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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bubble Boys

Heading into Thursday's preseason finale, here's a group of veterans who are clearly on the bubble and need a big performance:

Darnell Stapleton: Rookie offensive tackle Tony Hills has improved his play the last couple of weeks – though he's still not ready to contribute. And given the team's pending free agents at the end of the season, it has to keep Hills around this season. That could leave Stapleton on the outside looking in if the team only keeps nine offensive linemen on the roster.

Eddie Drummond: Willie Reid stretched his legs a bit last week as a receiver. Unless Drummond shows something truly special as a return man, he doesn't make this team. He's not even in consideration for the No. 5 receiver spot.

Dallas Baker: Reid has the advantage on Baker for the No. 5 receiver spot, but Baker could change that with a big game.

Nick Eason/Orpheus Roye: One's going to make it, the other isn't. Eason has actually had a good preseason, but his career has shown him to be nothing more than a backup. Roye has plenty of starting experience, but is only a one year stop-gap.

Paul Ernster/Mitch Berger: I'd give Berger the edge right now for the punting job. Coaches hate to go with the unknown at the position because they don't want to give it any thought.

Anthony Madison: He's too small to help out as a cornerback, but is a solid special teams player. But rookie Travis Williams or Roy Lewis might be more capable of playing corner and better special teams options.


adamg said...

No way the Steelers will cut Stapleton. He's their center of the future. I could see Sean Mahan being cut before Stapleton. Tony Hills is still a project and I doubt any team will want to use a 53 man roster spot on him as a waiver claim. I predict PS for Hills.

I don't think the DL backups will be set until the Steelers look over the waiver wire of final cuts from other teams.

Dan G. Switzer, II said...

If Stapleton was our "Center of the future", we wouldn't have signed Hartwig and Stapleton would be starting. I get the feeling Stapleton is just our new Chukky Okobi.

Anonymous said...

I believe Stapleton is at least 1 year away from being a starting center. I think Hartwig was signed as a temporary solution until Stapleton is ready.

adamg said...

Yeah, I agree with that. Hartwig is a stopgap. He was only signed to a 2 year deal, he'll start this year and perhaps start sharing time next year with Stapleton.

Dale Lolley said...

Don't be so sure that Stapleton is the center of the future. Hartwig is signed through next season and Mahan has three remaining.
They never even considered Stapleton a possibility for the starting spot this year.
Okobi was the center of the future for five years. Only thing was, he couldn't play.

kelly said...

So Dale, are you saying the coaching staff is no longer high on Stapleton? Is he another Okobi minus the oversized contract?

deljzc said...

I think the Stapleton is our next center talk is misplaced and not based on anything.

Next year's draft class has a nice crop of bigger, stronger centers. I would not be surprised at all if we go after one high (top 4 rounds) in the draft. Of course, this was before the advent we might not extend Smith, Starks, Essex or Kemoeatu to contract extensions (I can't believe that's where we are headed in 2009). I think we're in real trouble next off-season.

adamg said...

I think Okobi would have been the next Steelers center except he had the neck injury that apparently was a lot more serious than anyone ever admitted and then a recurrance of it.

If you look at both Webster and Dawson they were on sort of the same track as Stapleton. I think Webster and Dawson both saw time at OG when they were first or second year players. IIRC, Webster split time at center before the year before he became a starter.

Mahan showed cannot play center, thus the signing of Hartwig and his winning the competition. Mahan has no future at center for the Steelers unless it is an in game emergency. IMO, Mahan's contract was as much a hedge against Kemo and Essex leaving via UFA next year as anything. If both leave, he's the starting LG next year. To me, that's the only reason he'll stick around this year.

Stapleton is the only other true center the Steelers have on their roster. Plus he's young (23)and the team has already invested over a year in developing him.

Dale Lolley said...

They really haven't invested much in him. If a better option comes along in next year's draft, they'll take him.
As for Okobi, they would have had the same problem with him they had with Mahan. He wasn't big enough to play in today's NFL. You put a 330-pound tackle over him and he was going to get pushed around.

adamg said...

Dale, they invested a spot on the 53 man roster and then allowed Stapleton to watch and learn all year. Keeping a player on the 53 man roster all year isn't something a team does lightly. In fact, they kept Stapleton over drafted players.

As for not being considered to start last year, the kid was 22 and a UDFA. That's part of the reason they signed Mahan (other reason was to play G after Faneca).

If the Steelers thought they had no potential centers, I think they would have Hartwig for more than 2 years.

As for Okobi, I put the glasses on him at a few Steeler games and didn't think he was overmatched against big NTs, but we'll never really know how he would have been because of the neck injuries.