Dave Bryan posted his post-minicamp 53-man roster prediction, so I figured I would follow suit. Right now, we know about everything there is to know before the pads come on, so that seems to be a good time to get another prediction down on paper.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph
Analysis: I have a really hard time seeing Joshua Dobbs make the team this season, no matter how many steps ahead he feels he is. I think he has too much to work on mechanically, and it would buck a pretty long trend in Pittsburgh of experience at the backup quarterback position to go into the year with Dobbs and Mason Rudolph.
Running Backs (4) – Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Stevan Ridley
Analysis: I think the 53-man roster is pretty fungible right now, and that opens the door for a fourth running back being carried. Stevan Ridley has made a positive impression since joining the team late last year and gives them a veteran presence behind Le’Veon Bell.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: Even if they were to move away from the fullback position, he is still a roster lock for special teams.
Wide Receivers (6) – Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Analysis: Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that Justin Hunter is going to be here for another year. His teammates and coaches like him. While he is perennially referred to as a camp phenom, Ramon Foster said he has seen Hunter do things so far this year that he didn’t in 2017. He still figures to be inactive. It also goes without saying that I think Eli Rogers is going to be re-signed, and that he is going to be favored over Marcus Tucker. But that’s before we get to training camp.
Tight Ends (3) – Jesse James, Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble
Analysis: The Steelers apparently like Ryan Malleck, but it would be an upset to say the least if he moved ahead of Xavier Grimble.
Offensive Linemen (8) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor
Analysis: I don’t see the Steelers carrying nine offensive linemen without Jerald Hawkins. Bryce Harris and Jake Rodgers just don’t justify it. They will carry two linemen on the practice squad instead, with Matt Feiler the number four tackle on the 53.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Joshua Frazier
Analysis: How often does a player get drafted by his college coach? Seriously, Joshua Frazier would have to really struggle not to make this team.
Inside Linebackers (4) – Jon Bostic, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort
Analysis: While the Steelers have been giving Matthew Thomas ‘a long look’, I think he earns a season on the practice squad. Obviously his readiness to contribute will be gauged in the preseason.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Keion Adams, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Analysis: I have Olasunkanmi Adeniyi ahead of the aforementioned Thomas in earning the ninth linebacker spot. He’s had success flashing as a pass-rusher so far against third-team linemen, and figures to be a big special teamer.
Cornerbacks (5) – Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Brian Allen
Analysis: It’s easy to feel like the secondary is pretty locked up already. I do expect Brian Allen to take a step forward this year, but if he doesn’t take a big enough step, Coty Sensabaugh could still be kept, because you need more than one backup that can play outside.
Safeties (5) – Morgan Burnett, Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Nat Berhe, Marcus Allen
Analysis: This is the likely group at safety as well, but again, it’s not entirely set in stone. Jordan Dangerfield is a name to remember, but at this point, you’ve been hearing it for five years already.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: The only uncertainty here is when the Steelers will give him a long-term contract.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Jordan Berry hasn’t established himself yet as one of the top punters in the league, but he has made progress in each season. He’s the first punter who has lasted this long at his post in…a good while.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: The time for competition came last year. Canaday won. Though Colin Holba is available again…
Summary: My last roster spot comes down to a fourth running back and a fifth inside linebacker. Looking at the roster though, whoever it is is likely to be inactive barring injuries, so I’d rather have the veteran running back than the rookie linebacker with practice squad eligibility who probably will not be claimed.
Practice Squad: QB Joshua Dobbs, WR Marcus Tucker, TE Ryan Malleck, T Jake Rodgers, G/T R.J. Prince, DE Greg Gilmore, ILB Matthew Thomas, CB TBA [Dashaun Phillips ineligible], S Jordan Dangerfield, S Malik Golden, TE Christian Scotland-Williamson (International Player)