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Steelers cut OL Trai Essex, P Jeremy Kapinos

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PITTSBURGH (AP)

Charlie Batch's prediction came true.

The 37-year-old backup quarterback survived the Steelers' final round of cuts Friday, assuring the Pittsburgh native of a 15th NFL season. The move came less than 24 hours after Batch passed for 102 yards and a touchdown in a preseason victory over Carolina.

Batch said afterward ''I totally expect to be sitting in the meeting Monday morning.'' He'll be there alongside Byron Leftwich as the backups to starter Ben Roethlisberger.

Veteran offensive lineman Trai Essex and punter Jeremy Kapinos will not be there, however, after the two were among the 21 players released as the Steelers pared their roster to 53.

Essex played 76 games over seven seasons with Pittsburgh, including 28 starts. He saw action in all 16 games a year ago as part of a patchwork line that struggled at times to protect Roethlisberger. The Steelers revamped the line during the offseason, drafting guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams and re-signing tackle Max Starks in July.

Kapinos, who split punting duties with Daniel Sepulveda the last two seasons, was bothered by a lingering back injury during training camp and did not punt in any of the team's four exhibition games. Rookie Drew Butler shined in Kapinos' absence, averaging 45.1 yards on 28 kicks during the preseason.

Other notable cuts included defensive back Damon Cromartie-Smith, defensive lineman Corbin Bryant and wide receiver David Gilreath, a seventh-round selection in the April draft. The Steelers also let go second-year quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who was in a spirited battle with Batch for the team's third quarterback spot all camp.

Johnson, statistically, had the slightly better preseason. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and his mobility and size (6-foot-5) impressed the team's coaching staff. Batch went 18 of 24 for 186 yards and a score in three games, saving his best for last.

Knowing he needed to show he had a handle on new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's system, Batch was superb during one half of play against the Panthers. He missed only three of his 14 passes and lofted a pretty 37-yard strike to Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown on the game's first possession.

''It seems like over the years, this game dictated whether I was going to be around,'' Batch said. ''Any time it's the first team guys watching and the coaches evaluating, these are things you've got to be ready for. To go down there and put points on the board, those are things that coach wants to see. At the end of the day, as a player, you just want to make the decision tough for them. I think I did.''

If the cut players clear waivers, there's a chance some of them could be re-signed to the practice squad on Saturday.

Pittsburgh also placed linebacker Sean Spence on injured reserve after the third-round pick out of Miami (Fla.) tore ligaments in his left knee in the third quarter against Carolina.

The Steelers have not placed DeCastro on the injured list yet, however. The 24th overall pick in the draft injured his right knee in a preseason win at Buffalo last Saturday. He underwent what coach Mike Tomlin called ''successful'' surgery.

The team has not set any timetable on DeCastro's return, but they could put him on the injured reserve next week then activate him later in the season under a new agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association that allows each team to place one player on the injured list then activate him after eight weeks have passed.

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Follow Will Graves on Twitter at www.twitter.comWillGravesAP

Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Steelers, Charlie Batch, Trai Essex, Jeremy Kapinos, David DeCastro

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