The Steelers are looking for a tight end, even though two rookies combined to catch four passes for 36 yards last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and a third rookie is the only player on the team not named Cedrick Wilson to have caught a touchdown pass this preseason.
However, the three rookies haven't played well enough to help right now. Fifth-round draft pick Charles Davis caught three passes last week and made strides with his blocking, but it hasn't been enough for a player more suited for the basketball court. Jonathan Dekker, an undrafted free agent from Princeton, has four catches for 46 yards this preseason, but he's also a poor blocker who could use a year or two on the practice squad. Isaac Smolko of Penn State made a brilliant one-yard touchdown catch in the preseason opener, but is also expected to be released when final cuts are made Friday.
Of course, the Steelers possess one of the best young tight ends in the game. Heath Miller caught 39 passes as a rookie last season and scored six touchdowns. His role in the red zone will only increase this year with the retirement of goal-line hammer Jerome Bettis.
The problem for the Steelers is a hamstring injury to Jerame Tuman, their only other veteran tight end. The Steelers ended last season with only two tight ends on the roster, but Tuman's situation prevents that from being a consideration to start this season.
Four rookies were among the eight cuts Monday: The Steelers released free safety Zach Baker, East Stroudsburg kicker Mark Brubaker, offensive tackle Nick Hagemann, and offensive guard Grayling Love.
Also cut was second-year fullback Doug Easlick, along with three first-year players: long-snapper Kyle Andrews, Pitt linebacker Malcolm Postell, and wide receiver Isaac West. The Steelers will also put offensive tackle Ulish Booker on Injured Reserve.
The Steelers must cut to 53 by 6 p.m. Saturday. They're then allowed to sign eight players, beginning noon Sunday, who are eligible for the practice squad.