By Alex Kozora
My third attempt at projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53 man roster. We’re gaining a little more clarity but for now, some situations are still fluid.
Feel free to add in with your input below.
Quarterbacks (2) – Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski
Analysis: I’m nothing if not stubborn. Landry Jones has put together a couple nice practices and I’m slightly starting to come around to him. But still, the principle of the issue is a roster spot is better served for a guy who could contribute as opposed to one who will definitely be holding a clip board all year. Jones can be stashed on the practice squad. No one is going to pick up a guy who has never taken an NFL snap.
Running Backs (4) – Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer, Tauren Poole
Analysis: Although there is not a clear favorite, it still feels unlikely the team would carry just three running backs, something they’ve only done once since 2008. Ideally, the 4th running back would also be apt in blitz pickup and as a receiver, and the former is an area Poole struggled in Saturday. Josh Harris may have usurped him in practice but Poole carries more weight as a special teamer. He was the upback for the entire game.
Fullbacks (1) – Will Johnson
Analysis: Call him a fullback, an H-Back, tight end, it doesn’t really matter. Johnson will line up everywhere this year.
Wide Receivers (5)– Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant
Analysis: The one difference from last time is the removal of Darrius Heyward-Bey. Pretty obvious his chances to make the team are slim. Dealt with a concussion and when he has been healthy, he’s been running as the #7 WR behind Derek Moye and the five above. Expect Justin Brown to get a helmer over Bryant if it comes down to keep four on game day.
Tight Ends (3) – Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, David Paulson
Analysis: Putting David Paulson on the roster gives me slight indigestion but no one else has made a case for this spot. The team will not keep just two “true” tight ends. Paulson at least has experience in the system and has made a couple of plays in camp and in Saturday’s game.
Offensive Line (9) – Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Guy Whimper, Mike Adams, Cody Wallace, Wesley Johnson
Analysis: Not going to change anything here. I think Dave Bryan makes a good point about at least entertaining the idea of keeping Bryant Browning on the 53. He might be playing the best out of any of the backups. Whimper gets the last spot by virtue of being able to play four positions. If you keep a player like Browning, you would have only one backup RT. Versatility is critical for the Steelers and it’s not like anyone’s talent is vaulting them onto the roster.
Defensive Lineman (6) – Cameron Heyward, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt, Steve McLendon, Josh Mauro, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: Wrote last time this would be a tough group to project, and it has been. Making two changes for this edition. Kicking Roy Philon and Brian Arnfelt off my 53. Mauro and McCullers replace them. Mauro has been running as the second-team right end since last Thursday and has looked quicker off the ball than I expected. McCullers has shown real potential. Although he won’t see time at nose tackle, and could be inactive most games, I’m intrigued by the idea of him being used as a subpackage defensive end who can collapse the pocket.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin
Analysis: I said Sean Spence needed to show me he was healthy and he clearly is. Goes on the 53 in a heartbeat. No room for Zumwalt, who has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t shown value on special teams.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Chris Carter, Howard Jones
Analysis: Jones gets my final roster spot, replacing DHB. Does make this group heavy but pretty much virtually anywhere I add will make them heavy. We’ve done this song and dance with guys like Adrian Robinson and Alan Baxter before, but maybe this is the year a rookie pass rusher can finally latch onto the 53.
Cornerbacks (5) – Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, Brice McCain
Analysis: Nothing changing here. McCain has been used on first team kick coverage, played before Shaq Richardson, and can play in the slot and on the outside. I still see Richardson as having to climb past Devin Smith before he even thinks about threatening McCain’s spot. Still could change though.
Safety (5) – Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden
Analysis: No differences here either. Still a strength of this team. Don’t see how anyone is going to get cut. Golden is the upback and Will Allen is a Tomlin favorite who has gotten most reps over Shamarko Thomas.
Kicker (1) – Shaun Suisham
Analysis: No explanation needed.
Punter (1) – Brad Wing
Analysis: Winning by default, of course. Still no guarantee Wing will get the job. If he isn’t up to snuff, the team could pluck somebody off the streets like they did last year with Zoltan Mesko.
Long Snapper (1) – Andrew Economos
Analysis: Mike Tomlin sure made Greg Warren’s injury sound ominous. Just taking a stab here. Likely to assume UDFA Bryce Davis will not be this team’s long-snapper. Tomlin left Tampa Bay one year before Economos arrived, but I’m sure he has some connections with coaches who can fill him in. Economos long-snapped for Tampa from 2006 to 2013.
Practice Squad (8) –Rob Blanchflower, Jordan Dangerfield, Chris Elkins, Josh Harris, Ethan Hemer, Landry Jones, Shaq Richardson, Jordan Zumwalt
Analysis: Three rookies don’t make the roster. Elkins can play center and guard and looked the most technically sound Saturday. Waters versus Blanchflower is close but the team will remember the hope they had when drafting Blanchflower. Dangerfield’s impactful hits earn him a spot.
2014 Steelers 53 Man Roster Prediction Training Camp
|PRACTICE SQUAD (8)|