There’s still a lot of left over excitement about the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 draft class and on Tuesday eight of those nine players will take to the field once again as the second set of OTA practices get underway. History has shown, however, that all nine won’t make the final 53 man roster out of training camp.
Baring injury, I think many of you will agree that the Steelers top four draft picks, Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Dri Archer and Martavis Bryant will all make the final 53 man roster. In addition, fifth-round cornerback Shaquille Richardson better make it as well or else there will be quite a few questions that will need to be answered if yet another drafted cornerback fails to do so for a third consecutive year.
Are we in agreement so far?
If we are, that leaves us with four players of which at least one won’t make the Steelers final 53. Here are my thoughts on those four players and their chances.
Wesley Johnson – Due to Johnson having position flexibility and combined with the fact that guard Nik Embernate has already being waived, you really have to like Johnson’s chances right now of making the final 53 man roster. If he can show that he can play guard in addition to right tackle, then Guy Whimper is the only player that stands in his way. Whimper is already 31-years-old, so Johnson should be able to win that battle.
Jordan Zumwalt – When a late-round pick such as Zumwalt is unable to attend OTA practices, that certainly can’t help the cause. The Steelers appear set to test Zumwalt’s position flexibility at both the inside and outside linebacker positions during training camp, but his path to the final 53 will likely run through the office of special teams coach Danny Smith. Zumwalt’s biggest competition could very well come from young linebackers Sean Spence and Terence Garvin. Garvin appears to have already proven himself to Smith and Spence’s journey back from his knee injury appears to be on course. I wouldn’t rush out and buy a Zumwalt jersey just yet.
Daniel McCullers – McCullers appears to be the most polarizing of the Steelers late-round draft picks. In my opinion, him already being considered a virtual roster lock by many is way premature. With reports starting to surface that defensive end Brett Keisel might be re-signed over the course of the next few weeks, it won’t help McCullers’ cause should that wind up being the course of action. Remember, the team signed Cam Thomas because he can play nose tackle in addition to defensive end and while Hebron Fangupo is by no means the future at the nose tackle position, the team did see enough in him to warrant keeping him over Alameda Ta’amu last year.
Rob Blanchflower – Of the four players on this list, Blanchflower might just have the second easiest path to the final 53 man roster of the bunch behind Johnson. Let’s face it, the Steelers are going to at least keep three tight ends, so that leaves Blanchflower needing to beat out David Paulson and Michael Palmer. As long as Blanchflower can show his worth on special teams during the offseason, you really have to like his chances.
Assuming that at least one of these four won’t make the final 53, who do you see as the least likeliest?