The Pittsburgh Steelers have just one preseason game left to play, which likely means that there should only be a couple of spots left in play for the coaching staff. Of course, they know what they’re thinking better than we know what they’re thinking, but at this stage, this is my best guess of replicating their current mindset. This roster features 54 players to start the season, acting under the assumption that Le’Veon Bell will be afforded a temporary roster exemption.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph
Analysis: I’m sorry to the Joshua Dobbs contingent, but realistically, barring a truly stellar performance against the Panthers or a comically disproportionate trade offer for Jones, there is not going to be room for him among the top three quarterbacks. Mike Tomlin did not slam the door shut on the possibility of carrying four quarterbacks, I’ll note, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Running Backs (3) – Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Jaylen Samuels
Analysis: In my last stab at the roster, I kept four running backs at the expense of a fifth outside linebacker. I’m swapping that now after Samuels helped to further solidify his case for a spot on the roster, and I also expect him to make his case even stronger in the finale.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: Nix is going to be on the roster until the end of time. You heard it here first.
Wide Receivers (6) – Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ryan Switzer
Analysis: As Alex Kozora pointed out yesterday in his own roster prediction, Hunter is going to have a very hard time finding an active helmet, unless they seriously consider not dressing Washington. Heyward-Bey and Switzer are going to be special teams starters and Switzer will be the backup slot receiver as well.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
Analysis: Banged up, but will be there. The Steelers will use an extra lineman if necessary. They want to do that anyway, and showed it with Okorafor last week.
Offensive Linemen (8) – Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor
Analysis: This feels pretty locked in still, even with some progress from Zach Banner, but the addition of Switzer might have sealed it. As time goes on, this looks more and more like a strong group of eight, especially with Feiler’s ability to play inside and out.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: Alex doesn’t seem as encouraged by Lavon Hooks’ performance in recent weeks as I am, but even so, McCullers still gets the edge. I’d love to see what happens if Hooks has a great game tomorrow though.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Jon Bostic, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Matthew Thomas
Analysis: I’m still keeping Fort around for the time being. While it looks like Thomas may jump ahead of him in terms of the defensive pecking order, he’s still a regular special teamer, and I think the team may be souring on Matakevich’s possible contributions in that area.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Keion Adams, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Analysis: Welcome back to the 53, Ola, and thanks for adding to the list of difficult names to type, but I think you’ve probably earned it. And the team is feeding you special teams snaps. That’s a sign.
Cornerbacks (6) – Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Brian Allen, Coty Sensabaugh
Analysis: Brian Allen has just not developed enough to justify trusting him to be one snap away from being the backup. Coupled with Sensabaugh’s improvement from last season, he figures to stick, but he could also be a trade option.
Safeties (5) – Sean Davis, Morgan Burnett, Terrell Edmunds, Nat Berhe, Marcus Allen*
Analysis: Allen stands a pretty good chance of being the 54th man. Keeping him initially will allow him to more easily clear waivers, though I don’t think it’s very likely he would get claimed anyway. Other options to be that 54th player are Fort and Adeniyi.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Well, he’s gotten his new deal now. Probably safe.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Berry has not been berry good this preseason. But not enough to justify dumping him for Matt Wile after three years of investment.
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, WR Marcus Tucker, TE Bucky Hodges, TE Christian Scotland-Williamson, T Zach Banner, OL R.J. Prince, DE Joshua Frazier, DT Lavon Hooks, RB Jarvion Franklin, ILB Keith Kelsey, S Jordan Dangerfield
Analysis: With the move at receiver, Tucker goes back to the practice squad for eight receivers in total, the same number as last year. I’m also switching up the linemen, with Banner and Prince getting the nod over the struggling Jake Rodgers and the injured Patrick Morris. A running back needed to be added. I’m sure I’m making a mistake in putting two defensive linemen on here. The smart money is probably on Farrington Huguenin, whom the team clearly likes. Frazier, in truth, really hasn’t done anything. In fact, I should just swap the two now. But I’m going to leave it. There’s always the final roster prediction.