I’ll follow in Dave Bryan’s footsteps and present my far-too-early 53 man roster predictions. In the spirit, I’ll throw in a wild guess at a ten man practice squad, too.
Ours will look similar with there realistically being only 5-7 “open” spots on the roster. But there are still some key differences between the two.
I’ll likely make another attempt right before training camp.
Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
Analysis: Only one player is worth debating on here. While I would love for this team to carry just two quarterbacks, it’s likely going to take Jones flopping in camp for the team to cut ties. So until I see it, I’ll go with what history tells me.
Running Backs (3): Le’veon Bell (Suspension list) DeAngelo Williams, Dri Archer, Josh Harris
Analysis: Remember Bell’s suspension means he won’t count against the 53 man roster but I’ll list him here so fans don’t freak out. With him temporarily out of the mix, it makes any battles much less interesting. Still maintain Archer is closer to being off the roster than some think while Harris is more secure than conventional wisdom.
Fullback (1): Will Johnson
Analysis: The Swiss Army knife of the team, Johnson’s roster spot is secure.
Tight Ends (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jesse James
Analysis: Find it very unlikely the team keeps four tight ends. Comes down to a battle between James and Rob Blanchflower. This year’s fifth rounder does not have a spot locked up but on paper, his draft status and size makes him a more appealing prospect.
Wide Receivers (5): Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates
Analysis: DHB’s special teams’ value is going to be hard to knock him off. His speed screws with opponent’s blocking schemes on kick returns and there’s a lot of hidden value in that. Was tempted to put C.J. Goodwin on here but can’t bring myself to throwing a sixth receiver on or replacing Heyward-Bey entirely.
Offensive Linemen (9): Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Cody Wallace, Mike Adams, B.J. Finney, Alejandro Villanueva
Analysis: Villanueva was the last guy on my 53 and he could be the first to go after Bell’s return. Nine is on the high-end of things but there is some good talent lurking with him and Finney. The former has really grown into his body and the latter has some underrated versatility.
Defensive Ends (4): Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Clifton Geathers, Matt Conrath
Analysis: This is where we start to see some surprises. I didn’t do these to please the Cam Thomas critics. He had added value following his signing due to the team’s uncertainty at nose tackle. The idea being Thomas was versatile to playing either. Daniel McCullers’ ascension helps ease the concerns at the position. I don’t want to get too caught up in John Mitchell’s admission that he asked for Geathers back but it obviously helps. Conrath has NFL experience, giving the team added comfort in releasing Thomas.
The situations weren’t exactly the same but remember how Brian Arnfelt completely fell off the map in camp last year? Could happen to Thomas.
Nose Tackle (2): Steve McLendon, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: Pretty simple here. McCullers has proven he has a place in the NFL, even if we have no idea how high that ceiling can go.
Outside Linebackers (4): James Harrison, Arthur Moats, Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones
Analysis: Outside chance someone like Anthony Chickillo makes it but having ten linebackers would be very heavy. Someone is going to have to really play their way on. These four are obviously locks.
Inside Linebackers (5): Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin
Analysis: Chalk all around. Garvin may be the only one whose spot isn’t completely sturdy but I find it hard to believe a tone-setter like him is going to be left off. And for who?
Cornerbacks (6): William Gay, Cortez Allen, Antwon Blake, Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, B.W. Webb
Analysis: First five here are locks. If the team is going to choose to be heavy anywhere on this defense, it’ll be in the secondary. Webb resumes his role as that player you forget they have.
Safeties (5): Mike Mitchell, Will Allen, Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Gerod Holliman
Analysis: Until I see someone else get consistent upback reps at camp, Golden’s spot is safe. I’ve ridden Holliman as much as anyone, but the team has to know he’s a project, and the more time he spends on an NFL roster, the quicker we’ll be able to evaluate if he’s willing to run and tackle.
I love Ross Ventrone as much as anyone on this planet, but he was a casualty to the final cuts last year. His spot is never secure.
Kicker (1): Shaun Suisham
Analysis: None needed.
Punter (1): Jordan Berry
Analysis: Some needed. I’ll stick my neck out. Maybe I fell in love with his story and penchant for fake punts too much. But it’s not like Brad Wing has a long leash, either.
Long Snapper (1): Greg Warren
Analysis: I’ve bet against him in the past. Never again.
Practice Squad (10): Ross Scheuerman, Cameron Clear , C.J. Goodwin, Tyler Murphy, Kevin Whimpey, L.T. Walton, Anthony Chickillo, Howard Jones, Jordan Zumwalt, Alden Darby
Analysis: With the increase of practice squad spots, there’s only one season of information as to how often the team will react. They doubled up at two positions in 2014 and I’ll follow that outline as my guide in shaping the 2015 squad.
If the team is going to be careful with Harrison’s in-game reps, you can be sure they’ll limit him in practices, too. Two outside linebackers are a must. Shawn Lemon gets a bit of a raw deal. I just don’t see the team keeping ten linebackers and I don’t think they are going to put a 26 year old on the practice squad.