What we learned after the final week of the 2011 Preseason:
- The final game of the preseason is barely worth watching but it’s still great to have football back
- NFL teams trimmed their rosters down to 53 after “Cut Day”
- The Arizona Cardinals cannot keep their hands off of Steelers players placed on waivers
- The Steelers name their practice squad and team captains of the 2011 season
Can you smell that? The air smells sweeter, the sun is shining brighter, birds are singing…Ok I’m getting a little carried away. The preseason is finally over, rosters have been set, game plans are being finalized, and we are staring down the barrel of a brand-spanking new NFL season. What many of us worried would not come, or at least be delayed because of the lockout, is finally here. The Steelers are returning basically the same team that traveled to Dallas for the Super Bowl last year and fans have no reason not to be optimistic.
The Steelers ended their preseason the way they normally do, by beating the Carolina Panthers. This time it was a 33-17 victory with most of the starters resting and not playing the entire game. Charlie Batch got the start for the offense, and Dixon played the majority of minutes. Has anyone else noticed that the Steelers have committed zero turnovers in the preseason? This tells me that they are focused and ready, and Tomlin has done an excellent job getting his message across that the only team capable of truly beating the Steelers are the Steelers themselves.
Saturday was Cut Day in the NFL with all teams having to trim their rosters down to 53 by 6:00 pm. Most notably cut by the Steelers were OL Tony Hills and CB Crezdon Butler. Punter Jeremy Kapinos also lost out to Daniel Sepulveda, who had been out the entire 2010 season with a knee injury. Butler was almost immediately picked up on waivers by the Steelers West, also known as the Arizona Cardinals. What has got to be the hardest day of the year for NFL coaches and players, the number 53 is a very tight number to have to get down to and it can’t be easy to tell a player that may have shown signs of improvement in the preseason that they just didn’t measure up enough to make the roster. I would have liked to see the roster number increased in the new CBA since the NFL is apparently all about “player safety” it should be considered safer to have more back-ups at more positions available to each team. But 53 is where it stands so that means that coaches had some tough news to deliver to some promising players. The practice sqad was also named with 8 players including RB John Clay and WR Tyler Grisham.
With the roster set it was time for the annual tradition of naming team captains. Last year, Ben Roethlisberger was noticeably left out of the captains group by his teammates as he was serving a suspension in the beginning of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. That suspension turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to Ben. Since then, not only has he cut that scuzzy looking mullet he had going on, but he also has matured into a better teammate, leader, and person and was rewarded for his efforts by being voted in as a team captain for the 2011 season. The other captains include Ward, Farrior, and Arnaz Battle for special teams.
With the cuts made, the rosters set, and the captains named it is now officially “go time”. The Ratbirds are waiting for their Week 1 beating, and I have no reason to think that the Steelers won’t do great things this season. The wide receiving corps is sick, the running game is solid, and the defense is as scary as ever. You can take all the criticism of the Steelers age, their shaky offensive line, and the shaky secondary and shove it. Time to break out your regular season Terrible Towels (because I know you have more than 1 at home) and get your game-day jerseys cleaned because the regular season is finally upon us.