The preseason is halfway through now for the Pittsburgh Steelers and things are getting clearer and clearer with each passing week. I took a couple of leaps last time around expecting continued improvement that I didn’t see in the last game, so for this entry I’m scaling back my optimism for more realism.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph
Analysis: I think the last game pretty much solidified the reality that Jones is going to be the backup quarterback this year, which means that Joshua Dobbs is not going to be on the 53-man roster, because Rudolph certainly will be.
Running Backs (4) – Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Stevan Ridley, Jaylen Samuels
Analysis: I’m going back to four running backs, which I’m pretty sure is where I began, and it will come at the expense of Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who needs to show more on special teams first. The Steelers used Samuels a fair bit on special teams, something they tend to do for players they want to get onto the roster.
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, Marcus Tucker
Analysis: Damoun Patterson is another player who needs to do more. I had him on my last roster because I thought he would against the Packers, but he didn’t show that. He will need a big finale. As for Tucker, he was used extensively on special teams and has been making plays there. He can be on the roster and moved to the practice squad when Eli Rogers is activated. He already has two years in the system so he can be used without hesitation.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
Analysis: This is what lack of competition looks like.
Offensive Linemen (8) – Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor
Analysis: I think this is pretty much locked in at this point, especially after Jake Rodgers had a worse showing against the Packers than he did in the Eagles game. Finney and Feiler are high-quality reserves and Okorafor has been very encouraging so far.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: McCullers had a better game two than he did the week before, showing the ability to push the pocket on a number of occasions against the Packers’ first-string line. He could push Walton for a helmet, though I think both will make the roster, and this group is pretty settled in. Lavon Hooks has the best chance of making a push.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Jon Bostic, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Matthew Thomas
Analysis: Nothing happened in the last game to make me change my mind about this group. Thomas definitely looks like a player who they will like to keep and should contribute on special teams.
Outside Linebackers (4) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Keion Adams
Analysis: I realize there is always the fear of losing people to waivers, but chances are Adeniyi will make it to the practice squad. He has shown some good reps on defense, but a fifth outside linebacker needs to offer more on special teams, and he has yet to show that.
Cornerbacks (6) – Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Brian Allen, Coty Sensabaugh
Analysis: For the time being, I’m giving the 10th defensive back spot to the cornerback position, with Sensabaugh seeing my roster for the first time. While he got exposed on one rep working in the slot against the Packers (where he had not been practicing), he has had a much better offseason this season than a year ago, and would be more valuable than any of the depth safeties, especially since Brian Allen doesn’t look ready to be two snaps away from playing.
Safeties (4) – Sean Davis, Morgan Burnett, Terrell Edmunds, Nat Berhe
Analysis: If Fitzgerald Toussaint is kept, that would expose Berhe, but for now I think he is pretty safe as the number four safety. Tom Bradley likes him, and he has done well on special teams while also displaying the ability to lay a big hit on defense. He’s much more of a downhill player, however.
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: Jerry has been disappointing so far this preseason, but there is no competition.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: The Steelers are not going to make a change here unless they have to.
Practice Squad (11)
QB Joshua Dobbs, WR Damoun Patterson, TE Bucky Hodges, TE Christian Scotland-Williamson, T Jake Rodgers, C/G Patrick Morris, DE Joshua Frazier, OLB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, ILB Keith Kelsey, S Jordan Dangerfield, S Marcus Allen
Analysis: Patterson once again off the roster and Samuels back on, but this time Patterson loses his spot to Tucker. With six cornerbacks being kept, Dashaun Phillips loses out and two safeties make the squad, including the ‘other’ rookie. Adeniyi naturally makes it, and for now I’m going to assume the Steelers run with Frazier even if he is not their seventh-best defensive lineman, trusting that he will develop. Hooks is more deserving, however.