My first crack at the 53 man roster (which can expand to 55 by shuffling practice squaders on and off) prior to the start of camp and after the new 16 man taxi squad changes.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges
Analysis: A healthy Roethlisberger is what we all want and this team needs. Behind him Rudolph and Hodges each had a couple moments last year but neither impressed greatly. Lynch will be given the chance to compete and fans love the big arm and to point out he’s 6’7” but that height does not equal success.
Running Backs (4) – James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Trey Edmunds
Analysis: It comes down to Trey Edmunds versus Jaylen Samuels for the final spot. I feel Samuels has been given a chance to show what his ceiling is and it isn’t very high. The others can handle his receiving duties. Edmunds won’t need to make an impact on offense but he is a good special teamer.
Fullback (1) – Derek Watt
Analysis: Watt replaces Roosevelt Nix as the team’s fullback and will be a key special team player.
Wide Receivers (6) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
Analysis: Barring any injuries I think these guys are going to be the choices. The entire group is young and the top three are poised to do big things this year. Claypool brings size and speed to the position and was a fantastic special team player in college. Switzer had a down year last year that included an injury but has a good rapport with Roethlisberger that led to 42% of his receptions becoming first downs in 2018. Cain took over the Johnny Holton role late in the year and was able to produce in limited opportunities.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry
Analysis: This group looks to be set with only Kevin Rader and the newly acquired Dax Raymond on the roster to make a push.
Offensive Tackles (3) – Alejandro Villanueva, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner
Analysis: Big Al is locked in on the left side and camp will provide a good battle at right tackle between Okorafor and Banner. Banner nearly tripled the number of offense snaps (216) of Chuks (73) while reporting as eligible while Okorafor got the start when Feiler kicked inside against the Rams.
Offensive Center/Guards (5) – David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Matt Feiler, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Dotson
Analysis: The early news says Feiler will get the first shot at the left guard spot. Stefan Wisniewski was a valuable veteran signing who can play all three interior spots. Dotson will look to push the veterans but have to really impress or have Feiler move back outside for a chance to start.
Defensive Ends (3) –Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs
Analysis: Tuitt was on track for big year last year and adding him back to the defense is like adding a new player. Alualu will be the top backup with Tuitt back. He’ll play all along the line including being part of the group to replace Javon Hargrave. Buggs received 75 snaps last year and was performed solidly.
Defensive Tackle (3) – Cam Heyward, Daniel McCullers, Chris Wormley
Analysis: Heyward is the star of the defensive line. McCullers is not a fan favorite but he played fairly well the past two years and manages to continue to stick around. Wormley is an addition from Baltimore who is best against the run but can push the pocket.
Outside Linebackers (5) – TJ Watt, Bud Dupree, Ola Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, Alex Highsmith
Analysis: Adeniyi looks to have the edge as the top backup for the position. Skipper will have to be productive on special teams. Highsmith has a nice upside but with Watt (87% of defensive snaps) and Dupree (91%) rarely coming off the field his impact will likely be on special teams as well.
Inside Linebackers (4) – Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysees Gilbert III, Robert Spillane
Analysis: This is another position that looks pretty locked in. The depth behind these four is limited and I’d expect an ILB to be brought in after cuts. I’m not as high on Gilbert as some but he showed some good things last year. Spillane became a special team monster after being activated in November.
Cornerbacks (6) – Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, Justin Layne, Trajan Bandy
Analysis: The top three are one of the best groups in the league. Sutton has improved each season and has value inside, outside and backing up at safety. Looking for Layne to show good improvement in year two. The final spot goes to the UDFA Bandy who can learn behind Hilton.
Safeties (5) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Antoine Brooks Jr.
Analysis: Dangerfield is another guy who excels on special teams and can back up the strong safety position. Brooks will be looked at as hybrid type who gets the nod over the rest of the group. Like ILB, safety will be a position that will be looked at when teams start making cuts.
Special Teams (3)
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Big bounce back from Boz last year becoming better than before.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Expecting the Berry from the earlier part of 2019 when he was actually having a pretty good season.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Gotta love long snappers you don’t need to be concerned about.
Gameday Inactives (5)
QB Devlin Hodges
WR Deon Cain
TE Zach Gentry
OLB Alex Highsmith
CB Trajan Bandy
Practice Squad (16)
QB: Paxton Lynch
RB: Kerrith Whyte
WR: Amara Darboh, Anthony Johnson
TE: Kevin Radar, Dax Raymond
OL: JC Hassnenauer, Derwin Gray, Jarron Jones
DL: Henry Mondeaux, Josiah Coatney
OLB: James Lockhart
ILB: Leo Lewis
CB: Alexander Myres, James Pierre
S: Tyree Kinnel
Analysis: Nice to have a couple extra spots this year. Going heavy at running back but Edmunds is essentially a special teamer. Radar has stuck out, Hassenauer has “center only” potential if they need to call someone up while Jones is an interesting tackle project worth keeping around with several OTs pending free agents.
Coatney is one of the more interesting UDFAs while Davis is the lone draft pick not to make the roster. Skipper gets stashed like the team tried to do a year ago, Lewis is another UDFA who makes it, and Myres could perform well on special teams.