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8 surprises from Steelers roster cutdown day

The Steelers 53-man roster is not exactly what fans expected.

Pittsburgh Steelers punter Braden Mann (4) punts the ball during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers preseason game on August 11, 2023 at Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers have officially cut their roster down from 90 to 53 players, and there were plenty of surprises on cutdown day.

Two punters on the final roster

Don’t worry, Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith isn’t planning any two-punter sets this year. Although both Pressley Harvin and Braden Mann made the Steelers’ final 53-man roster at punter, it’s clear that GM Omar Khan has plans of trading one of them, likely Mann. Khan has already dealt two players, Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson, during cutdowns, and don’t be surprised if more moves are on the way.

No Tanner Muse or Nick Kwiatkoski

There was plenty of competition in the Steelers’ inside linebacker room this preseason, and everyone knew that someone would have to go. Most thought only one of Tanner Muse or Nick Kwiatkoski would have to be cut after both enjoyed solid preseasons, but no one saw both being released on cutdown day. As a result, the Steelers only have four true inside linebackers on their roster in Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, Kwon Alexander, and Mark Robinson. That’s probably enough for the season, but it’s a surprising move after many expected the Steelers to keep five.

Elijah Riley over Tre Norwood

Anyone who watched the Steelers in the preseason probably isn’t too surprised that Elijah Riley made the roster over Tre Norwood, but the move is still significant. Although Norwood has seen plenty of playing time over the past few seasons, his injury problems hurt his chances at making the final roster over Riley, who displayed a similar CB and S versatility as the former. Riley’s physical special teams presence also gave him an advantage over other roster bubble players.

No Breiden Fehoko

Big run-stuffing nose tackle Breiden Fehoko didn’t have the strongest preseason, but many assumed that his niche specialty would give him a guaranteed spot on the roster. However, it seems that Armon Watts’ strong showing against the Falcons last week gave him the edge over Fehoko when it came to who got the roster spot.

A shakeup on the offensive line

With the Kendrick Green trade, the Steelers don’t have a true backup center behind Mason Cole. Although both Spencer Anderson and Nate Herbig have the versatility to fill that role, it remains unclear if the Steelers are comfortable with that or if they will pursue adding a reserve center in the next few days.

Also, at the beginning of training camp, not many saw undrafted OT Dylan Cook as a final roster candidate, but he impressed and survived the many trades and cuts at his position. Congratulations to him.

Only three tight ends

For most teams, keeping only three tight ends would not be much of a surprise, but many fans were convinced that the Steelers would keep four thanks to the team’s strong depth at the position. However, Pittsburgh released TE Zach Gentry earlier today, leaving Pat Freiermuth and Darnell Washington as the top two options at the position, while Connor Heyward will fill the TE3 role as well as a myriad of others. Although it’s tough to see Gentry go, it’s probably the best decision from a roster construction standpoint.

The Steelers keep six at wide receiver

Gunner Olszewski made the Steelers’ final roster, presumably as a backup slot receiver and return man. Not many expected that he would stick around, or even that the WR6 spot would be filled on the 53-man roster. There’s still a chance that something could change here, but the Steelers’ quarterback room really likes Olszewski, meaning his roster spot could still be safe.

James Pierre is still on the 53

Steelers’ outside cornerback James Pierre had a rough preseason, but his seniority and special teams value seemingly secured him a spot on the final roster. Still, if the Steelers look to add to their roster via trade in the next few days, backup outside CB seems like one of their top priorities. Pierre’s roster spot may not be safe for long.

There are still plenty of roster moves to be made before the Steelers’ regular season begins.

Make sure to drop your biggest surprises and takeaways from cutdowns in the comments below!