The Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster is down to 75. With the final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, the majority of starters will not play. This creates a unique challenge to the preseason, forcing each team to play with a regular season roster. We’ll go through the roster, figure out who isn’t playing, and who you can expect to see a lot of Thursday evening.
The players with an asterisk next to them denotes someone I wouldn’t expect to play, or play very little, tomorrow.
Steelers 75 Man Roster
Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger*, Michael Vick, Landry Jones
Running Back – Le’Veon Bell*, DeAngelo Williams*, Josh Harris, Dri Archer, Jawon Chisholm
Fullback – Will Johnson, Roosevelt Nix
Tight End – Heath Miller*, Matt Spaeth*, Jesse James
Wide Receiver – Antonio Brown*, Markus Wheaton*, Martavis Bryant*, Darrius Heyward-Bey*, Sammie Coates, Tyler Murphy, Shakim Phillips, Jarrod West
Offensive Tackle – Kelvin Beachum*, Marcus Gilbert*, Alejandro Villanueva, Mitchell Van Dyk, Kelvin Palmer
Offensive Guard/Center – Maurkice Pouncey*, Ramon Foster*, David DeCastro*, Cody Wallace*, Doug Legursky, B.J. Finney, Chris Hubbard, Reese Dismukes
Defensive End – Cameron Heyward*, Stephon Tuitt*, Cam Thomas, L.T. Walton, Ethan Hemer, Matt Conrath
Nose Tackle – Steve McLendon*, Daniel McCullers, Mike Thornton
Outside Linebackers – James Harrison*, Arthur Moats*, Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Howard Jones, Shayon Green
Inside Linebackers – Lawrence Timmons*, Ryan Shazier*, Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Terence Garvin, L.J. Fort
Cornerback – William Gay*, Cortez Allen*, Antwon Blake, Brandon Boykin, Doran Grant, B.W. Webb, Kevin Fogg
Safety – Mike Mitchell*, Shamarko Thomas*, Will Allen*, Robert Golden, Alden Darby, Jordan Dangerfield, Gerod Holliman, Ross Ventrone
Kicker – Josh Scobee
Punter – Jordan Berry, Brad Wing
Long Snapper – Greg Warren
I have 27 players with asterisks, making this a 44 man roster, not including the specialists. A little bit less than what you normally have on game day.
It’s not worth debating but there are a couple players marked who could see some playing time. Beachum and Foster played a decent chunk of the last preseason game last year. Maybe Heyward-Bey gets a couple more reps than I’m anticipating, maybe a little less out of Jarvis. But generally, these are players won’t see past the first quarter.
Vick should start and play a half, giving away to Jones in the second half.
The team is thin at tight end so you should see Will Johnson be the starting tight end and play a lot Thursday. The team hasn’t seemed to mind using him late in preseason games. It will continue to open up a lot of reps for Roosevelt Nix at fullback. And a good example of why a guy like Nix needed to hang around past the first cuts. Without him, you can’t run 22 personnel.
But the lack of depth means no one better get hurt. Or the Steelers will struggle to run some basic personnel groupings (12, 21). Big test of Jesse James’ conditioning. Lot of snaps on offense to go along with his special teams work. Block on the kick return, play a seven snap series on offense, run down a punt, rinse, repeat. Like putting that stress on a rookie, see how he handles it mentally and physically.
When DHB’s day is done, if he even plays, Sammie Coates and Shakim Phillips will likely be your receivers in two WR sets while Tyler Murphy filters into the slot. Coates and Murphy will flip around while Phillips will exclusively stay on the outside. I doubt West sees a snap on offense. Maybe some light special teams work in the fourth quarter.
Once the full second team offensive line comes in, Reese Dismukes and Kelvin Palmer will serve as backups. Legursky should get a lot of work at center with Hubbard shifting back over to left guard. Just speculation but I’m guessing Hubbard doesn’t see a snap at center tomorrow. Dismukes may only play the fourth quarter and is really only here because of his ability to play center, something Collin Rahrig nor Miles Dieffenbach did in Pittsburgh.
Cam Thomas has played late into these preseason games so I continue to expect to see him get 15-20 snaps Thursday. Walton and Conrath will likely be left ends with Hemer and Thomas at the right side.
McCullers played over 40 snaps against the Buffalo Bills but Thornton serves as his breather and injury insurance. Thornton has played well but the depth is a big reason why he was kept. The initial cutdown is as much about a numbers game as it is talent.
Dupree and Jones will open at OLB. Shayon Green could be the first man up at ROLB to replace Jones, starting but rotating with HoJo. Chickillo will cycle in along the left side. Later in the game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Green and Chickillo flip – Green at LOLB and Chickillo at ROLB.
Inside linebacker is pretty cut and dry. Williams and Spence to play a half. Garvin and Fort to close it out.
Blake and Boykin will open at corner. Blake on the left side, Boykin on the right. Webb will be first team nickel. Once Blake and Boykin exit, Grant should work on the right side with Webb on the left, Fogg in the nickel. Later in the game, Fogg will probably displace Webb in base sets.
Golden and Darby seem certain to start at safety. Dangerfield will be the next man up, probably sometime in the middle of the second quarter, while Holliman might catch a break and get to play an entire half. It’ll be interesting to see if Ventrone receives any defensive snaps. He didn’t last week despite being healthy enough to play.