The Pittsburgh Steelers now have half of the preseason taken care of, and things are starting to grow clearer as we near the time of the first roster cuts. I would be pretty surprised if anybody on this list fails to make the first cut.
Quarterback (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Bruce Gradkowski
Analysis: One change. I initially flip-flopped and put Dustin Vaughan on the roster before he, too, got injured. I am putting Gradkowski here now and assuming that they will carry the veteran as the third quarterback. He won’t dress anyway, so it doesn’t matter if his hamstring isn’t ready to go to start the season.
Running Back (3) – DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Daryl Richardson
Analysis: No change. But at least now we have clarity on Le’Veon Bell’s situation. I think this position is pretty locked up at this point.
Fullback (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: No change. He currently appears to be dealing with an injury—that is likely why he missed the last game as well—but I see no reason to believe that it’s serious or that his position is in danger.
Tight End (3) – Ladarius Green, Jesse James, David Johnson
Analysis: One change, taking Xavier Grimble off the roster. But I was tempted to move Green to start the regular season on the PUP List, and that is something we can’t rule out just yet. In that event, Grimble should make the initial roster.
Wide Receiver (5) – Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers
Analysis: No changes. I don’t see this changing going forward. Demarcus Ayers seems headed for the practice squad, as Rogers seems the more likely contributor as a returner. Had the reverse been the case, both may have been able to make the team.
Offensive Tackle (4) – Alejandro Villanueva, Marcus Gilbert, Ryan Harris, Jerald Hawkins
Analysis: No change. Neither Villanueva nor Harris have, I think, shown the sort of ability that was hoped for, and Hawkins’ shoulder injury is currently hindering his development, unfortunately.
Interior Offensive Line (6) – Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney
Analysis: One change. I’m finally making the leap and carrying 10 offensive linemen, with Hubbard understood to be a four-position player if you include the tackle-eligible tight end, which they will use as a blocking supplement for the weakened tight end position.
Defensive Ends (4) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton
Analysis: No change. This still seems to be locked up, even though Walton missed the last game.
Nose Tackle (2) – Daniel McCullers, Javon Hargrave
Analysis: No change. The depth chart may still flip somewhat soon, but McCullers put forth a much better effort against the Eagles.
Outside Linebacker (5) – James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo
Analysis: No change. Travis Feeney appears to be healthy now, but he still has an uphill climb, even with Chickillo now dinged. No update from the last depth chart.
Inside Linebacker (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Steven Johnson, L.J. Fort
Analysis: No change, yet. For now, I’m still putting Johnson on the roster due to his special teams contributions, which, even though he is not being used as a four-phase player in the preseason, still outweigh what Tyler Matakevich brings. Matakevich had a good showing last game, but he’ll need two more, I think, to really push for a roster spot.
Cornerback (5) – William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Montell Garner
Analysis: One change. Instead of assuming that the fifth cornerback on the final cutdown will come from off the roster, I think they will initially carry one of their own, even if his stay on the 53-man roster might be brief based on who they can sign or claim a day later among those who were cut. Cockrell was on the first 53-man roster only because he was released with the first wave of cuts.
Safety (4) – Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Sean Davis, Shamarko Thomas
Analysis: No change. As noted last time, however, a Jordan Dangerfield or Jacob Hagen could earn a (possibly temporary) special teams spot here.
Special Teams (3)
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: No change. Uncontested.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: No change. Berry has looked as good in the first two games as he did in his first preseason. There doesn’t seem to be much of a competition this time around.
Long Snapper (1) – Greg Warren
Analysis: No change. Get back to me in 2030. Maybe then.
Practice Squad: RB Brandon Brown-Dukes, WR Demarcus Ayers, WR Cobi Hamilton, TE Xavier Grimble, DE Caushaud Lyons, DT Lavon Hooks, ILB Tyler Matakevich, OLB Travis Feeney, CB Al-Hajj Shabazz, S Jordan Dangerfield
Only two changes this time around, one a swap, and another bringing one back. I had Shabazz on my first practice squad, but then swapped him for Garner. I now have Garner making the initial roster based on versatility and special teams work, with the 6’2” Shabazz back on the practice squad, but the positions of both will be considered very fluid.
Brown-Dukes has been the only back outside of Toussaint and Richardson to get much of anything in terms of workload. Ayers is obviously a player that they want to keep, and Hamilton has flashed, but I want to give a mention to Marcus Tucker, who put in some good work on special teams against the Eagles.
Finney and Grimble are flipping spots from the 53-man roster to the practice squad. Both were on the practice squad last year, but I think one makes it this year. Lyons and Dangerfield are already familiar with the practice squad.