Cutting the roster

While Steelers head coach Bill Cowher has until Tuesday to trim the team's roster to 65 players and until Aug. 31 to get down to the regular season limit of 53, he need not take even that long. <br><br>In reality, there are only a few roster spots open on this team and, for the most part, those spots have already been claimed. <br><br>Here's one man's look at the Steelers' 53-man roster:

Quarterback (3): Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch and Brian St. Pierre. St. Pierre is the third quarterback by default. Tim Levcik was injured before he had an opportunity to push the fifth-round draft pick and Levcik's replacement Phil Stambaugh will never be confused with Sam Baugh.

Running back (5): Amos Zereoue, Jerome Bettis, Dan Kreider, Verron Haynes and Dante Brown. Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and just can't stay healthy anyway. The Steelers keep Haynes and Brown over him with an eye to the future. Haynes could be the best running back on the team's roster.

Wide receiver (5): Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Antwaan Randle El, Chris Doering and Lee Mays. This is the easiest cut of all. The top five are head and shoulders above the rest.

Tight end (3): Jay Riemersma, Mark Bruener and Jerame Tuman. Once again, the Steelers let Matt Cushing go after training camp. They'll keep his number on their speed dial, though.

Offensive line (9): Tackles Oliver Ross, Todd Fordham, Marvel Smith and Mathias Nkwenti. Guards Kendall Simmons, Alan Faneca and Keydrick Vincent. Centers Jeff Hartings and Chukky Okobi. Because of health concerns with Simmons and Hartings, they would keep 10 linemen if they had 10 worth keeping. They don't.

Defensive line (6): Aaron Smith, Kimo von Oelhoffen, Casey Hampton, Rodney Bailey, Brett Keisel and Kendrick Clancy. The same group that made the team last season is back this year. Bailey will see more time in place of von Oelhoffen, but other than that, the roles should be the same.

Linebackers (9): Joey Porter, Kendrell Bell, Jason Gildon, James Farrior, Clark Haggans, Larry Foote, Clint Kriewaldt, Alonzo Jackson and James Harrison. Harrison makes this team as a special teams ace, just as Kriewaldt once made the Lions as a special teams player. The Steelers can only hope Harrison develops as well as Kriewaldt, who may be the team's top free agent signing this offseason. He'll really help their special teams.

Cornerbacks (5): Chad Scott, DewayneWashington, Deshea Townsend, Chidi Iwuoma and Ike Taylor. Iwuoma makes the roster over Hank Poteat, even though Poteat got Cowher's attention with 73-yard punt return against Philadelphia that was called back because of a penalty. Iwuoma has better coverage skills and is a solid special teams tackler. Taylor could be a special teams gem. This kid can fly.

Safeties (5): Brent Alexander, Mike Logan, Troy Polamalu, Chris Hope and Eric Totten. Totten is probably the 53rd man on the roster, but makes it because of his knowledge of the system. His spot could just as easily go to safety Russell Stuvaints, fullback J.T. Wall or defensive tackle David Upchurch.

Specialists (3): Placekicker Jeff Reed, punter Josh Miller and long snapper Mike Schneck. No explanation needed.

Practice squad: Stuvaints, Wall, Upchurch and Nashville Dyer have been the best rookies in camp this year who won't make the roster. Trouble is, all four likely won't make it because the Steelers will want an extra wide receiver and offensive lineman. Those spots will go to receiver Khori Ivy and center Jimond Pugh, who makes the cut because Hartings is going to miss some practices throughout the season with his balky knee. The other three spots will go to Wall, Upchurch and Dyer. Stuvaints will be close by in his hometown of McKeesport.

Dale Lolley

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