The final preseason game is now complete and now it is time to trim the roster down to 53 players for the final time this offseason. I have been all over the map in the previous versions of my final roster prediction and it is easy to understand why when you watch each preseason game 10 times each as you see new things every time through. It is easy to fall in love with certain players from game to game and it will cloud your judgment along the way.
Enough with the setup, here is my final Steelers 2011 53 man roster prediction and the reasoning behind it.
Heading into tonight several had Jonathan Dwyer on the bubble still, but I didn’t. I had seen enough over the weeks that he was a lock. He has turned the corner as far as responsibilities without the football. I have never had a doubt in his ability with the football, only without. If there was any doubt with anyone it was put to rest against the Panthers. He will be inactive on many game days, but would end up on another roster if released.
The offensive line pretty much sorted itself out on its own. Keith Williams and Chris Scott are practice squad material and I think they both have a good shot at clearing waivers. If they don’t, it’s not a huge loss in my opinion. I thought center John Malecki had a good shot at being the next Doug Legursky and had him pegged as practice squad player. With Trai Essex now serving as the emergency center there is no need for Malecki on the practice squad. I will say that Tony Hills and Ramon Foster pretty much got their roster spots because no one challenged them. It would not surprise me if either were released and their position upgraded after the final roster cuts around the league take place. The Steelers could use a better swing guard should one fit the bill.
Thanks to Byron Leftwich injury against the Falcons, the quarterback depth chart filled itself out. Charlie Batch should be the backup and Dennis Dixon will wait until Leftwich is recovered. I think Leftwich will be waived injured with a wink, wink that he can return when he is healthy.
On to the punters and this was really tough to call. Both Daniel Sepulveda and Jeremy Kapinos pretty much punted to a dead heat. Kapinos did out-kick Sepulveda against the Panthers and was the holder on the early extra points and field goals. Sepulveda is such a risk with his knee injury history that I feel that Kapinos is the safe pick here. I likely am reading too much into this position, but Kapinos would not last long on waivers and should Sepulveda go down again the Steelers will be back digging in the scrap heap. Call this a gut feeling.
The next big decision I had was 6 wide receivers, 4 tight ends or 9 linebackers. I had 4 players in the running for 2 roster spots. The players involved were Arnaz Battle, John Gilmore, Wesyle Saunders and Mortty Ivy. Let me start with Saunders first. The kid is talented and has the makings to be a great compliment to Heath Miller as an all-around tight end. He has progressed during the preseason, but still has some work to do, especially in his blocking. That being said, there is no way he clears waivers and makes it to the practice squad. Another team would sign him as their third tight end quickly. He is a keeper and he made my 53. That leaves Gilmore, Battle and Ivy battling for 1 spot. Battle is a specialist only in my eyes. Emmanuel Sanders showed he was healthy against the Panthers and the Steelers have several young corners that can try to fill the shoes of Battle on return teams. He was insurance last year due to the inexperience at that position, but barely saw the field. The new kickoff rule will likely produce a few more touchbacks this year and that lessens the need for Battle even more. He gets released in my opinion and can easily be brought back if he is not signed by another team. That left me with Gilmore and Ivy for one spot. Ivy has played well, but I feel he can be risked to waivers. He would be the 9th linebacker on the roster. I think the Steelers will try to get him and Mario Harvey there. Gilmore makes up for the inexperience of Saunders in my opinion. He has not looked bad in his blocking and has adapted well over the weeks. Bruce Arians likes those 3 tight end sets and Gilmore is added insurance. He plays some special teams so that is a plus as well. Keeping him will allow the Steelers to slowly integrate Saunders into the offense over time. I think he will get a gameday helmet over Saunders initially.
Next up was Chris Hoke versus Steve McLendon. McLendon closed the gap on Hoke this preseason, but I still feel that Hoke offers more in versatility. He showed it last year when Aaron Smith went down. McLendon bounced on and off the roster last year and no team ever bit on him. Maybe they will now, but I think the Steelers try to get him to the practice squad one last time. If he does not make it, Anthony Gray might be signed back instead. Let me say that I have not drunk the Corbin Bryant Kool-Aid that others have been chugging. He is talented, but I think he has a good shot at clearing waivers and making it to the practice squad. Others have called him a priority undrafted free agent that had many suitors, but if that were the case, why did he sign without getting a small signing bonus like many of the other undrafted free agents received from the Steelers? I will be pretty shocked if he makes the 53 man roster.
Lastly were the young cornerbacks. Oh the cornerbacks. They have made my head hurt this preseason. Donovan Warren caught my eye for a little while, but his lack of speed just can’t be ignored. Maybe he ends up on the practice squad, but right now I bet against that even happening. There is a reason he went undrafted and cornerbacks with any real upside do not go undrafted for the most part. Crezdon Butler and Cortez Allen were the other two question marks. Allen finally hit the field against the Panthers and put enough good down on tape that I do not think the Steelers can risk sliding him to the practice squad after investing a fourth-round pick in him. It would have been easier if he had bombed or not played at all. The raw talent is there and I see him spending several weeks on the inactive list this season as he makes up for lost time. Butler showed enough over the last two games to stick as well. It is too early to give up on him and he can help fill the role that Battle played on special teams. In all I have the Steelers keeping 7 cornerbacks.
I mentioned Williams, Scott, McLendon, Bryant, Ivy and Harvey as 6 of my 8 practice squad guys, so that leaves 2 spots left to fill. I think Da\’Mon Cromartie-Smith has a good shot to return there this year with Tyler Grisham getting the other spot. I do think however that another team might think long and hard about claiming Grisham off waivers and if that is indeed the case, I see Wes Lyons as the alternative.
There you have it, below is my final 53 man roster projection and prediction of the 2011 Steelers.
2011 Steelers Final 53 Man Roster Prediction 5.0 Version – FINAL
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