Breaking down final roster

Barring the addition of Sir Walter Rasby, or any such veteran of his ilk, the Steelers are set. So let's look at each unit in the form of review and preview. There's been a flurry of activity and this will be a good way to catch up.

Quarterback -- Kevin Colbert, you're great, but how about letting, say, the winner of a fan drawing pick your quarterback in the fifth round next year? Tee Martin, Brian St. Pierre and now Omar Jacobs have failed to pan out, although Jacobs does offer hope. Still, next year in the fifth I want Tyler Palko. Jacobs didn't grasp the playbook well enough to help them this year and there's never room on a contending team for developmental prospects. And please, don't say No. 3 QBs don't matter because Charlie Batch came through last year. Batch and Ben Roethlisberger had their best training camps with the Steelers, but I'm still nervous about Ben. He's a bit skinny and sometimes looks kind of punked, if you follow me on the old adjective.

Running back -- Colbert had to plug another hole by trading a conditional draft pick for an undrafted rookie. Perhaps the Steelers really are paying more attention to recruiting free agents than drafting on the second day. That's been a running joke because of their success with Willie Parker and Nate Washington. Now, you have to wonder because they sure seem to like Cobbs. If I read Bill Cowher's transcript right, Cobbs is a kickoff returner. I hope that's what he meant; that may make him worth the trade. Duce Staley is a No. 4 pitcher who'll give you innings. I think. He's not a fumbler and he falls forward like a vet. That's the best I can put out there about the guy right now. His knees look shot, or maybe it's a lack of confidence in the knees. Verron Haynes is good enough. Willie Parker will put the get-up-and-go into the no-huddle attack as a screen man/safety valve. I'd go with John Kuhn and Branden Joe on the practice squad; Kuhn as a tailback and sometime fullback and Joe as a true lead-blocking fullback.

Wide receiver -- Apparently, Hines Ward will be fine. He and Cedrick Wilson form a fine tandem. Wilson had a solid yet quiet camp. I think all the reporters burned out on Wilson stories after last camp. Nate Washington fits as the No. 3 with Santonio Holmes pushing. It's a great motivating scenario for the first-round pick because Washington's legit. Willie Reid's playing better than anyone expected, but he's not scaring with his punt returns. But he's fearless back there and confidently fields every punt. Sean Morey showed me something in punt coverage the other night. He blew out of the fullback spot late and got there early enough to force a fair catch. I like him, his aura; he's a winner. Quincy Morgan was the team's best kickoff returner but there's no way they could keep 7 receivers active on game day. It's time to throw Holmes back there, even though he hasn't shown much. Walter Young is eligible for the practice squad under a new rule, but "foreign-exchange" player Marvin Allen is available for practice duty.

Tight end -- Good thing the Jets traded for since-departed TE Doug Jolley in April, 2005 instead of drafting Heath Miller. They let Miller slide to a team that would otherwise have been wiped out at the position by now. Jerame Tuman's hamstring has Cowher concerned. That left only the rookies, who were so bad the team had to bring in Yoo-Hoo Euhus. Is he better than Sir Rasby? We'll find out soon enough. Tim Euhus blocked well enough on his few first-half plays last week. I couldn't bear to watch the second half so he might've stunk. I have no problem with Jon Dekker growing some muscles for a year or two on the practice squad, but don't sneer at me for wondering why you pretended he had a shot at making the final 53. In fact, I don't think I can take your opinion seriously ever again.

Offensive line -- Chukky Okobi was pushed around pretty good by the Panthers the other night. I guess he deserves a break because he's come back so soon from neck surgery, but I'm glad they kept Marvin Philip. He's bright, and, as Casey Hampton says, he knows how to hold. Philip is as close to a developmental prospect as this team has, but he won't hurt them in a pinch. Kendall Simmons hurt Chris Kemoeatu's cause with a fumbled exchange and poor shotgun snap. Simmons will stay at guard for now and Kemoeatu will stay on the bench. Trai Essex played poorly the other night. He's ahead of rookie Willie Colon as the swing tackle … for now. Max Starks's knee is a concern, but I think they could win with Colon at right tackle.

Defensive line -- John Mitchell did such a great job developing Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke and Brett Keisel that maybe we expected too much with Shaun Nua. Nua should stick with the practice squad, though, and as with Jacobs shouldn't be deemed a failure yet. Nua needs to get stronger in order to hold up at the point. Smith and Keisel were able to; let's give Nua another year. The Steelers think Orien Harris, a player without a true niche, might be better at nose tackle, but he'd have to put on a lot of weight, and his attitude might not be right for it. I'd rather see Lee Vickers on the practice squad. Vickers didn't show the fearlessness they were looking for in a wedge-buster, but he has enough speed and size to deserve Mitchell's two-year plan. Smith, Hampton, Hoke and Keisel are animals. Travis Kirschke played well last week and Rodney Bailey held the point, even made a few plays.

Linebackers -- Reporters never did find out what Cowher and Andre Frazier argued about on the sideline during the second game. Did that hurt Frazier? It couldn't have helped him in his duel with Arnold Harrison. And Harrison was more active on special teams and that was supposed to be Frazier's forte. Harrison deserved this roster spot over Frazier, although I'd hate to lose a solid reserve-in-the-making like Frazier to another young 3-4 team like the Browns … if they're smart. Rian Wallace deserved his spot over Richard Seigler. He was more active and more versatile, and also didn't have as much competition at the mack spot as Seigler did at the buck. They should find a way to keep Seigler, though. I saw him in a walking boot after the game. Doesn't that say "stash me on the IR" the way it used to?

Secondary -- As solid a quartet of cornerbacks as there is in the league, and then there's Chidi the Assassin for special teams. CB Anthony Madison deserves a place on the practice squad. He's a good gunner and not a bad run-stopper and blitzer. If Jason Simmons can play in this league, so can Madison. Safety man Mike Lorello is another practice-squad candidate. The competition at safety never did sort itself out, from the starter to the No. 5 spot. They all played recklessly and no one got hurt. I like Ryan Clark as the bridge at FS before Anthony Smith takes over down the road. Clark didn't have the best preseason, but I think he'll turn out to be a better tackler than Chris Hope and his equal in coverage.

Special teams -- The right man won the punting battle. Chris Gardocki gets off the prettiest punts on a consistent basis. Someone ought to come up with a moniker for the Harrison boys on special teams because I think they're going to announce their presence with authority. They and Morey and Chidi Iwuoma and Anthony Smith and Bryant McFadden and Tyrone Carter are the nucleus of the coverage teams, but they're still looking for a wedge-buster after the promotion of Keisel.


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