Just one opportunity remains for the Pittsburgh Steelers bubble players to prove themselves worthy of a 53-man roster spot, an opportunity that will come tomorrow night when Pittsburgh hosts the Carolina Panthers in their final preseason game. None of the players I predicted to make the 53-man squad were cut in the team’s first roster trimmings this past Monday, but there are a few minor tweaks I’ll make to my last prediction before the Steelers finalize their roster this weekend.
Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Landry Jones
Analysis: (No Change) After an eventful offseason surrounding the backup quarterback spots, this group is finally set in stone. Vick looked good against the Buffalo Bills, and should have plenty of opportunity to play against Carolina and solidify his spot on the depth chart.
Running Backs (4): DeAngelo Williams, Josh Harris, Will Johnson, Dri Archer
Analysis: (No Changes) Josh Harris was awful against Buffalo in his return from injury, but the team simply doesn’t have a better option while Le’Veon Bell is suspended. It is possible that Pittsburgh could cut ties with Harris and look to the waiver wire to replace him this weekend, but I think he’d really have to tank tomorrow night to achieve such a fate.
Wide Receivers (5): Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, Tyler Murphy
Analysis: (No Change) Murphy will likely be waived when Martavis Bryant returns to the active roster, but I think he’s got a slight lead on Shakim Phillips for the final roster spot.
Tight Ends (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jesse James
Analysis: (No Changes) This group is absolutely locked in, but the team may cut someone at another position to be able to add a tight end to the practice squad.
Offensive Line (9): Kelvin Beachum, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Cody Wallace, Doug Legursky, B.J. Finney, Alejandro Villanueva, Ninth OL Off Waivers
Analysis: (One Change) I added one spot here, as I think the team will ultimately decide to go with nine offensive linemen, but still cut Chris Hubbard to make room for the new addition. I expect a veteran with some versatility to be added, but it will really depend on what names are out there on September 5th.
Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Steve McLendon, Daniel McCullers, Cam Thomas, L.T. Walton
Analysis: (No Change) Walton getting the start in place of Tuitt likely sealed up any remaining controversy surrounding his roster spot, as the defensive end continues to show growth and progress this offseason.
Outside Linebackers (5): Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo
Analysis: (No Change) Chickillo got an opportunity to face the Bills starting offensive line and performed admirably. He’s more than proven his worth to be among the final 53 players Pittsburgh retains to their roster.
Inside Linebackers (5): Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin
Analysis: (No Change) As locked in as a positional group can be on this roster. It should be noted that I think L.J. Fort has played really well, while Garvin struggled on Saturday. Regardless, Garvin has had a fine preseason and will retain this spot with ease.
Cornerbacks (6): William Gay, Cortez Allen, Brandon Boykin, Antwon Blake, B.W. Webb, Doran Grant
Analysis: (No Change) Kevin Fogg didn’t have his best outing against Buffalo, but he and Webb will be under the spotlight tomorrow night. Both should get plenty of playing time with Jordan Sullen cut loose, meaning the final cornerback spot could come right down to the wire.
Safeties (4): Shamarko Thomas, Mike Mitchell, Will Allen, Robert Golden
Analysis: (One Change) It was a tough call, but ultimately I thought about Alden Darby’s preseason and I’m just not sure the guy has made enough plays to stick on the final roster. He’s undersized and an average athlete, and Saturday revealed some of his limitations in coverage. Darby is tough as nails and plays the game hard, but I’m just not sure he’s talented enough to avoid the last round of cuts.
Special Teams (3): Jordan Berry, Josh Scobee, Greg Warren
Analysis: (One Change) I’ve flip-flopped again on the punters, going back to my original prediction that Berry makes the team over Brad Wing. I’m angry at myself for not continuing to go with my gut on this one, but the competition has been incredibly back-and-forth after a slow start to camp by Berry. The team kept both punters for tomorrow night for a reason; they haven’t made up their minds yet either. How each player performs under pressure against Carolina could decide their NFL fate.
Reserve/Suspended: Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant
Reserve/PUP: Mike Adams
IR/Designated to Return: C Maurkice Pouncey
Practice Squad (10): WR Shakim Phillips, CB Kevin Fogg, DE Ethan Hemer, OT/OG Mitchell Van Dyk, OLB Howard Jones, S/LB Ian Wild, WR C.J. Goodwin, RB Jawon Chisholm, DE Joe Kruger, S Alden Darby
Analysis: (One Change) I replaced Cameron Clear with Darby on the practice squad for now, but there is a good chance that someone gets cut loose to make space for a tight end among this group. Van Dyk is also the only offensive lineman I have making the practice squad, so additions there are possible too, especially if the team keeps just eight on the 53-man roster.