5 Steelers Veterans Who Could Be Cap Casualties
As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to put a bow on their first week of training camp, things are getting interesting. The Steelers have put their collective faith in a lot of young players. The hope is that this infusion of youth and athleticism will get the Steelers over the hump of back-to-back 8-8 seasons.
Unfortunately, when you start plugging in young players in key roles, that comes at the expense of some veterans. It is a good problem to have when a unit is deep enough that a team has to let talent go, and that’s what the Steelers are facing this season.
Let’s take a look at five veterans who could get a visit from the Turk in the coming weeks.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
Veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey came to the Steelers over the summer, hoping to salvage what has been a disappointing start to his career. After being drafted in the first round at No. 7 overall back in 2009, it was believed (by Oakland at least) that his speed was going to make him all but impossible to defend.
Unfortunately, all that speed didn’t add up to much when he couldn't catch the football. And a shortcoming like that is magnified when you are surrounded with the type of talent already on this roster.
The first four spots for the Steelers are fairly set. Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant form a very talented foursome. Now, the discussion will be about whether or not the Steelers opt to carry five or six receivers on their final 53-man roster.
If the Steelers keep five, the odds of Heyward-Bey making it are slim. Alex Kozoa of SteelersDepot.com has been at camp and sent out this tweet about Heyward-Bey.
Heyward Bey still working with camp bodies in positional. Moye with starters.— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) July 27, 2014
When you consider that Bryant hasn’t been practicing, this issue is even more troubling. Pittsburgh has found itself a very talented, young wide receiver in Justin Brown, and it would be a shame to let him leave for an inconsistent veteran.
The odds get even longer for Heyward-Bey when you consider that rookie running back Dri Archer is almost certainly going to be a factor in the passing game. Heyward-Bey could definitely find himself on the outside looking in.
Will Allen, S
Veteran safety Will Allen has been a very good player for the Steelers. In the better part of four seasons with the Steelers, Allen has eight starts and been solid in sub packages. However, the goal of this offseason has been to get younger and faster.
Allen is a 32-year-old reserve with some interesting young players behind him. One in particular, Jordan Dangerfield, drew high praise from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Mark Kaboly.
Jordan Dangerfield was a beast on live drills.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) July 28, 2014
Jordan Dangerfield once again like on Monday makes a monster hit during live drills.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) July 30, 2014
Depending on how things play out with the linebackers and cornerbacks, Pittsburgh may opt to only carry four safeties. Could Allen be the fourth? Of course he could, but Dangerfield is younger, faster and has a much brighter future. With Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden in place, that last spot will be hotly contested.
Adam Podlesh, P
The Steelers’ punting game was dreadful in 2013. Mat McBriar was No. 30 in the league in punting average. Pittsburgh recognized this was an area of concern and brought in a new veteran punter. The problem? Adam Podlesh is one of only two punters in the league who had a lower average than McBriar.
Now, as you wrap your head around that, do not despair. Pittsburgh does have a promising young punter on the roster by the name of Brad Wing. Wing is in his second year in the league, although he wasn’t on an active roster in 2013.
Wing averaged 44.6 yards per punt in two seasons at LSU, so this is promising. Pittsburgh will likely keep both punters for the bulk of the preseason, but it’s hard to imagine Podlesh making the final cut. One Steelers fan in attendance made this observation about Wing today:
On the far field, Brad Wing was consistently booming the ball with great hang time. #SteelersTrainingCamp— SteelersViews (@SteelersViews) July 30, 2014
Ross Ventrone, DB
The Steelers' secondary is definitely a work in progress. And part of that is going to involve making some tough choices. Cornerbacks Ike Taylor, William Gay, Cortez Allen, Shaquille Richardson and Antwon Blake seem to be the most reasonable five to fill the depth chart.
Will the Steelers choose to keep six cornerbacks? Possibly, but safety/cornerback tweener Ross Ventrone is a tough one to project. With so many athletic prospects on this roster, it is hard to find a spot to squeeze Ventrone onto the final 53.
If Ventrone doesn’t make the final cut, he could end up elsewhere. The second-year safety isn’t eligible for the practice squad so it’s final roster or bust. I understand that Ventrone is a fan favorite and a hard worker, but that can only carry you so far when it comes to helping a team win.
Michael Palmer, TE
The Steelers have had the good fortune of having tight end Heath Miller on the roster the past nine seasons. Miller is a steady and solid performer, not to mention one of the most beloved players on the team.
Nevertheless, beyond Miller, this team has very little to get excited about among the returning players. This includes Michael Palmer. Palmer’s career has been four seasons of non-events. Pittsburgh uses two tight ends a ton, so it would be nice if the Steelers had a second tight end who could be a receiving threat as well as a solid blocker.
Pittsburgh has two really interesting rookie prospects in Rob Blanchflower and Eric Waters. Waters, in particular, is a serious mix of athleticism. And thus far at training camp, Waters has drawn some really nice reviews from those in attendance.
Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
End of line tight end drills going on. Will Johnson and Eric Waters winners on offense. Jarvis and Worilfs on D— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) July 30, 2014
James Wexell of Scout.com:
Undrafted rookie tight end Eric Waters gets my first star in backs-on-backers drill. Mike Sam's college roommate at Mizzou. #Steelers— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) July 28, 2014
Waters was used as a blocker a great deal, which plays right into what Pittsburgh asks of their tight ends. However, his potential as a receiver makes him far more interesting than any tight end on the roster not named Heath Miller. On potential alone, it should be Palmer out, and Waters in.