Versatile veteran offensive lineman Trai Essex, a starter early in preseason, and Jeremy Kapinos, kept instead of longtime punter Daniel Sepulveda this offseason, were the only recognizable names among the 20 players cut Friday from the Steelers roster, which may well be fluid for awhile.
The season-opening roster includes Rashard Mendenhall, who may not be ready post-ACL surgery until October, and two right outside linebackers, James Harrison and Jason Worilds, who have yet to fully practice through training camp. So with rookie inside linebacker Sean Spence going on Injured Reserve and fellow backup Stevenson Sylvester ailing, the Steelers kept nine LBs. Of those, maybe only six could play this week. And can Casey Hampton start and play long at nose tackle in Denver after only a handful of snaps Thursday in his first action following offseason ACL surgery?
Notable cuts: OL Trai Essex (8th year, Northwestern) -- Hard to believe a player who toiled last season at each of the five OL positions, even spot-starting 28 games in his 76-game career, would fail to stick. Even harder to comprehend: Instead, the Steelers kept 7th-round C-OG Kelvin Beachum, noticeable only for resembling departed OG Chris Kemoeatu in his proclivity to attract penalty flags. ... P Jeremy Kapinos (5th year, Penn State) -- After Daniel Sepulveda, the Steelers didn't want another brittle punter. Kapinos had back surgery after camp's first week and Friday got waived-injured. So rookie free agent Drew Butler, son of former Bears kicker Kevin Butler, booted a 48-yard average and his way onto the roster. . . But how will he fare in cold weather and inside the 20s?
Complete cut list
OL Trai Essex, Tony Scott, John Malecki and Ryan Lee; WRs David Gilreath, Derrick Williams, Marquis Maze, Tyler Beiler and Toney Clemons (7th-round draft choice this year); RB DuJuan Harris; QB Jerrod Johnson; DL Corbin Bryant, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun and Jake Stoller; LB Brandon Hicks and Marshall McFadden; P Jeremy Kapinos; and DBs Damon Cromartie-Smith, Josh Victorian and Terrence Frederick (also 7th-round pick).
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