Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have closed out their 2016 preseason, it’s time for me to release my final 53-man roster prediction.
Please note that this prediction has two sections. The top section is what I predict the 53-man roster to look like Saturday evening right after 4 p.m. deadline. Below that section, I have added the changes I think will be made to the 53-man roster as it relates to the team that shows up for the Week 1 Monday night game.
Initial 53-Man Roster On Tuesday
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Zach Mettenberger
Analysis: Now that the Steelers have placed Bruce Gradkowski on the Reserve/Injured list and claimed Mettenberger off waivers, it’s very easy to predict this position group after weeks of uncertainty. Bryn Renner will be waived.
Running Backs (3) – DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Daryl Richardson
Analysis: This group of three running backs has been set in stone ever since it was announced that Le’Veon Bell essentially lost his suspension appeal, even though it was shortened by one game. Bell will be moved to the Reserve/Suspended list on Saturday.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: It really is concerning that Nix missed the final two preseason games with an injury and hopefully it’s not serious enough to keep him out of the regular season opener.
Wide Receivers (5) – Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers
Analysis: These five have been set in stone for several weeks now and there is no reason for the Steelers to keep a sixth.
Tight Ends (3) – Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble
Analysis: With Ladarius Green now on Reserve/PUP, this should be the initial three tight ends. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the team wound up signing a tight end after cuts around the league are made as Grimble was very inconsistent during the preseason. (See below)
Offensive Linemen (9) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, Ryan Harris, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney
Analysis: With rookie tackle Jerald Hawkins now on Reserve/Injured, I think both Finney and Hubbard will make the final 53 and especially since Wallace is dealing with a knee injury. If I knew for sure Wallace would be healthy for the opener, I would be tempted to cut either Hubbard or Finney.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Daniel McCullers, Ricardo Mathews, Javon Hargrave, L.T. Walton
Analysis: I have my concerns as it relates to this position group being as Heyward is dealing with an ankle injury and Mathews a neck injury. I’ll take head coach Mike Tomlin at his word that Mathews will be fine and thus stick with this group of six. If, however, Mathews isn’t fine, I can see Caushaud Lyons being kept temporarily as a seventh defensive lineman.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Steven Johnson, Tyler Matakevich
Analysis: Surprise, Matakevich fans. Let me explain my reasoning. I really think the Steelers like Johnson for his special team abilities so that’s why I am keeping him. I chose Matakevich over Fort because of his upside in addition to the fact that I think at least one inside linebacker will be inactive at the start of the season. There is no reason to keep Fort over Matakevich if he’s only going to be inactive on game days. Should Matakevich ultimately be waived, however, I think he will easily clear and land on the practice squad.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Anthony Chickillo
Analysis: These five have been my choices for some time now and the team should be able to easily get rookie Travis Feeney to the practice squad. However, the injury suffered by Chickillo Thursday night is a bit concerning and once again I’ll assume he’ll be fine for the opener.
Cornerbacks (5) – William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Senquez Golson
Analysis: Assuming the team wants a shot at Golson returning from Reserve/Injured later in the season, he must be on the initial 53-man roster. After he is moved to IR on Sunday, I really think a cornerback from outside the organization will be signed or claimed off waivers.
Safeties (5) – Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Sean Davis, Shamarko Thomas, Jordan Dangerfield
Analysis: Not knowing how serious the groin injury that Thomas is currently dealing with makes this position group hard to predict. I’m going to keep Dangerfield being as he can contribute on special teams. Additionally, it’s important to remember that Davis is likely to be the starting nickel cornerback.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: I wish all of the position groups were this easy.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Berry really had a great preseason and I hope it continues on into the regular season.
Long Snapper (1) – Greg Warren
Analysis: Too bad that Warren no longer has a right or left button on him.
Reserve/Injured (8) – Bruce Gradkowski, Jerald Hawkins, Dustin Vaughan, Kevin Anderson, Shakim Phillips, Canaan Severin, Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, Cole Manhart
Analysis: No explanation needed and Golson will likely join this group on Sunday. Vaughan might soon be waived with an injury settlement.
Reserve/Suspended (2) – Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell
Analysis: No explanation needed. Bell will be moved here on Saturday.
Reserve/PUP (1) – Ladarius Green
Analysis: Green was added here this past week.
Practice Squad (10) – Xavier Grimble, L.J. Fort, Caushaud Lyons, Demarcus Ayers, Travis Feeney, Brandon Brown-Dukes, Al-Hajj Shabazz, Matt Feiler, Cobi Hamilton, Lavon Hooks
Analysis: I’m bound to get a few of these wrong and I will explain the double-listing of Grimble below.
Changes For Week 1 53-Man Roster
Tight Ends (3) – Jesse James, David Johnson, Outside Organization Tight End
Analysis: I just don’t trust Grimble and really think this team needs an experienced tight end who can block and contribute on special teams. If a decent option becomes available in the coming days, the Steelers should snatch that player up and waive Grimble with the notion of adding him to the practice squad like I listed above.
Cornerbacks (5) – William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Doran Grant, Outside Organization Cornerback
Analysis: I have no idea who the cornerback will be after Golson is moved to IR and I’m not even going to venture a guess. Just like the team did last year with Cockrell, I predict one will be claimed or signed on Sunday or Monday and hopefully it’s one who can play in the slot.
Reserve/Injured (9) – Senquez Golson, Bruce Gradkowski, Jerald Hawkins, Dustin Vaughan, Kevin Anderson, Shakim Phillips, Canaan Severin, Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, Cole Manhart
Analysis: Golson is the only addition here as he should be added on Sunday or Monday.