With the Pittsburgh Steelers now set to start their annual mandatory minicamp, now is a good time for me to release my updated 53-man roster prediction for the 2016 season. I have included some analysis underneath each position group and I invite you to post your own differences in the comments below.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
Analysis: As we sit here in June the Steelers three quarterback spots appear to be set and the only thing that is left to be determined is who ultimately win the No. 2 spot behind Roethlisberger.
Running Backs (3) – Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint
Analysis: Bell and Williams are obviously locks and one would think that Toussaint currently has the inside track for the third spot.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: Even though the Steelers decided to bring back David Johnson, Nix showed last year that he is not only a very effective fullback, but a quality special teams player as well.
Wide Receivers (5) – Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Demarcus Ayers
Analysis: The top four on this list are set in stone so all that needs to be determined is if the team ultimately keeps a total of five or six wide receivers. Ayers and Eli Rogers figure to do battle in training camp and that will include both players trying to prove they can also return punts. For now, I will give the nod to Ayers, but I’m not married to him just the same. Deep down inside I am rooting for Rogers.
Tight Ends (3) – Ladarius Green, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
Analysis: I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Grimble will beat out veteran Matt Spaeth for a roster spot. For that to happen, however, he will not only need to show that he can function as a quality run blocker, but contribute on special teams as well. It’s a tall task for sure.
Offensive Linemen (9) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, Ryan Harris, Cody Wallace, Jerald Hawkins, B.J. Finney
Analysis: With four tackle-type players almost assured a roster spot, I see no reason for Chris Hubbard to be kept. Instead, I have Finney getting the ninth spot as he’s likely the better interior option of the two.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Daniel McCullers, Ricardo Mathews, Javon Hargrave, L.T. Walton
Analysis: On the surface, this group seems pretty cut and dry as we sit here in June and especially being as the team has a long history of only keeping six total defensive linemen on their 53-man roster. If there were any question marks in this group, it would be Mathews and Walton.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Steven Johnson, Tyler Matakevich
Analysis: Johnson has a history of being a consistent special teams player so I see no reason why he won’t stick. Matakevich will likely need to beat out Jordan Zumwalt and I like his chances if he can also show that he can contribute heavily on special teams.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Anthony Chickillo
Analysis: I just can’t see rookie draft pick Travis Feeney cracking this group as a rookie and this assumes only 5 total outside linebackers will be kept on this year’s 53-man roster.
Cornerbacks (5) – William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Senquez Golson, Doran Grant
Analysis: Wow, has this group changed. Grant’s spot is far from guaranteed but you have to think he has the upper hand right now over the younger cornerbacks currently ion the 90-man roster.
Safeties (5) – Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Sean Davis, Shamarko Thomas, Ross Ventrone
Analysis: I’m keeping Ventrone only because he’s such a good special teams player and I will be surprised if the team keeps less than 5 total safeties. Davis has position flexibility so that should help strengthen the cornerback position as well.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: I Will be shocked if Boswell doesn’t beat out veteran Shaun Suisham this year. Like many of you, I’m hoping Suisham can be dealt for a draft pick prior to the start of the regular season.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: I have no choice but go with Berry right now but I wouldn’t bet my house on him winning the job. He will need to beat out undrafted free agent Will Monday during training camp and the preseason.
Long Snapper (1) – Greg Warren
Analysis: Barring an injury, Warren should once again be the team’s long snapper again this season.
Reserve/Suspended (1) – Martavis Bryant
Analysis: No explanation needed.