I like the idea of getting a really early offseason snapshot of what the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster is going to look like several months from now. It should be fun to revisit just to see how wrong it will be. The Steelers’ late signings and trades last year really botched everybody’s plans last season. Anyway, here is my inaccurate early 53-man roster prediction.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph
Analysis: As with Dave, I’m also going with Jones as the number three (or possibly number two) quarterback for this season. For a reason that I mentioned in a previous article, partly, that being that Jones has a role to play in helping Rudolph along, and because he’s the only backup of the three with any experience at all. You don’t want to go into a season with championship aspirations lacking a backup who has thrown an NFL pass.
Running Backs (3) – Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Jaylen Samuels
Analysis: This is what things look like now, but due to Samuels’ versatility, they could end up with four. Samuels does have to prove he can contribute on special teams, or else break off several explosive plays or score often in the preseason.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: I mean, they signed him to a long-term extension. Duh.
Wide Receivers (5) – Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Analysis: Carrying six wide receivers has not been the norm for the Steelers, even if more teams are doing it. Like Dave, I predict they will re-sign Rogers and that will give them a strong top four, with Heyward-Bey in the rear. Marcus Tucker is in play but may wind up back on the practice squad.
Tight Ends (3) – Jesse James, Vance McDonald, Jake McGee
Analysis: And echoing Dave once again. I think I actually had McGee making the final 53-man roster over Xavier Grimble last year. Coaches have been talking about McGee the way they talked about Grimble the year he was on the practice squad.
Offensive Linemen (9) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Jerald Hawkins, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor
Analysis: For me it’s a no-brainer that the Steelers carry nine linemen this year. You’re not dumping Okorafor but he’s unlikely to prove reliable enough not to have another option. Hawkins and Feiler are still largely untested too. The loss of Chris Hubbard is a big deal until we learn more about these guys, especially as it concerns the tackle position.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Joshua Frazier
Analysis: THE easiest call of all the position groups. Karl Dunbar keeps his guy. Frazier will show that he plays with much better leverage than Daniel McCullers.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Jon Bostic, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Matthew Thomas
Analysis: I still have Fort sticking on the roster. I think Thomas could make a strong push, but he is my 53rd guy. 54 and 55 are Tucker and Dashaun Phillips.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Arthur Moats, Keion Adams
Analysis: I’m thinking the Steelers are going to re-sign Arthur Moats, so they’ll effectively have the same group they ended last season with, plus Adams, while the rookie UDFA seasons on the practice squad and pushes for the 53 next year when Moats (and maybe Chickillo too) is gone.
Cornerbacks (5) – Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Brian Allen
Analysis: It’s somewhat surprising to only have five cornerbacks here, especially considering Allen is a wildcard in terms of playing on defense, but the versatility of the safeties makes this a much easier sell.
Safeties (5) – Morgan Burnett, Sean Davis, Nat Berhe, Terrell Edmunds, Marcus Allen
Analysis: When is the last time the safety group has been the most exciting on the roster? That could be the case now. The additions of Burnett and Edmunds especially really spiced up, not to mentioned changed up, the unit as a whole. Allen will cut his teeth on special teams in year one, but it wouldn’t shock me if he earns a future role in some heavy sub-package.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Pro Bowler. Not going anywhere.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: I still see upside in Berry, though I don’t think he’s ever going to rival the top five. He’s made progress.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Alas, poor Holba, we hardly knew ye. And we currently don’t know anyone else either.
Summary: Like Dave, but not because of Dave, I have all the draft picks making the roster. And I actually do believe all of them will make the roster. I think Samuels might have the hardest time making the team, personally. As I said, I can easily see a linebacker losing a roster spot to another wide receiver or cornerback. Very easily.