The journey toward the 2017 season is now in full swing with the Pittsburgh Steelers having reported to Latrobe for their annual training camp at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their camps for over half a century now.
This is surely the time more than any other in which we find ourselves full of questions that we are looking to get answered, and this also tends to be the best time to get answers to those questions that have been building up over the course of time since the 2016 season ended.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the training camp and the preseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Whose roster spot suddenly becomes the most vulnerable following the trade for Vance McDonald?
So…did something happen yesterday?
Okay, the Steelers may not have just acquired Richard Sherman, but adding a tight end like McDonald to their group should make a big difference, because he comes in already clearly more talented and well-rounded than any other tight end that they can offer.
It probably should be assumed that the fifth-year tight end is going to make the roster. That means that somebody who otherwise would have will not. While it is more than reasonable to assume that this means a tight end is not going to make the roster, that is not necessarily the case.
The Steelers felt just last season that the three tight ends projected to make the roster before the trade were players were their roster spots, so even while Mike Tomlin has criticized their training camp performances, they also have their past to build off of—and a pretty obvious history of the team carrying four tight ends with relative frequency.
Should the team axe a player from another position in order to make room for McDonald, it will inevitably come from a position with excess. Brian Allen has often been projected as the seventh cornerback, including by myself, so he seems like an obvious target, but any of the back-end cornerbacks could be threatened.
The Steelers could consider carrying only five defensive linemen in light of this, or only eight linebackers, which would hurt Arthur Moats, Johnny Maxey, and Lavon Hooks.
Jesse James is probably safe. The other two perhaps less so. David Johnson offers the least as a receiver, but the most as a blocker. A lot of people are ready to see Johnson go—and were before the trade was even made.
I think Xavier Grimble’s roster spot has become the most vulnerable post-trade. While he is coming off arguably the single-best performance of his entire career, he had a rough training camp and lackluster first two preseason games. His game is also most-directly replaced by what McDonald brings to the table.