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Cross off these reasons why Wes Saunders was released


Mark Kaboly | Tribune-Review

The Steelers released tight end Weslye Saunders on Friday in somewhat of a surprising move.

The team decided to keep veteran tight end Leonard Pope despite the veteran losing the second-string job to rookie David Paulson two weeks ago.

Here is what we know:

* Saunders practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday after serving a four-game suspension.

* Saunders was in the best shape of his life. He weighed in Monday at 266 — his lightest since college. He spent a month in Arizona working out at the same place Ryan Clark and James Harrison work out during the summer.

* Saunders was comfortable with playbook despite sitting out an extended period of time. He told me Tuesday: “There are only a few new plays here and there but nothing major. I am ready to go. I think I know the offense pretty well. I had a month to myself to go through the playbook so I think I am pretty prepared.”

* Offensive coordinator Todd Haley refused to label Pope’s lack of playing time (3 snaps in 2 games) as a demotion and we all know the history between Pope and Haley.

While it’s pure conjecture that the Steelers’ coaching staff was more comfortable with having a veteran like Pope around in case of an injury to Heath Miller than a second-year guy like Saunders, it does make sense.

Paulson already solidified the No. 2 job and Mike Tomlin absolutely loves Paulson.

I guess that’s all that matters when the decision was made.


Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as three Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa and XLV in Dallas. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug


  1. Clarence says:

    Yeah, but there was a reason why we cut veterans to keep Saunders who was supposed to be a top young talent in the mold of gates of SD. So, if he came in ready to play, why cut him? Unless, we expect him to clear waivers and bring him back onto the Practice squad if that’s possible after being on active roster last year. Seems like another bad move to me.

    I like Mike Tomlin a lot. However, his list of questionable decisions is starting to pile up and not just those during the game:

    His trust in Hood. His statement: “This ain’t your father’s Steelers”, his inability to adjust, his calling a very average player like Mundy our 3rd starter, keeping Hills over Urbik, then cutting Hills, him keeping Curtis Brown, his handling of Bruce Arians (I only question the handling of how he left the team not that he left the team. Also, I was always an advocate of BA adding a bona fide running game to his scheme, not necessarily him getting fired, although I was not angry that he was gone, and do wish him the very best with the Colts), the firing of the special teams coach coupled with the special teams performance getting worse each week, and now cutting Saunders on top of this 2-3 start has me questioning his ability to manage this team.

    I don’t see this as him being on the hot seat as his recent success means he can lead a football team to a championship. However, that was when he was given a championship caliber squad. Now that he has to evaluate players for himself and coach them up to the standard, he seems to be left wanting.

    He has to know that he’s raising eyebrows right now and more people than myself are quietly wondering what’s going on. I only hope there’s a method to his madness. Otherwise… I mean this is the NFL (Not For Long). Prove me wrong Mike! Please!

  2. K2 says:

    The Steelers stink right now… End of a great run (Cowher Era too). It just does not look like Steeler football to me right now. Hard to watch, but I’ll alway root them on!

  3. Bcny says:

    The steelers need to clean house starting with the entire offensive line. Then defensive line, linebackers an a few cb. Running backs, special teams,offensive coordinator, and head coach. The only thing that’s positive is the qb,receivers,and tight ends. Our star safety is no longer a star when hes injured every year. and new rookie talent is only good if there healthy enough to play.This steeler team reminds me of the 80’s steelers team and that’s not good. Please mr Rooney, clean house now.

  4. Clarence says:

    Totally agree K2. I may hate what is going on, but I’ll wear my Black & Gold gear, make my yearly pilgrimage to Pittsburgh to see them play, record them on TV, and wave one of my many terrible towels in their support every game I see. Black & Gold forever!

  5. Poz says:

    I too will continue to wear the same colors that I’ve worn since the very early 70’s. However, all the colors and Terrible Towel twirling won’t make this a better team.

    Though I’m having a few adult beverages, I read again Mr. Kaboly’s article and still cannot understand why Saunders was released, especially after the praise heaped on him.

    Reading the article, one reason Saunders might have been cut is because Tomlin loves Paulson. Tomlin would know. He sees these players every day.

    But I certainly hope this decision is much better than the one to attempt a 54 yard field goal. The failed FG attempt contributed to one loss. If cutting Saunders was the wrong move it could hurt the Steelers for years to come.

  6. Ronk25 says:

    I agree with all of you – especially the end of the Cower era. Now it’s become time to see Tomlin’s skills in selecting & growing players. And, the results so far are VERY, VERY UGLY. And yes K2, they are excepionally painful team (Coaches & Players included) to watch. Tomlin has failed miserably & simply doesn;t have this team ready to compete. They are constantly hurt because 1) They are old 2) Without proper conditioning and 3) Absorbing versus delivering the hits. And, I don’t see it getting much better if Mr Rooney stays the course.

  7. zarbor says:

    Unless Saunders did something detrimental to the team, releasing him was a big mistake. There is no way you can tell me that Paulson or Pope has more upside than Saunders. I don’t believe. I personally believe this was a Haley decision.

    I also agree that Tomlin’s choices have been questionable. I still like the guy but to me there is no bigger issue than the lack of physicality that this team seem to missing since he’s been the coach. No, I’m not talking Harrison type plays.

    I’m referring to the trenches. The o-line plays weak and instead of imposing their will, they are being dominated and pushed around, hence all the injuries. The D-line is no better. Casey is done and Kiesel should be a part time player. Hood and Timmons are playmakers for the high draft picks.

    Anyone find it interesting that the guy who left us to be Arizona’s defensive coach is having great success?

  8. zarbor says:

    Hood and Timmons are NOT playmakers for thier high draft picks.

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