsburgh Steelers are experiencing their bye week as much in the middle of the season as one can get now that teams plays 17 games. With eight games down at nine remaining, the Steelers are hoping to come back into relevancy with the NFL in the second half of the season as well as develop their young players for years to come.
Coming out of the bye, the Steelers are looking to get some players back who have played minimally in the 2022 season. With both safety Damontae Kazee and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt set to return after the bye from the Reserve/Injured List, the Steelers defense could have a much different feel moving forward.
But as players are added to the roster, which ones will no longer have a spot in the top 53 for the Steelers?
This week, Damontae Kazee will be returning to the Steelers or else he will be lost to season-ending IR much like Calvin Austin III. Kazee‘s 21-day window opened on October 20 and is set to close this Friday, November 11. For this reason, it’s impossible to push bringing Kazee back onto the roster for another week. The move must be made or Kazee will also go the route of CA3.
As for T.J. Watt, the Steelers actually have another week in order to bring him back as his deadline to end his 21-day window is Thursday, November 17. But with reports surfacing that Watt was potentially going to be activated against the Eagles in Week 8, it’s hard to believe the Steelers would not bring him back following the bye if he is ready to go.
While there can be plenty of debate of how much playing time either of these players will see, that is not the focus at this time. Instead, what will be the corresponding moves to bring these players back on the 53-man roster?
Obviously, if there is any player who would possibly be going on IR, regardless of position or side of the ball, it would make sense for that to be the roster move for the time being. If the Steelers don’t have any players they feel need to go on IR, then it will simply come down to having to release a player and possibly be able to get them back on the practice squad.
So here are the possibilities of players who could be either placed on IR or released by the Steelers in order to make room for T.J. Watt and Damontae Kazee:
This is 100% due to injury. Levi Wallace missed the last game with a shoulder injury and I believe he was a candidate for IR if the Steelers brought back either of these two players in Week 8. Perhaps Wallace‘s injury is not as bad to where he will still need another four games, but he was ruled out early in the Steelers last game so there’s still that potential. But if Wallace is otherwise healthy, I don’t believe he would be released but only used as an IR designation.
When the Steelers are in their bye week, there is very little information given about injuries. James Pierre left late in the last Steelers game with a foot injury. It could have been something very minor or something fairly significant, we simply don’t know at this time. If it’s significant enough, along with the addition of William Jackson III last week, Pierre could land on IR if he’s going to be missing any number of games. But much like Levi Wallace, I only see this as a possibility for IR and not one for release.
If the Steelers have to release a member of the secondary to make room for Kazee, Josh Jackson is the most likely candidate. Starting the season on the Steelers practice squad, Jackson has appeared in four games for the Steelers. After being elevated twice off the practice squad in Week 4 and Week 5, Jackson was placed on the Steelers 53-man roster when DeMarvin Leal went on IR and started the next day against Tampa Bay. The following week, Jackson did not play any defensive snaps and missed Week 8 due to injury. If the Steelers have all of their cornerbacks healthy, along with the addition of William Jackson III, Jackson is likely the low man on the list and would be the one released.
Anderson landed on the Steelers practice squad when T.J. Watt got injured as they used the roster spot to sign David Anenih away from the Tennessee Titans practice squad. Once the three weeks were up with the Steelers had to keep Anenih on the roster, they released him and signed him to the practice squad and promoted Anderson who they elevated the previous game. Since he was the guy that came on when Watt went out, he’s a likely candidate to be the one who goes back (hopefully) to the practice squad when Watt returns.
While it appears Ryan Anderson is the last player on the depth chart and outside linebacker for the Steelers, it might not be so obvious. Over the last two games, Anderson has played 10 snaps and seven snaps respectively on defense where Jamir Jones has only played three snaps and zero snaps. So if the Steelers are looking for more on defense, Anderson might be the choice. But Jamir Jones has also played significant special team snaps with at least 15 per game while Anderson has played none. So while Jones is still a possibility, the Steelers could go either way depending on what they look for more on game day.
So those are the most likely candidates to have to surrender their spot on the 53-man roster to make room for T.J. Watt and Damontae Kazee. Yes, Kazee is a safety and all the candidates listed are cornerbacks, but the Steelers are actually carrying two more corners at this time than what they started the season with an only have four safeties. Josh Jackson was added to the roster when the Steelers simply did not having enough cornerbacks healthy to play against Tampa Bay. Add in the Steelers trade for William Jackson IIII and every week there would be at least one cornerback on the inactive list.
So what do you think? Who do you think will be the two players who get taken off the Steelers 53-man roster in order for Damonte Kazee and T.J. Watt to return from IR? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.