It’s been a few days now since the roster has been trimmed and tweaked, and so we can probably assume that at least this is the 53-man roster that the Pittsburgh Steelers will carry into the season opener.
With that in mind, I wanted to do a bit of analysis of some of the roster’s aspects in itself, in terms of personnel, pedigree, experience, age, and means of acquisition. I want to wrap things up today by looking at each position group individually to see how they’re constituted.
Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Zach Mettenberger
I’m pretty sure nobody projected this group. For the second straight year, the Steelers have to pluck a quarterback off the scrap heap to complete their mandatory three-quarterback depth chart. But this time, Landry Jones is firmly in place as the backup.
Running Back (3): DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Daryl Richardson
The Steelers have depth at running back this year to tide them over until Le’Veon Bell returns. Richardson is the better runner, it seems, but Toussaint does everything reliably.
Wide Receiver (5): Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates
The injury to Markus Wheaton is going to open some windows of opportunity for Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates, and if they seize the opportunity, the Steelers will only be stronger for it.
Tight End/Fullback (4): Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble, Roosevelt Nix
This group is weak overall with Ladarius Green on the PUP List, and Nix is currently injured to boot. The opener is going to be a big game for Jesse James in a cameo as a starter.
Offensive Line (9): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Ryan Harris, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney
This group could have had as many as 10 players had rookie Jerald Hawkins not injured his shoulder. Cody Wallace is currently ailing, however, which will require that the team rely on their young interior players in the event of an injury.
Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, Daniel McCullers, L.T. Walton
Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are about as important to this defense as anybody else, and Javon Hargrave has impressed in ascending to what figures to be a pretty big role this year. Ricardo Mathews has looked like a player that will improve the line’s depth.
Outside Linebacker (4): Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Anthony Chickillo
With Bud Dupree missing at least half the season, the outside linebacker group seems to be bereft of any real talent that can ascend to the role of difference-maker—and even Dupree was far from developed to that stage yet. Anthony Chickillo at least is provided opportunity to find a role.
Inside Linebacker (6): Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, L.J. Fort, Tyler Matakevich, Steven Johnson
Dupree’s injury allows the Steelers to carry six inside linebackers for now, this after losing two in the offseason. Expect a lot of special teams reps from this group of players.
Cornerback (5): William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, Justin Gilbert, Senquez Golson [Sean Davis]
This group features two players not expected to be on the opening-day 53-man roster, as Senquez Golson was expected to land on injured reserve, and Justin Gilbert was a surprise trade. Rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis could both see some playing time as early as the opener.
Safety (5): Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Sean Davis, Shamarko Thomas, Jordan Dangerfield
With Will Allen gone, Robert Golden is stepping up into the starting lineup, with Davis behind him as a third safety. Jordan Dangerfield made it for special teams.
Special Teams (3): Greg Warren, Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry
For once, for the first time in years, the Steelers return the same group that finished the previous season—though it’s not the group that started the season.
Suspended (1): RB Le’Veon Bell
Upon his return from a three-game suspension, one of the team’s running backs—as of now, likely Daryl Richardson—will lose his roster spot, though either he or Fitzgerald Toussaint could be put on the practice squad. Bell’s knee looked healthy during his brief preseason action.
Injured Reserve (Eligible to Return): OLB Bud Dupree
The Steelers were hoping to find a stable group of every-down outside linebackers this year, with Bud Dupree as the center piece, but a core muscle issue that ended up needing surgical intervention derailed their plans, and the second-year player’s development.