Steelers biggest surprises from the roster cut-down deadline

Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Tuesday's roster cut-down deadline brought unfortunate news to many players looking to make active NFL rosters for the season opener. While teams had already begun slashing their 90-man preseason rosters before deadline day, 4. p.m. (ET) on Tuesday was the final whistle for clubs to complete their roster purges and prepare their gameday rosters for week one of the regular season.

This year's roster cut-down deadline differs slightly from years past as teams were required to trim their active roster from 90 players to 53 by 4 p.m. (ET) on August 29th. Previously, the NFL gave each team multiple deadlines where they were able to release or trade players to meet the required 53-man roster limit.

In 2022, NFL clubs carried 90 players until the end of the first week of preseason before having to come down to 85. By the end of the second week, that total would be reduced to 80, and then finally to 53 after the preseason's final week.

Deadline day and the days leading up to it included surprises and bittersweet goodbyes for some Steelers' fan favorites in addition to the expected roster cuts. These were the most shocking moves made by the Steelers ahead of Tuesday's deadline.

The Steelers traded two former starters

Steelers fans once again found themselves praising GM Omar Khan after news of a pre-deadline trade broke. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams would ultimately agree on a trade that would send former Steelers starting left guard, Kevin Dotson, to the Rams for draft compensation.

The Steelers acquired LA's 2024 fourth-round pick and 2025 fifth-round pick in exchange for Dotson, a 2024 fifth-round pick, and a 2025 sixth-round pick. Dotson struggled at times as a starter the last couple of seasons and was replaced this offseason by free-agent acquisition Isaac Seumalo.

Tuesday morning brought forth an even more unlikely trade as the Steelers offloaded former starting center Kendrick Green for a 2025 sixth-round pick from the Houston Texans. Green's career struggles continued this preseason, even after attempting to save himself by playing fullback in training camp. He was likely one of the first players on the chopping block Tuesday until the Steelers found a way to get compensation out of his departure.

Both former offensive line starters were on their way out the door sooner or later, so the fact that the Steelers found a way to recoup some draft assets was incredible. The Kevin Dotson trade could provide Pittsburgh with a substantial leap forward in the middle rounds of next year's draft as they now own a fourth-round pick from a Rams team that appears to be one of the league's worst in 2023, which would make the Steelers new pick that much more valuable.

The Steelers cut some unexpected names

The Steelers brought in a slew of off-ball linebackers to compete this off-season. Many thought they would keep five on the final roster. One of the favorites to make the team was linebacker Tanner Muse, whom the Steelers signed in free agency to help retool the team's linebacking core.

Muse likely had little to no chance of beating out Cole Holcomb or Kwon Alexander, but the former Seattle Seahawk was expected by many to contribute on special teams and provide strong depth at the second level. The Steelers chose to part ways with Muse on Monday, leaving some fans questioning the move.

Free Safety Kenny Robinson found himself in the same boat as Muse Monday afternoon as the Steelers' first wave of cuts rolled through taking ten players along with it. Robinson had a promising start to training camp and looked poised for a big preseason. The former St. Louis Battlehawk (XFL) and Carolina Panther cooled off as the preseason progressed and didn't make a big enough impact to make the final cut. Robinson will likely find his way back to Pittsburgh's practice squad if he is not claimed by another team.

The Steelers' backup tight end in 2022 and co-host of the Grillin' N' Chillin' show, Zach Gentry, was also a victim of roster cut-downs Tuesday as the Steelers decided to go in a new direction at the TE2 spot. Drafting Darnell Washington in the third round of this past year's draft likely spelled disaster for Gentry as the number two tight end, but seeing him outright cut was not something many were expecting.

The emergence of Darnell Washington in preseason meant the Steelers were comfortable moving forward with the 6 foot 7 rookie operating as the team's second Tight End alongside Pat Freiermuth. Connor Heyward should fill in for the third tight end spot while spending time at various other positions on the offense.

Tuesday's final surprise cut-down candidate was veteran defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko. The former Los Angeles Charger signed with Pittsburgh in free agency and figured to be a piece of the Steelers defensive line rotation this season.

Fehoko was ultimately let go in favor of Montravious Adams and Armon Watts to round out the Steelers' eight-man defensive line group. Watts appears to fit the Steelers' pass-rushing identity more than Fehoko, who is more of a traditional nose tackle.

What's next for the Steelers' final roster?

While the team currently sits at the 53-player limit, it is highly unlikely that this exact roster will take the field at Acrisure Stadium in week one against the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers currently have two punters on the roster, Braden Mann and Pressley Harvin. The Steelers likely have decided the winner of that battle and will offload the loser in the coming days.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will also scan the new batch of free agents for upgrades at positions of uncertainty. I would also not be surprised to see the Steelers active on the trade block in a last effort to refine their roster before taking on an incredibly talented San Francisco team in less than two weeks.


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