The Steelers released 22 players, including veteran running back Jonathan Dwyer and three recent draft picks, and they activated tight end Heath Miller from the physically unable to perform list in moves designed to get their roster to the NFL-mandated limit of 53 for the start of the 2013 season.
The decision to activate Miller from the physically unable to perform list means the Steelers' Pro Bowl tight end can begin practicing with the team immediately. He then can be worked into the lineup whenever he is ready. Had Miller stayed on PUP, he would have had to miss the first six weeks of the season, which would have meant he couldn't have been added to the roster until Monday, Oct. 7, which is the day following the Steelers' bye.
Dwyer was the Steelers' first pick in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, and he had played in 21 games during his career with the team, with all six of his starts coming in 2012. During that 2012 season, Dwyer led the team in rushing with 623 yards on 156 carries (4.0 average), and he scored two touchdowns. He recorded back-to-back 100-yard games – 122 on 17 carries in Cincinnati on Oct. 21, and 107 on 17 carries vs. Washington on Oct. 28. After signing his restricted free agent tender early this offseason, Dwyer acknowledged that he came to training camp in the best shape of his career and led the Steelers in rushing during the just-concluded preseason, with 34 carries for 136 yards (4.0 average).
The three recent draft picks cut were nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, the No. 4 pick in 2012; cornerback Terry Hawthorne, the No. 5 pick in 2013; and wide receiver Justin Brown, the No. 6a pick in 2013.
Ta'amu was on the team's active roster for seven weeks last season, but he was inactive for all of those games. He also spent six weeks on the Steelers' practice squad and two on the reserve/suspended list.
Hawthorne missed most of his rookie offseason program while rehabilitating a knee injury that also sidelined him into training camp at Saint Vincent College. He did get himself onto the field before the preseason ended and finished with two tackles.
Brown began his college career at Penn State before transferring to Oklahoma in 2012 where he caught passes from Landry Jones, who begins the season as the Steelers' No. 3 quarterback. Brown caught six passes for 44 yards during the preseason and also returned one punt for three yards.
In addition to Dwyer, the other veteran on the list of cuts was 12-year veteran punter Brian Moorman, a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his time with the Buffalo Bills. Moorman punted for Dallas last season and signed with the Steelers this past offseason as an unrestricted free agent. He punted 12 times during the preseason, and he finished with a 40.3-yard gross average and a 36.6 net average, with five inside the 20-yard line and one touchback.
The rest of the moves involved players who either were undrafted rookies or first-year players, including three with ties to the team that went beyond just one summer: cornerback Josh Victorian, linebacker Marshall McFadden, and tight end Jamie McCoy.
Victorian signed with the Steelers last summer on the eve of training camp as an undrafted rookie and was a member of the practice squad at the start of the 2012 season. He was added to the active roster on Dec. 8, and he played in each of the final four games of the regular season, with a start in Dallas against the Cowboys on Dec. 16. In those four games, Victorian totaled five tackles and four passes defensed.
McFadden spent most of 2012 on the Steelers' practice squad, but he was on the active roster for two games – in Baltimore against the Ravens on Dec. 2 and vs. the Browns in the season finale on Dec. 30.
McCoy also spent most of last season on the team's practice squad, but he was added to the active roster for the finale against the Browns after Miller injured his knee the previous week against the Bengals and was put on the injured reserve list.
Waived were eight undrafted rookies, including wide receiver Reggie Dunn; offensive linemen Mike Golic Jr., Joe Madsen, and Chris Hubbard; defensive end Brian Arnfelt; linebackers Alan Baxter and Terence Garvin; and cornerback Devin Smith.
The first-year players to be waived included wide receiver Kashif Moore, running back Alvester Alexander, tight end Nathan Overbay, and tackle Joe Long. Also waived were second-year linebacker Brian Rolle and second-year safety Ross Ventrone.
With these moves, the Steelers now have 53 players on their roster, which breaks down position-by-position as follows: three quarterbacks, five running backs, five wide receivers, five tight ends, eight offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, eight linebackers, 10 defensive backs, and three specialists.
With Brown and Hawthorne among those waived, and with defensive end Nick Williams on the injured reserve list, there will be six draft picks from 2013 on the roster: Jarvis Jones, Le'Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, Shamarko Thomas, Landry Jones, and Vince Williams.