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Steelers' roster decisions split between OLB depth and CB skill

It would appear, based on initial reports, both Ike Taylor and Jarvis Jones will miss a significant portion of the 2014 season. With that, corresponding roster moves appear to be looming. Here’s a look at some of the team's options.

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The Steelers have lost two defensive players at positions having starkly different depth situations. The outside linebackers have a pretty small group for meetings. It's Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats, perhaps with non-dress-eligible Jordan Zumwalt and Howard Jones among them.

On the other hand, the cornerbacks meeting is the much larger party. Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, B.W. Webb and Brice McCain get ready for game-day action while rookie Shaq Richardson learns on the practice squad.

An injury to one cornerback pales in comparison to the depth of the blow struck by an injury to an outside linebacker. The Steelers have both issues facing them right now, with the likelihood of Ike Taylor missing six to eight weeks, while Jarvis Jones looks to go under the knife for a wrist injury. Both were lost during the Steelers' 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, and both represent dilemmas for the Steelers heading into their Week 4 game vs. Tampa Bay.

It's pretty simple for the cornerbacks. Taylor absolutely will not play next week and his role will be filled by Gay. Blake will fill Gay's slot duties. The team could put Taylor on injured reserve, ending his season (and likely, his time with the Steelers) and perhaps then not have to make a roster move. They could also place Taylor on the IR-Recall list, keeping him off of the roster and making him eligible to return later in the year. The IR-Recall list is now in its third season of usage in the NFL, and Taylor's injury is precisely why this rule was implemented. It's too early and the injury isn't severe enough to keep the player out for the remainder of the season but the team may not want to use only 52 players. A team may only designate one player at a time for IR-Recall.

It gets far more complicated for the outside linebackers. Jones, by ability and by depth, is more valuable to the Steelers than Taylor. Arthur Moats can fill the team's starting role, but with only inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and reserve utility linebacker Terence Garvin left with any experience on the edge, they really don't have the depth to stay put and maintain an optimal lineup at this position.

That reasoning suggests the Steelers would use the IR-Recall designation on Jones, freeing up one roster spot to be used on an outside linebacker. That would mean Taylor would be headed for season-ending IR. The Steelers can lean on the depth the team feels they have, as evidenced by the fact they've dressed six cornerbacks in each of their first three games.

It will come down to the severity of the injury for each player, but they could mix-and-match as well. Some options include placing Jones on IR-Recall and keeping Taylor on the roster, while either bringing up Jones from the practice squad or signing a veteran. Vic So'oto was released by the team in training camp, of course, and James Harrison retired.

Whether Jones will be called up is a matter of some conjecture, but the most-likely scenario would be Jones heading to IR-Recall, thus becoming the second Steelers first-round pick to end up with that distinction since it began in 2012 (David DeCastro missed most of that season while recovering from a preseason knee injury). They can then dress five cornerbacks and use the new outside linebacker on special teams, whether it's Jones or someone else, to help replace whichever cornerback has reduced teams snaps coming due to defensive assignments.

Oddly enough, the Steelers haven't made a roster move since the season started, but it appears they've got a few of them on deck right now.

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