Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges
Analysis: I hear a lot of people saying that Devlin Hodges is not an NFL quarterback. I’m not convinced that Paxton Lynch is, either. Nor do I think the Steelers are.
Running Backs (4) – James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels
Analysis: This seems like a great year for the Steelers to keep four running backs, which hasn’t been uncommon until recently. Jaylen Samuels isn’t a fan favorite anymore, but he offers something different in the passing game.
Fullback (1) – Derek Watt
Analysis: They didn’t give him $10 million for nothing.
Wide Receivers (6) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
Analysis: Whether or not Ryan Switzer ends up as the kick returner, he can be the backup, and this sort of year is more important to have one. Remember Markus Wheaton getting thrown back there? You actually have to know what you’re doing. And Deon Cain is the most talented and experienced and most familiar with the system of all the team’s big, tall, unaccomplished wide receivers they’ve compiled. Might as well stick with him.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry
Analysis: There isn’t much discussion here. Kevin Rader and Dax Raymond don’t have Gentry’s upside, and they’re not going to give up on him unless he looks awful in training camp.
Offensive Line (9) – Alejandro Villanueva, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Matt Feiler, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Dotson, Derwin Gray
Analysis: I’m taking a significant risk here by predicting that the Steelers will carry nine linemen this year. They usually do, but only when they have nine to justify it. I’m banking on Gray making a significant second-year leap after healing up and redshirting last year, and showing position flexibility as a tackle/guard combo. This is a year you don’t want to run out of linemen.
Defensive Line (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiah Buggs, Tyson Alualu, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: Carlos Davis has such a short window to try to make the team that it’s hard to see it happening. Everything else is pretty much set. They’re not going to cut McCullers and just hope Alualu can play 400 snaps at nose tackle.
Outside Linebackers (5) – T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, Alex Highsmith
Analysis: Two quality starters and three special teamers.
Inside Linebackers (4) – Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysees Gilbert III, Robert Spillane
Analysis: Nobody behind these four has much experience. Most are rookies, with the exception of Christian Kuntz. He could have a chance, but Spillane is intriguing anyway.
Cornerbacks (5) – Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne
Analysis: If you don’t have more than five cornerbacks, don’t bother carrying more than five. This is a strong group right here, and the flexibility of Hilton and Sutton to play safety deepens the secondary as a whole.
Safeties (4) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Antoine Brooks Jr.
Analysis: Another one of my less confident predictions is the team carrying only four safeties, even if they did it last year. I’m assuming the rookie Brooks replaces Marcus Allen.
Special Teams (3)
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: After a rebound 2019 in which he missed the fewest total kicks in the NFL, he’s safe.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Whether you like him or not, it’s not like he really has competition.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Again, not really a competition. Kuntz can long snap, but without a preseason? There won’t be a change made.