The Pittsburgh Steelers finally have a game played under their belts, which means that there is something of more substance about which to make determinations about roster personnel. Here is where I stand on the future state of the 53-man roster heading into tonight’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph
Analysis: Nothing is changing here and I don’t expect it to. Joshua Dobbs was ticketed to be the short straw the moment Rudolph was drafted, and he didn’t look to have the sort of accuracy last week that would convince anybody to change their minds.
Running Backs (3) – Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Stevan Ridley
Analysis: At least for the time being, I’m going back to the Steelers carrying only three running backs into the regular season until somebody else proves that they ought to be on the 53-man roster. Ridley has been the most notable of the runners behind the top two backs. Jaylen Samuels will get his opportunity to prove otherwise.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: This is pretty moot until they ever actually bring in another fullback or roster spots start becoming scarce.
Wide Receivers (6) – Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Damoun Patterson
Analysis: Damoun Patterson is the reason only three running backs will be kept instead of four. He’ll probably be inactive on gamedays, but he can dress because he can also cover kicks. Hunter could be bumped, but so far the team seems to be treating him as though he’s a lock.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
Analysis: There really aren’t even any other reasonable options.
Offensive Linemen (8) – Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor
Analysis: While there is some potential here along the line in players like Jake Rodgers and R.J. Prince, I’m not compelled at the moment to fit nine guys here. Look for Feiler to take some more tackle reps, I would think.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: Well look who’s back. Big Dan. Shade Tree. After positive training camp reviews, we finally got eyes on him in game action, and he clearly looked to be ahead of Joshua Frazier. A word of caution though, because Greg Gilmore put in some good reps, too.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Jon Bostic, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Matthew Thomas
Analysis: I think this group is beginning to solidify itself. If the top of the depth chart was more stable, having Fort and Thomas as your back end would look at lot better. The latter two need to assure that they are special teams contributors in order for both to be kept, however.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Keion Adams, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Analysis: There’s still a long way to go, but after much hand-wringing throughout the offseason the Steelers may wind up carrying 10 linebackers into the season. Adeniyi in particular must continue to do what he has been doing, however.
Cornerbacks (5) – Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Brian Allen
Analysis: The name that gets left off here is obviously Coty Sensabaugh, who struggled last season but has had a good camp. The problem for him is that Sutton is ahead of him as the number four cornerback. As long as Allen continues to show improvement, I think he probably has the edge.
Safeties (5) – Sean Davis, Morgan Burnett, Terrell Edmunds, Nat Berhe, Malik Golden
Analysis: The back end of the safety position hasn’t been anything special. I already had Marcus Allen on the practice squad the last time around and Jordan Dangerfield as the number five. Now I’m on Golden. By next week, I might bump it down to four safeties and give Sensabaugh a nod, especially with the versatility of Sutton and Hilton.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: He likely gets a new deal by the time he kicks off in the season opener.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: It’s a pretty big season for Berry, but his job is not in jeopardy. A contract year up, he can solidify himself as a credible franchise punter this year. In the opener, he had a couple of really good punts, and then a clunker.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: The Steelers are not going to make a change here unless they have to.
Practice Squad (11)
QB Josh Dobbs, WR Marcus Tucker, RB Jaylen Samuels, TE Bucky Hodges, TE Christian Scotland-Williamson, T Jake Rodgers, C/G Patrick Morris, DE Greg Gilmore, ILB Keith Kelsey, CB Dashaun Phillips, S Marcus Allen
Analysis: Not much changing here for now. Just swapping Patterson and Samuels, deciding to keep six receivers on the roster rather than four running backs.