Another preseason game is in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which means that I get another crack at inaccurately predicting the 53-man roster. My predictions have already changed twice from before training camp to after the first preseason game to after the second, and as you might guess, things have changed again.
Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs
It was good to see Jones able to return from his abdominal injury and play reasonably well on Sunday, even if he looked a bit rusty. It is clear that he is the backup this season.
Running Back (4): Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Knile Davis, Roosevelt Nix
I think Davis more or less secured his position as the third halfback with Saturday’s showing, even if it wasn’t much. Terrell Watson’s lack of significant special teams contributions likely earn him a practice squad spot for now, but Davis showed well-rounded skills as a receiver and blocker as well as coverage player on special teams.
Wide Receiver (6): Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Shocking, yet another change. I had DHB and Coates, then I had DHB and Hunter, then I had Hunter and Coates. Now I have DHB and Coates again. Hunter hasn’t shown much at all during the preseason to earn a roster spot, which is hard to do on the back end without special teams contributions.
Tight End (3): Jesse James, David Johnson, Vance McDonald
The Steelers, naturally, screw up my plans, forcing me to edit here. Following the trade for McDonald, Grimble remains off the roster, but not in favor of Jake McGee. McDonald is clearly most in replace of Grimble, whom the Steelers view as a potential dynamic receiver but who has drop issues. McDonald is a substantially more accomplished version of that. James finally gets to be the number two tight end he always should have been, although I would hope that they continue to use Johnson, who remains their most skilled blocker in multiple areas.
Offensive Line (8): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Chris Hubbard, Jerald Hawkins
This is becoming more sure after Hawkins’ improved performance over the course of the past two games, but Matt Feiler has played well too.
Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Johnny Maxey
Even with Alex Kozora noting Lavon Hooks’ increased snap count, for now I still have Maxey making the initial 53-man roster. This could be an area that they target for improvement though.
Outside Linebacker (5): Bud Dupree, James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Arthur Moats
No reason to alter my explanation from last time: With the news that Keion Adams seems likely to be headed for injured reserve, I think this group is locked in now.
Inside Linebacker (4): Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort
I’m still going with the same group here as well. Steven Johnson didn’t even dress for the third preseason game, which is when the special teams ‘starters’ play. Of course, he was injured.
Cornerback (7): Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, William Gay, Cameron Sutton, Coty Sensabaugh, Mike Hilton, Brian Allen
The Steelers had not added Dashaun Phillips by the time I made my last prediction, but he hasn’t gotten onto the field yet, so I don’t feel compelled to alter my plans here yet.
Safety (4): Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield
Robert Golden hasn’t had the most encouraging preseason by any stretch of the imagination, but I still believe he is a better player than has shown. Still, his role as the top backup could be in jeopardy.
Kicker: Chris Boswell
His missed extra point was more due to Colin Holba than himself.
Punter: Jordan Berry
Berry didn’t have a great game the last time around, but it’s not like there’s another punter in camp.
Long Snapper: Colin Holba
As mentioned above, Holba botched a snap in the last game. And Kameron Canaday has been getting a lot of work. I don’t know that this is the lock many have assumed.
Practice Squad (10): WR Demarcus Ayers, TE Jake McGee, RB Terrell Watson, T Brian Mihalik, OL Keavon MIlton, DE Lavon Hooks, DT Roy Philon, ILB Matt Galambos, OLB Farrington Huguenin, S Jacob Hagen
Only a couple of changes from last time. McGee flips back onto the practice squad while I replace Francis Kallon as the defensive end with Lavon Hooks, who as noted above saw more snaps in the last game. Of course I expect this spot to go to Maxey if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster. Regarding the tight end position here, after Grimble’s strong showing on Saturday I am expecting him to find a home on another team via the waiver wire.