People who otherwise have no stake in the game can get pretty sensitive when you write about the player that they like and suggest that their chances of making the roster are not as good as they think, or at least would like to believe. It can be even rougher if you have a sense that the player in question might be reading, too, and admittedly, occasionally, we know that some do.
Since 2013, we have assembled a crew here that we believe represents as objective a group of observers of the team as you’ll find, at least on any other blog about the Pittsburgh Steelers. When we write about a player and their chances of making the team, we do so without bias, simply expressing what we believe to be the team’s thinking on the matter.
Often enough, this isn’t good enough, and I think we’ve all seen that over the past few days while covering different aspects of a certain backup roster battle that will go otherwise unmentioned. There is another roster battle brewing nearby, however, that has been interesting, and that has been the race for the final two wide receiver spots.
Conceivably, there are as many as five players in the running, including incumbents Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer, free agent veteran Johnny Holton, and first-year players Diontae Spencer and Tevin Jones, the former of whom made a career for himself in the CFL prior to this offseason.
The general consensus is that at least one of Rogers and Switzer will make the team, but perhaps not both. And there are strong opinions on both sides, not only as to which people think is better, but also which people think Ben Roethlisberger, or Mike Tomlin, or the front office, thinks is better, or likes more.
Gerry Dulac is among those with an emphatic opinion. During yesterday’s chat session, he told a reader to “stamp Switzer on the team”, calling him “reliable and a returner”. He also listed Switzer (by number) earlier in the chat, over Rogers, as his expectations for the five who will make the team, plus the pool of three others who are competing for a sixth spot.
As much as I like Switzer, however, I look at the evidence and have to question this line of thinking. Many argue that Roethlisberger loves Switzer. But Roethlisberger also loves Rogers. And the team has stuck by him for years, including through two season-ending injuries. When he came off the PUP List last year, he played more and caught more passes than Switzer. Rogers is the one running with the first-team offense, both in practice and in the preseason.
Right now, if the roster were finalized this afternoon, I think both of them would make the roster. in two weeks from now, who knows what Holton, Jones, or Spencer might do to push one of them off. But I have a hard time being confident in Switzer’s roster security. And that sucks, given what he’s been through the past year and a half, but it’s also the nature of the beast.
And chances are, if he does fail to make the team, he will either have been traded or will be claimed off waivers. If that is what ends up happening, then I hope he’s able to find a team who both likes him enough to use him and has the room in their group to make him a key part of their offense.