It’s now the beginning of June, and we’ve already gotten some of our first glimpses of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers roster through the first round of OTAs. I don’t expect that the Steelers will add anybody new, but if they do, it will be dealt with then. Now, it’s time to start exploring how the regular season roster will take shape, so here’s an OTA edition roster projection.
Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
Running Back (4): Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer, Will Johnson
Wide Receiver (5): Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant, Justin Brown
Tight Ends (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Rob Blanchflower
Offensive Line (9): Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Cody Wallace, Guy Whimper, Wesley Johnson
Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt, Brian Arnfelt, Daniel McCullers
Linebacker (9): Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, Chris Carter, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Arthur Moats, Jordan Zumwalt
Secondary (10): Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, William Gay, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden, Antwon Blake, Shaquille Richardson
Specialists (3): Greg Warren, Shaun Suisham, Adam Podlesh
Wildcard (1): Darrius Heyward-Bey OR David Paulson OR Brice McCain
This is how I see the roster unfolding as we move on. Of course, the vast majority of it isn’t full of too many surprises. The quarterback position, as it typically is, is quite safe, for example.
One possible point of interest is that I see all nine draft picks making the final roster. The biggest question marks in that area would be Daniel McCullers due to his raw mechanics, Jordan Zumwalt due to his time off, and Shaquille Richardson and Rob Blanchflower due to the potential numbers at their positions.
The Steelers typically carry just about any free agent player that they sign, so it may be surprising that I have both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brice McCain potentially missing the roster. But the Steelers rarely sign as many free agents as they have this year, and even with the amount of turnover they’ve experienced, it’s difficult to get everybody a spot.
Some more general comments:
Mike Tomlin said that he could do with two backs what most teams do with three. I take him at his word. The inclusion of Dri Archer limits the need for Heyward-Bey as Justin Brown beats him out for the fifth receiver spot.
With Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth back healthy, the impulse to carry four tight ends is drastically reduced. Rob Blanchflower proves that he’s a more well-rounded player than either David Paulson or Michael Palmer. Paulson has a chance to make it as a fourth tight end if he performs well on special teams, as Tomlin still hangs on to his belief in him.
With Cody Wallace and the loser of the tackle battles ready-made as game day reserves, and Guy Whimper and his flexibility on board, the Steelers can afford to carry Wesley Johnson as a ninth lineman. He has the ability and wherewithal to play this season, but could stand to bulk up some.
Brian Arnfelt was already on the roster last season before they booted three of their top four defensive ends. Because defensive linemen don’t contribute much on special teams, however, they continue to carry just six of them with all being healthy. McCullers is a game day inactive with Cam Thomas having the ability to play nose tackle—when the Steelers are not in sub-packages.
The Steelers have lots of inside linebackers, and they take advantage of the depth of one of the prime special teams spots. On the outside, the team is more comfortable than many would like them to be, but they go with Arthur Moats and Chris Carter there for depth. Jordan Zumwalt and Terence Garvin fight a close battle for the last spot, and Zumwalt’s long-term potential wins out.
Pittsburgh would like to carry more defensive backs if they could—and they might, with McCain. The depth here is too valuable to special teams with the likes of Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, and Antwon Blake.
McCain has to earn an 11th defensive back spot that way, unless the Steelers are willing to dump Will Allen, which they don’t appear ready to do. Richardson has a relationship with Carnell Lake and is about three inches taller than his nearest competitors.