Taking a final crack at predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers 53 man roster once Week One rolls around. Our first prediction came right after the draft and though things are mostly the same, there are a handful of changes from then until now.
Feel free to offer your own list or changes you’d make to the roster construction below. I’ve also added an 11 man practice squad to round out the group.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Dobbs, Mason Rudolph
Analysis: Of course, no changes were to be expected from when I last did a prediction shortly after the draft. Devlin Hodges is interesting but even if there’s an injury here, he’s not making the 53 man roster. Practice squad at best. Biggest intrigue here is the battle for the backup job. Rudolph will have to take it from Dobbs.
Running Backs (3) – James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell
Analysis: Not much new going on here. These three are all locks or “almost” locks. Snell probably has a 98% chance of making it. The rest of the group, mostly consisting of large, power backs will duke it out for the practice squad.
Fullbacks (1) – Roosevelt Nix
Analysis: Nix isn’t going anywhere.
Wide Receivers (6) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Ryan Switzer, Johnny Holton
Analysis: First change here. Do think they ultimately keep six receivers. Wideout is one of their deepest spots and it’s plausible, probable even, they run four/five receiver sets throughout the season. Collecting as many as you can is a good idea.
Holton may be a surprise but he’s a camp sleeper. He brings a different dynamic to the table, a change-up from the slot/returner that flood the roster. He’s the new version of Darrius Heyward-Bey. Speed, vertical threat, and someone who can offer coverage value on special teams. He gets the nod over Eli Rogers though obviously, this situation is fluid.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry
Analysis: If there’s three guys who are making the 53 and already on the roster, these are it. Odds are strong a new face could be introduced to the fold, via roster cutdowns or by trade, but for now, I’ll project players currently on the roster. Big microscope on this position group.
Offensive Linemen (8) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Fred Johnson
Analysis: One change from before. Keeping only eight linemen, removing Patrick Morris from the previous list. Competition here will be high and bring out the best in everyone, certainly making it possible they hold onto nine, but no name jumps out at me. Jerald Hawkins will have to prove his health, fight for reps, and even then, I can see him as a trade candidate to a tackle-starved team.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: No movement here. Defensive line could be a sneaky spot for the Steelers to add if Buggs and/or McCullers struggles but it’s hard to see anyone else already on the roster making a serious push. Lavon Hooks, Casey Sayles, and Henry Mondeaux might be three names to keep in mind.
Inside Linebackers (4) – Vince Williams, Mark Barron, Devin Bush, Tyler Matakevich
Analysis: Still rolling with these four. Williams, Barron, and Bush will all see action on defense while Matakevich will be one of the team’s core special teamers. Not someone I’m searching for a reason to cut. Don’t forget about Ulysees Gilbert III but he’s outside-looking-in.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Ola Adeniyi, Sutton Smith
Analysis: Smith gets the hat over Gilbert III. Might be a more consistent tackler, more versatile, and it’s hard to envision him struggling on special teams. Should make noise this preseason so long as his conditoning allows him to play as much as we anticipate.
Cornerbacks (6) – Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Alexander Myres
Analysis: First five are locks or almost-locks while Myres is the second UDFA who latches onto the roster for his special teams ability. Good depth and versatility here. The team does need to find a role for Cam Sutton, who still may end up seeing time at safety in training camp. Brian Allen could, and really probably should at this point, see time there too but that remains to be seen.
Safeties (5) – Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Marcus Allen, Jordan Dangerfield, PJ Locke
Analysis: Tricky spot here. Depth isn’t great but there are interesting names. PJ Locke and Dravon Askew-Henry can bring the lumber while Kameron Kelly has the chance to make splash plays and turn heads. I’ll throw Locke in here for potential special teams ability but it’s up in the air.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Not making any changes with the specialists until we get into camp and have a further, better evaluation. Fingers crossed Boz has a strong August. Team needs him to.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Far from a lock but I like his odds of making it. He meshes well with the Steelers’ punting philosophy. Ian Berryman is in camp to compete with him.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: The safest job of any of the specialists.
Practice Squad (11)
RB – Trey Edmunds
WR – Tevin Jones
TE – Christian Scotland-Williamson
OL – Garrett Brumfield, Derwin Gray
DL – Henry Mondeaux
OLB – JT Jones
ILB – Ulysees Gilbert III
CB – Herb Waters
S – Kameron Kelly
K – Matthew Wright
Gray and Gilbert, the two draft picks who missed the 53, land on the practice squad. Edmunds received buzz in the spring and can play special teams, Brumfield has a nasty disposition, and CSW has an exemption for his spot. Mondeux is an interesting athlete, Jones a quick first step, and Kelly/Locke could play well this spring. Sticking with keeping a kicker on the practice squad to keep pushing Boswell throughout the season.