I was late to review the Hall of Fame game thanks to issues getting Game Pass sorted out, so my post-HOF game roster prediction came a bit late as we.. There were a few changes, though only one on offense. A couple of injuries settled certain things. I’ve also finally jumped on the 10 linebackers theory, though I stand strong on the belief that the team will continue to carry three quarterbacks. The practice squad was particularly fun to sort out this time, and the last spot or two could have gone in a number of directions.
Quarterback (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
Analysis: No changes. The Steelers are challenging Jones to keep his roster spot this season because they need him to. I saw progress in the Hall of Fame game, enough to keep him on the roster until I see more tonight and in the last three games.
Running backs (3) – DeAngelo Williams, Dri Archer, Josh Harris
Analysis: No changes. The two rookie running backs that the Steelers signed after the draft have already been waived with injuries.
Fullback (1) – Will Johnson
Analysis: No changes. In fact, the same analysis from last time sticks: there really is no meaningful competition, and his contributions as a tight end are equally important.
Wide Receiver (5) – Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Analysis: No changes. Eli Rogers probably had the best shot of taking up a sixth spot, but he’s gone, as is Devin Gardner.
Tight End (3) – Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jesse James
Analysis: No changes. James had a pretty rough first game that was put into better context with the news that he was dealing with the death of a close friend in the days leading into the event. He will rebound. Plus, there’s not much competition here either.
Tackle (4) – Kelvin Beachum, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Alejandro Villanueva
Analysis: No changes. Villanueva, overall, was pretty impressive in pass protection during the preseason opener, where his size was readily apparent. Again, Adams’ injury only makes it even more likely that they carry four tackles.
Guard (3) – Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Chris Hubbard
Analysis: One change. I’m torn, however, because Hubbard struggled a lot in the first preseason game. I originally had Miles Dieffenbach on the 53-man roster.
Center (2) – Maurkice Pouncey, Cody Wallace
Analysis: No changes. Wallace showed about what you would expect out of him in the preseason opener, and was by far the best interior lineman outside of DeCastro.
Defensive End (4) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Cam Thomas, L.T. Walton
Analysis: One change. Thomas would be on my 53-man roster right now regardless of the situation with Clifton Geathers. I broke him down in the preseason opener, and he showed significant improvement over last year, with his first step in particular being readily evident and leading to more one-on-one victories. His versatility is also a factor. Walton remains the fourth defensive end as the member of the group with the most upside.
Nose Tackle (2) – Steve McLendon, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: No changes. McCullers will play when he gets healthy, of course, but Thomas showed that he can be trusted inside as well, and the Steelers value carrying a third body at nose tackle with a versatile player.
Outside Linebacker (5) – Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo
Analysis: One change. I had Howard Jones making the roster over Chickillo prior to training camp because I thought he had the most upside with that athleticism, but I’m still waiting for him to put it together. I just got a chance to look through Chickillo’s tape from the first game, and it made this call for me. He was active on all special teams unit except for field goal attempts, which is key.
Inside Linebacker (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin
Analysis: One change. While I struggle with the idea that the Steelers would actually carry 10 linebackers, I think that the talent will dictate that they do it. What swung the vote for me was watching Garvin play on defense in the preseason opener. He looks bigger and plays with instincts. His value on special teams is already more than evident. So he gets his roster spot back from me.
Cornerback (6) – William Gay, Cortez Allen, Antwon Blake, Brandon Boykin, Doran Grant, B.W. Webb
Analysis: One change. Obviously the acquisition of Boykin changes things. I expect Senquez Golson to be on injured reserve, otherwise it’s Webb out of a roster spot. Kevin Fogg had a good first game, however, including, notably, making the tackle on the blown punt coverage.
Safety (4) – Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden
Analysis: One change. I had to make a sacrifice somewhere, and I have Ross Ventrone losing his spot. It didn’t help matters that he got injured early in camp. Because both Garvin and Chickillo look like they can play on defense, I have the lost couple of roster spots going to these linebackers.
Kicker (1) – Garrett Hartley
Analysis: One change. Doesn’t require an explanation.
Punter (1) – Brad Wing
Analysis: No changes. Jordan Berry showed off a big leg with good hang time in the preseason opener, but I need to see more.
Long Snapper (1) – Greg Warren
Analysis: No change. No competition.
Reserve/Suspended (1) – Le’Veon Bell
Analysis: He is suspended, after all.
Practice Squad (10) – Jawon Chisholm, C.J. Goodwin, Shakim Phillips, Ross Ventrone, Cameron Clear, B.J. Finney, Gerod Holliman, Ethan Hemer, Kevin Fogg, Mitchell Van Dyk
Analysis: Six changes. Chisholm replaces Ross Scheuerman as the back on the practice squad, Phillips replaces Rogers.
Surprise! Ventrone still has practice squad eligibility. He only has two accrued NFL seasons, and only two accrued practice squad seasons after the rules changes of last year. An accrued season on the practice squad is six weeks; he was promoted after Week Five last year.
Clear is the only option for the practice squad tight end. Finney’s versatility edges Dieffenbach for now. Hemer has shown the most among the defensive ends. Fogg was a hard cut as it is, while Van Dyk gets a spot because of Adams’ injury, because he can play inside and outside, and because he actually looked halfway decent.
Yes, for now, I still have the Steelers holding on to Holliman’s upside. Between the 53 and the practice squad, that’s 13 defensive backs.