Wanted to keep this going since we did this last season and it helps frame the roster for Thursday’s preseason finale. We’ll go through the roster to see who is left and who is unlikely to play against the Carolina Panthers.
Players with an asterisk next to their name are ones I don’t expect to play at all or very little (no more than one series).
Quarterback (4) – Ben Roethlisberger*, Landry Jones, Brynn Renner, Bruce Gradkowski*
Running Back (6) – Le’Veon Bell*, DeAngelo Williams*, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Daryl Richardson, Brandon Brown-Dukes, Cameron Stingily
Fullback (1) – Roosevelt Nix*
Tight End (4) – Jesse James*, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble, Paul Lang
Wide Receiver (8) – Antonio Brown*, Markus Wheaton*, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey*, Demarcus Ayers, Cobi Hamilton, Marcus Tucker
Offensive Tackle (6) – Alejandro Villanueva*, Marcus Gilbert*, Ryan Harris, Chris Hubbard, Matt Feiler, Wade Hansen
Offensive Guard/Center (7) – Ramon Foster*, David DeCastro*, Maurkice Pouncey*, Cody Wallace*, B.J. Finney, Antoine Everett, Shahbaz Ahmed
Defensive End (6) – Cameron Heyward*, Stephon Tuitt*, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton, Caushaud Lyons, Johnny Maxey
Nose Tackle (3) – Daniel McCullers*, Javon Hargrave, Lavon Hooks
Outside Linebacker (7) – Jarvis Jones*, Bud Dupree, James Harrison*, Arthur Moats, Anthony Chickillo, Travis Feeney, Jermauria Rasco
Inside Linebacker (6) – Lawrence Timmons*, Ryan Shazier*, Vince Williams, L.J. Fort, Steven Johnson, Tyler Matakevich
Cornerback (8) – William Gay*, Ross Cockrell*, Senquez Golson*, Artie Burns, Montell Garner, Doran Grant, Donald Washington, Al-Hajj Shabazz
Safety (6) – Mike Mitchell*, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas*, Sean Davis, Jordan Dangerfield, Ray Vinopal
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Long Snapper (1) – Greg Warren
I have 27 players with asterisks. Not including specialists, it functions as a 45 man roster, nearly the same as last year and mirrors an actual regular season roster.
The team might not be thrilled over Landry Jones playing but there are only two healthy, non-Roethlisberger named quarterbacks on the roster. The team may wind up giving Jones a whole half of football and be careful with Renner, not wanting to put Jones back in the game behind a new offensive line in the final game. At least, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Running back is really heavy. Wonder if the team will limit Toussaint or Richardson’s snaps, especially knowing they are both making the 53. Brown-Dukes should get snaps ahead of Stingily, who hopefully gets something in this game. Jawon Chisholm made the first wave of cuts and didn’t see a snap last season. Super frustrating.
Nix’s injury and the fact it’s the last game holds him out. Heck, maybe that’s why someone like Lang made this roster. Can play a little fullback or be an in-line tight end whenever David Johnson is used in the backfield.
Rogers and Ayers will be the slot receivers. Coates, Hamilton, and Tucker on the outside. Rogers may end up playing no more than two series.
The line is tricky. I could see Villanueva getting the first series but nothing beyond that. Here’s how I see that initial starting five shaping out.
And then after that first series.
Ahmed will be the backup. If there’s an injury at center or tackle, Harris will have to come back in. That could lend the team to choosing to play Harris longer than what most people might be comfortable with. That’ll happen when the line is as beat up as its current state.
Walton will start at left end, Mathews at right end. Second team, Lyons at LDE, Maxey at RDE. Each group probably plays roughly a half with some in-game rotation on longer series or sudden change when guys still need to catch their breath.
If McCullers misses again, Hargrave will pretty much have to play at least a half of football. Lines too thin right now. Hooks in the second. My nickel pairings predictions.
First Team: Hargrave/Mathews
Second Team: Walton/Lyons
Third Team: Hooks/Maxey
Some mixing and matching is to be expected.
I could see Moats getting a quarter. The Steelers haven’t been that shy about playing him in the preseason, giving him late first half snaps in the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions. If so, and if Dupree is healthy – no clue if he plays – they’ll start with Dupree at LOLB and Moats ROLB.
Feeney and Chickillo will be in next and play the majority of the snaps. Rasco will fill in as needed and probably fully replace Chickillo in the fourth quarter.
Williams and Fort will start at inside linebacker. Matakevich and Johnson the next, and only, pairing. Probably split halves. Cut and dry.
Maybe Cockrell gives them a series but he’s played enough. I wouldn’t do it. Past that, Grant will be at LCB and Burns will make his debut at RCB. Davis in the slot. That unit will probably function for a half.
In the second, Washington at LCB, Shabazz at RCB, and Garner enters as the slot corner. Only true corner who can play inside now that Kevin White has been dumped.
Golden probably shouldn’t play but I can see the team giving him burn because they are pretty thin, especially if Shark is out (and he probably is). He might get a full quarter. Not sure who will be opposite of him initially. Dangerfield, I guess. Maybe Davis at safety in base and then he slides into the slot but that just seems messy.
Dangerfield could play a big portion of this game. More than a half. The second team safety grouping will likely be Grant and Vinopal; they’ve been paired up before. That’ll close things out. Fingers crossed everyone stays healthy especially because there is zero depth this week.
Special teams is tough to predict. Coates and Toussaint should still be on kick returns with Richardson and Hamilton probably the second half group.
Most of the kick return unit are guys who are expected to play though the team will have to replace Shamarko Thomas and Jesse James. Vinopal and Grimble seem likely candidates.
Kick coverage is always a roulette wheel of names. Provided most everyone stays healthy, this group should be fine. You probably won’t notice.
Golden, if needed, will likely be the first man out on punts to serve as the personal protector. Toussaint will back him up and finish things out. Dangerfield and Davis will be the wings. There should be enough bodies for the front five with all the reserve linebackers who will still be available (Fort, Matakevich, Johnson, Chickillo, Feeney, Rasco).
Walton or Mathews will probably replace Heyward on field goal kicks, the left tackle spot opened up. You’ll probably get Johnson/Grimble on the wings for that position. Usually, James and Tuitt have those spots. The whole front line will be swapped out too, it’s normally occupied by starting offensive linemen, but that’s nothing new for this group. They’ll be fine.