With the 2019 NFL Draft now completed it’s time for my to throw out my annual initial 53-man roster prediction for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As usual, I have included some analysis underneath each position group and I invite you to post your own differences in the comments below along with your own 53-man roster prediction.
My next stab at the Steelers 53-man roster will likely be posted right before the team reports to training camp and after that one will come one after each and every preseason game.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph
Analysis: these three should be the three barring any injuries and we’ll all wait patiently to see if Rudolph can pass Dobbs on the depth chart this summer for the right to backup Roethlisberger. I am really looking forward to that depth chart battle.
Running Backs (3) – James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr.
Analysis: The draft brought the Steelers Snell out of Kentucky and it sounds like he’ll join Conner and Samuels as some sort of running back by committee at some point during the 2019 season. Conner and Snell have similar running styles and demeanors and Samuels showed he could contribute both as a ball carrier and pass catcher late last season. How much special teams value does Snell have? We’ll find out during training camp and the preseason.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: Nix is like the Energizer bunny as he just keeps going and going and going. He remains one of the better fullbacks in the NFL and one of the team’s best special team players to boot.
Wide Receivers (6) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, Eli Rogers
Analysis: Antonio Brown is long gone via a trade and it appears as though Darrius Heyward-Bey won’t be back as well. In comes Toledo wide receiver Johnson via the draft and the veteran Moncrief via free agency. Will this team keep five or six wide receivers in 2019 and will Switzer and Rogers have to do battle for the final spot? For now, I will go with 6 wide receivers with both Switzer and Rogers making the final cut.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry
Analysis: With the Steelers waiting until the fifth-round to draft a tight end, Grimble enters May as a big winner. It’s hard to imagine the rookie gentry bypassing Grimble on the depth chart by the time the regular season starts so barring the Steelers signing another veteran to compete with Grimble, it’s hard to envision him not making the initial 53-man roster.
Offensive Linemen (9) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, Zach Banner
Analysis: Barring injuries, there’s a good chance that the first seven spots are already spoken for. Will the Steelers keep 8 or 9 total offensive linemen this year? There should be some great battles between Hawkins, Zach Banner and rookie Derwin Gray, the team’s seventh-round draft pick that might need to kick inside to left guard. Don’t forget that guard R.J. Prince also spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad as well. I’m rooting for Hawkins to make it back from injury to claim the eighth or ninth spot. I still would like to see if Hawkins can play guard, by the way. Thank goodness Feiler has some position flexibility. Did Banner show enough last season? The Steelers normally dress seven offensive linemen for games and have two inactive. Those two inactives for Week 1 might just be Banner and Hawkins.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, Daniel McCullers, Isaiah Buggs
Analysis: The Steelers re-signed McCullers again during the offseason and Alualu also got a new deal. L.T. Walton doesn’t look like he’ll return so that might mean at least one of potentially six final spots is up for grabs entering the summer. The Steelers hope that Buggs, their versatile sixth-round selection this year out of Alabama can secure one spot. How safe is McCullers and can Casey Sayles, or one of the other undrafted or futures players beat him or Buggs out? For now, I will go with the chalk picks.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Vince Williams, Mark Barron, Devin Bush, Tyler Matakevich, Ulysees Gilbert III
Analysis: My, has this group changed. Williams returns and will be joined my veteran free agent addition Barron and this year’s first-round draft pick, Bush, who will become a starter sooner rather than later during his rookie season. Matakevich is a solid special teams player and thus will be a tough out. Can Gilbert, another draft pick, show enough special teams ability to also make the roster as a quasi replacement for L.J. Fort? I like his chances. Give me five here.
Outside Linebackers (4) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Analysis: The first four, Dupree, Watt, Chickillo and Adeniyi appear right now to all be locks. Will the Steelers keep five outside linebackers and five inside linebackers in total this year and can draft pick Sutton Smith be part of those 10? Smith will have to make the Steelers as special teams player first and it certainly seems like he has the mentality for that group. 10 linebackers in total sure feels like a heavy number, however. Maybe Smith and Gilbert will battle for a spot with the loser going to the practice squad and maybe a ninth offensive lineman is kept instead to balance the offense and defense numbers out at 25 players each.
Cornerbacks (6) – Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Artie Burns, Justin Layne, Cameron Sutton
Analysis: In comes Nelson via free agency and he figures to start opposite Haden and thus replace the outgoing and probably not returning Coty Sensabaugh. The Steelers drafted Layne out of Michigan State in the third-round so that’s another new edition who obviously should stick. Can Burns do enough to warrant being kept? Also, Hilton and Sutton can both serve as emergency safeties so that might prevent the team from having to carry more than four at that position this year.
Safeties (4) – Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Marcus Allen, P.J. Locke III
Analysis: We know Davis and Edmunds will be on this year’s 43 and it sure sounds like Allen is a lock as well and maybe even as a dimebacker. Who will be behind those three and will only four safeties in total be kept because of the position versatility that cornerbacks Hilton and Sutton both offer. Will Jordan Dangerfield make his doubters look silly yet again? The Steelers signed former Texas safety Locke as an undrafted free agent so I will throw a surprise into my roster prediction and pick him as making it.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Can Boswell regain his confidence and return to the kicker he was prior to signing his big contract? We sure hope so. The Steelers don’t seem to have another kicker currently on their roster who can push Boswell during training camp and the preseason. Make no mistake, however, a bad summer for Boswell and he’ll be gone.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Not only was Berry re-signed this offseason, he got a two-year deal. Sure, Berry can still be cur with minimum dead money as a result of such a move, but it sure seems like the Steelers have confidence in him and a lot more than they have in Boswell.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Is Canaday destined to be the Steelers long snapper for many, many more years to come? It’s hard to say, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll have any competition for his job this summer.
Summary: The big mistake I have made, and I usually do this every year at this same time, is that I have most of the Steelers draft picks making the 53-man roster. Obviously, odds of that happening based on the history of the team are very, very, very slim. Currently, I only have Smith and Gray, two of the team’s final draft picks this year, not making the 53-man roster.
|Steelers 2019 53-Man Roster Prediction|
|Snell Jr., Benny||RB|
|Gilbert III, Ulysees||ILB|
|Locke III, P.J.||S|