Steelers: D to J

With the season in the books, it's time to break down the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster, and we'll move along alphabetically in a 5-parter. Here's D through J:

17. David DeCastro, OG – The first-round pick set the tone for an injury-plagued season by blowing out his right knee in the third preseason game. A new rule allowed him to return from injured reserve to play in the final four games (three starts at right guard), in which his play was expectedly uneven, but promising.

18. Jonathan Dwyer, RB – He was being compared to Jerome Bettis by former NFL coach Brian Billick during a sensational mid-season stretch that included back-to-back 100-yard games. But while his conditioning was praised by sportswriters in August, Dwyer actually began to look like a sportswriter in December. In a tight t-shirt, he looked as if he had ballooned to 260 pounds. That's no way to get a solid offer in restricted free agency, but he could receive an original-round tender because of the chance he would bring a fifth-round pick in return.

19. Hebron Fangupo, DT – It's been a long, strange trip for the Tongan strongman, whom the Steelers rostered as a cross between a nose tackle and a defensive end. Nicknamed "Loni," Hebron went from high school in Southern California to junior college in San Antonio back to USC then to BYU and to the Houston Texans (undrafted) and to the Seattle Seahawks (practice squad then active roster) and finally to the Steelers, whom he had visited prior to last April's draft. The 6-0¾, 323-pounder took part in 7 snaps at defensive tackle in the Seahawks' late-season showdown against the 49ers, but was released in a numbers crunch after the game. Also noteworthy: Fangupo benched 225 pounds 36 times at the combine and will turn 28 in July.

20. Larry Foote, ILB – One of only eight remaining Steelers who have played in all three recent Super Bowls, Foote is a free agent who's likely on his way out. Second on the defense in snaps (997) and tackles (114) behind Lawrence Timmons, the soon-to-be 33-year-old has said he'd accept a low-wage salary, but the Steelers may forego the $555,000 minimum-wage veteran cap hit to clear a path for either Stevenson Sylvester or Sean Spence at the play-calling buck linebacker spot.

21. Ramon Foster, OG – A sturdy plugger who allowed only 4 sacks and was penalized only twice in 16 starts last season, Foster should receive consideration from the Steelers. They would love him at the one-year vet minimum of $555,000, but they would most likely have to offer a multi-year deal that includes more than the $65,000 bonus that raises the cap hit to the $715,000 minimum for fifth-year players.

22. Marcus Gilbert, OT – The team's greatest enigma could solve a lot of problems if he can effectively take over the left tackle position. Is he really the big risk so many fans and media believe him to be? I'm starting to believe he's not. Gilbert was the Steelers' Rookie of the Year in 2011 as the starting right tackle, and was playing in his fifth sack-free game last season before going down with an injured right ankle. Gilbert has more experience than Mike Adams – who appears to be the more natural left tackle – so it really does make sense to move Gilbert over to replace Max Starks.

23. David Gilreath, WR – After making a bit of a splash with the Colts in the 2011 preseason, Gilreath converted four third downs against the Colts in a preseason game for the Steelers last year. It earned him a spot on the practice squad, and, when Antonio Brown was injured, Gilreath was promoted and played bit parts in three games. He was waived upon Brown's return and Tampa Bay grabbed him for a couple of weeks before the Steelers were able to reclaim him. It's the story of a cheap, end-of-roster receiver who's in position to show off his talents some day.

24. Robert Golden, S – Dubbed "Little Dawk" because Mike Tomlin sees him as a young Brian Dawkins, the undrafted Golden was kept on the active roster as a safety with cornerback coverage skills, and he finally received defensive snaps when injuries benched Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen. In his only two appearances in the secondary, Golden made 4 tackles and broke up a pass. Dick LeBeau said after the Dallas game, "I think Coach Tomlin's judgment was definitely reinforced in that game."

25. Isaiah Green, CB – A high-school track sensation, Green intercepted only one pass in four seasons at Fresno State. He wasn't signed by the Buffalo Bills until well after the 2012 draft. He made their practice squad, and then spent a couple of months on the Colts' practice squad before ending up on the Steelers' practice squad in the middle of December. Green reportedly ran a 4.29 40 as a junior in college, and at his pro day had a vertical jump of 37½ inches with 16 bench reps. Those numbers would interest anyone.

26. Casey Hampton, NT – His contract's up, but Hampton played so well at the end of the season that he just might remain with the Steelers. Hampton will turn 36 in September and can likely be had for the vet minimum ($940K in real dollars; $550K against the cap).

27. James Harrison, OLB – Ask yourself these questions: Should a cap-strapped team cut the 35-year-old Harrison to save $5.1 million? And, would you fear him on another team? The answers, to me, are yes and yes, and therefore any chance of Harrison accepting a pay cut or limited extension are probably out the door. You just hope he moves on to an NFC team.

28. Cameron Heyward, DE – The 2011 first-round draft pick showed improvement on the field this past season, but the Steelers want to see more improvement in his offseason work this time around. So, to that end Brett Keisel should be safe from cap-cutting measures because the Steelers are not about to hand a job to a young backup who needs to hit the offseason like he's …

29. Ziggy Hood, DE – A young leader off the field and in the weight room, Hood has become a target of fan disenchantment on the field because he registered only 3 sacks in 16 starts last season. It should be noted that Aaron Smith – probably the greatest 3-4 DE in team history – averaged only 5 sacks per season in his nine full-time campaigns with the team.

30. Daniel Hrapmann, K – An undrafted free agent, Hrapmann was a perfect 5 for 5 last preseason, including 3 for 3 from 40 to 49 yards. The Steelers signed him quickly at the end of the 2012 season to provide some cover in case they decide to save $1.3 million by keeping him over Shaun Suisham.

31. Brandon Johnson, LB – A free agent who made 9 special-teams tackles in 14 games last season, Johnson would only be brought back if they can't find enough depth in and after the draft.

32. David Johnson, TE – This is the kind of free agent Bruce Arians might sign in Arizona. Johnson's 2012 season was wiped out by a knee injury in August, but he rehabbed at the Steelers' facility and had been hoping to re-sign as an in-line tight end with fullback flexibility.

33. Will Johnson, FB – A playmaker who improved greatly as a lead blocker as the season wore on, Johnson heads into his second season with the possibility of becoming the senior member of the running back room. He carried only two times last season, but caught 15 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.

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