By Alex Kozora
My second crack at projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers 53 man roster. Something I’m sure we can all look back at and make fun of in a few weeks.
If you listened to me on The Terrible Podcast, you already know my roster. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.
Couple of things I want to preface with before I start listing my 53.
This is all very fluid and subject to change. Once I start watching practice and more importantly, evaluating games, my opinion is going to change. Common sense, but still something worth pointing out.
As I said in on the podcast, I wanted to leave two rookies off the 53. This roughly matches the 75% clip Mike Tomlin has in his tenure.
With that in mind, your 53.
Quarterbacks (2) – Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski
Analysis: It may be a shock to carry just two quarterbacks but that is the growing trend in the NFL. It’s extremely unlikely Jones ever becomes starting-material and I’m a staunch believer in signing veterans with game-day experience to be the backup – like Gradkowski – over attempting to groom players like Jones. Jones can be sent to the practice squad, freeing up a roster spot for someone who may actually contribute.
Running Backs (4) – Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer, TBA
Analysis: It seems unlikely the team would carry just three running backs, something they’ve only done once since 2008. Though he’ll have an opportunity, I simply don’t think someone like Alvester Alexander is talented enough to make a 53. It’s obviously hard to speculate who that fourth running back could be. Perhaps the team brings back LaRod Stephens-Howling. Or they pick up a player at the final cutdown. The Detroit Lions’ Mikel Leshoure is a name that comes to mind.
Fullbacks (1) – Will Johnson
Analysis: He may be spending time in meetings with the tight ends, but he’s still a piece of the backfield puzzle to me. Barring something catastrophic, he’ll easily earn his job.
Wide Receivers (6) – Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Brown
Analysis: Heavy at the position, but for the first time in the last couple years, the Steelers have quality depth. Justin Brown squeaks in with the last spot of my 53. Heyward-Bey could excel as a special-teamer and his veteran experience would come in handy should one of the top three go down.
Tight Ends (3) – Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Rob Blanchflower
Analysis: This group feels pretty certain to me although I know Dave Bryan currently has David Paulson penciled in as the fourth tight end. I just can’t live in a world where Paulson makes another roster.
Offensive Line (9) – Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Guy Whimper, Mike Adams, Cody Wallace, Wesley Johnson
Analysis: Analysis: Johnson could be shipped to the practice squad but I keep him on the 53 for now. I’m not high on him but he offers potential value as a swing player. Guy Whimper’s Sunday experience at four positions can’t be overlooked. Mike Adams should be feeling heat on his roster spot. If Mike Munchak can’t work with him, who can?
Defensive Lineman (6) – Cameron Heyward, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt, Steve McLendon, Roy Philon, Brian Arnfelt
Analysis: Tough group to project. Leaving only one “true” nose tackle on here. If McLendon gets hurt, Cam Thomas would become the nose tackle before Hebron Fangupo or Daniel McCullers. Meaning, there isn’t much of a reason to keep the latter two, especially when McCullers can get stashed on the practice squad. Philon is my UDFA sleeper, much like Arnfelt became last year.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Jordan Zumwalt
Analysis: Last spot comes down to Zumwalt vs Sean Spence. If Spence can show he’s close to where he was at pre-injury, the spot is his. But the severity of the knee injury can’t be forgotten, and until I see it, I have to bet against him. Very fluid situation, however.
Outside Linebackers (4) – Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Chris Carter
Analysis: Nothing ground-breaking here. Keep an eye on Vic So’oto. He could push Carter off the roster if he shows value on special teams. At 263 pounds, he interests me. Plus, he’s made 53 man rosters before once earning a helmet with the Green Bay Packers.
Cornerbacks (5) – Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, Brice McCain
Analysis: McCain and Shaquille Richardson will compete for the last spot. Do like having a veteran in McCain at the back end of my roster even if he’s long on talent. Can’t keep getting the knowledge that only one signed free agent has failed to make this team under Kevin Colbert. History sides with McCain.
Safety (5) – Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden
Analysis: A real strength of this team. Thomas can be used as a slot corner in the event of injury, Allen provides a lot of comfort on the back-end of the roster, and Golden shows his worth as the upback. Don’t see how anyone is getting cut.
Kicker (1) – Shaun Suisham
Analysis: It’s going to be a lonely camp for Sushi. Oh, the life of a kicker…
Punter (1) – Brad Wing
Analysis: Your guess is as good as mine. Subject to change once we see these guys actually punt. Wing has a much stronger leg. Can he be consistent?
Long Snapper (1) – Greg Warren
Analysis: The saltine cracker of the roster. Not flashy but certainly not terrible either. Still, he struggled last year. Perhaps Bryce Davis pushes him.
Practice Squad (8) – Daniel McCullers, Shaquille Richardson, Eric Waters, Will Simmons, Howard Jones, Miguel Maysonet, Isaiah Green, Landry Jones
Analysis: Mentioned some of these already. Waters could flash in the preseason with his athleticism but there isn’t any room for him on the 53. Simmons doesn’t fit the scheme but reminds me of Chris Kemoeatu. Big, powerful, and can pull, but limited in pass protection.