Dave, Alex, and Matthew have already offered you their 53-man roster predictions this weekend, so in the spirit of fun and competition, I felt it imperative to provide you with my own thoughts on the matter.
I’ll be at all 18 training camp practices with Alex, prepared to give you the best Steelers content out there. A hearty thank you to everyone who donated to the training camp fund and follow our coverage of the franchise closely. Extremely grateful to all of you.
Feel free to offer your own thoughts and predictions in the comment section below. And, yes, if this time of year doesn’t make you tingle a bit, you might wanna check your pulse.
Quarterbacks (2) – Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski
Analysis: With Gradkowski starting camp on the PUP list, it is now or never for Landry Jones. He’ll get every opportunity to prove he’s worthy of a roster spot, but it is a query I think we all know the unfortunate answer to already. Pittsburgh could easily remain stubborn in their course and elect to keep Jones around for security purposes, but I think this is finally the offseason they say they’ve had enough.
Running Backs (3*) – DeAngelo Williams, Dri Archer, Josh Harris
Analysis: I’ve been vocal about my affinity for Ross Scheuerman due to his ability to help a team in multiple ways as a rusher, receiver, and on special teams. Despite Scheuerman’s diverse attributes, the Steelers coaching staff seems to like the hard-working Harris, who likely won’t be unseated just yet. Archer needs to prove himself this offseason.
Fullbacks (1) – Will Johnson
Analysis: An obvious choice, no real challenger should arise for Johnson, who can be used in a variety of ways by offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Wide Receivers (5) – Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates
Analysis: This one wasn’t difficult, although I’m very anxious to see Devin Gardner, Eli Rogers, and C.J. Goodwin in action. I’d part with Heyward-Bey in a heartbeat, but Pittsburgh seems to value his special teams contributions more than I do.
Tight Ends (3) – Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jesse James
Analysis: I don’t think any other tight end competitors have a shot at a roster spot, as this trio seems unlikely to give up much ground during camp. Rob Blanchflower and Michael Egnew will get opportunities, but their best hope for an NFL career lies elsewhere.
Offensive Linemen (9) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard, Mike Adams, B.J. Finney
Analysis: The real question mark is how long Adams’ injury prevents him from being a member of the active roster. Right now he’s slated to be out at least a month, but much longer and Pittsburgh might be forced to roster Alejandro Villanueva or Kelvin Palmer, the likeliest two offensive tackle candidates in my opinion. I like Hubbard and Finney’s chances at the backup guard spots, but Wallace’s versatility could make the latter expendable.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Steve McLendon, Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Daniel McCullers, Clifton Geathers, Ethan Hemer
Analysis: See ya Cam Thomas, we hardly knew ya. Geathers has shed weight and could be at a career crossroads, which should instill added incentive to make the roster. Hemer is an average athlete, but plays hard and has top-notch length for the position. On most rosters he wouldn’t make it, but the Steelers lack of depth should open up a quality opportunity for the former walk-on.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Terence Garvin
Analysis: A year ago I might have picked Jordan Zumwalt here, but the versatile linebacker is now firmly behind Spence and Williams, while Garvin should maintain an edge based on special teams prowess.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Howard Jones
Analysis: Ultimately I think Howard Jones is a long shot to make the final 53, but I wanted to be adventurous with this wild card spot. Jones is an athletic freak who can star on special teams, and showed a knack for the big play last preseason. A fifth outside linebacker is unlikely to see the field very often defensively, but Jones’ versatility to rush from a two or three-point stance could be utilized in pass rushing situations as well. Anthony Chickillo needs time to adjust to a new position, and Shawn Lemon’s injury could hold him back to begin training camp.
Cornerbacks (6) – Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, B.W. Webb
Analysis: No surprises here, although Webb will likely be one of the last additions to the final roster.
Safeties (5) – Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden, Ross Ventrone
Analysis: Ventrone and Golden should help anchor an impressive special teams unit, while Allen hangs on to the backup strong safety spot due to a lack of alternative options. Side-note, but Thomas is the player I’m most looking forward to watching this year at camp.
Kicker (1) – Shaun Suisham
Analysis: No competition for Suisham makes him a shoo-in once again.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: He can’t be worse than Brad Wing…right?
Long Snapper (1) – Greg Warren
Analysis: The lone long snapper at camp, Warren’s spot appears to be safe again.
Reserve/Suspended (1) – Le’Veon Bell
Practice Squad (10) – Tajh Boyd, Ross Scheuerman, Eli Rogers, Shawn Lemon, Anthony Chickillo, L.T. Walton, Alejandro Villanueva, Gerod Holliman, Kelvin Palmer, Cameron Clear
Analysis: If you follow my work, you know I’m low on Clear and Holliman, but both have mild upside, and the Steelers front office will want to give them this opportunity. Boyd will provide a new dimension with his legs offensively if called upon, and Rogers is my sneaky pick to have a strong camp.
Lemon’s achilles injury could slow his learning process, but he’ll be a key aspect of the practice squad. Walton and Villanueva are raw, while Chickillo needs time to master outside linebacker and adjust to playing at a lighter weight. No rationale for Palmer, just think he has untapped versatility, can play both tackle spots, and might display some nice second-level blocking in the run game.