Columnist cuts to chase

| Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008

The cut to 75 isn't until Aug. 26, and the final slice to 53 isn't until Aug. 30.

That being the case, publishing a presumptive regular-season roster at this early juncture qualifies as a preseason media false start.

But that's never stopped us before.

When it's time to leave St. Vincent College, it's time to get serious.

So, here we go again.

Presenting the 2008 Steelers, or, more accurately, the Trib's vision of what the roster should be as check-out time from the St. Benedict Hall Hilton approaches:

QB (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon.

Dixon arrived as a long-term project but has played well enough to carve out a spot for himself above and beyond the practice squad. To get him a roster spot, the Steelers are going to have to place Charlie Batch on the injured-reserve list or cut him. Leftwich's presence makes either alternative an option.

RB (5): Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, Carey Davis, Gary Russell. That's been established since Moore was signed as a free agent from Minnesota, and Mendenhall was drafted No. 1 out of Illinois.

TE (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth and Cody Boyd. Boyd almost made it a year ago and is an NFL-ready blocker.

WR (5): Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Nate Washington, Limas Sweed, Eddie Drummond. There really isn't a legitimate No. 5 receiver, but Drummond has a chance to contribute on both ends of the kicking game.

OL (9): Marvel Smith, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Kendall Simmons, Willie Colon, Max Starks, Trai Essex, Sean Mahan, Darnell Stapleton. The list does not include No. 4 pick Tony Hills. Position flexibility affords the Steelers the luxury of relegating to the practice squad a guy they can't yet afford to play.

DL (6): Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke, Travis Kirschke, Scott Paxson. Nick Eason didn't last as Smith's replacement last season. Paxson doesn't play end, but Hoke could. And Paxson may yet become a factor on kickoffs.

LB (9): LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, James Farrior, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Bruce Davis, Keyaron Fox, Arnold Harrison, Andre Frazier. Mike Humpal winds up on the practice squad, for now.

DB (10): Deshea Townsend, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Bryant McFadden, William Gay, Anthony Smith, Tyrone Carter, Ryan Mundy, Roy Lewis. Lewis edges Anthony Madison because of position flexibility (Lewis plays cornerback and safety) and because Madison isn't a consideration on anything but special teams.

Special Teams (3): Kicker, Jeff Reed; snapper, Greg Warren, and punter, pick one. We'll allow more time for the preseason punt off to resolve itself.

This much we know: whoever emerges will be a battler.

Paul Ernster is trying to overcome being on the field for Cleveland last season when his first punt traveled 15 yards and four penalties were called on the Browns.

Let the best leg, and best hands to hold for Reed, win.

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