With us now past what would have been the Pittsburgh Steelers first of five preseason games had they not been wiped out by the pandemic, it’s time for my to throw out another 53-man roster prediction for the team. This is my second offering since the 2020 NFL Draft took place and my first since the new pandemic rules were agreed upon.
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. A 16-man practice squad is now included and that’s up from the previous 12-man unit it originally looked like teams would have in 2020.
My next stab at the Steelers 53-man roster will likely be posted a few weeks from now barring anything drastic taking place. With no preseason games this year, there’s no reason to throw out a new roster prediction every week.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch
Analysis: I’m still sticking with my original prediction that Lynch will beat out Devlin Hodges for the right to be the No. 3 quarterback behind Rudolph. This is based only on how Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin have both talked so glowingly about Lynch since the 2019 season ended.
Running Backs (4) – James Conner, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Wendell Smallwood
Analysis: The Steelers added Smallwood recently and in my opinion, he’s a better all-around running back than both Jaylen Samuels and Kerrith Whyte Jr. He’s also the better special teams player of the three. Conner, Snell and McFarland are all locks, obviously.
Fullbacks (1) – Derek Watt
Analysis: Watt comes in via free agency and is now one of the highest paid fullbacks in the NFL. Barring an injury, Watt is as safe as safe can be as not only is he a fullback, he’s a special teams demon.
Wide Receivers (6) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
Analysis: Yeah, it’s becoming clearer by the day that Switzer is more than likely going to make the 53-man roster this season. Will the team keep five or six wide receivers in total?
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry
Analysis: While I lie the recent signing of tight end Dax Raymond, I just dont see him pushing Gentry out of the third and final tight end spot behind McDonald and Ebron. I have Raymond on the practice squad now.
Offensive Linemen (8) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Stefen Wisniewski, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Kevin Dotson
Analysis: These eight figure to be locks as we sit here in August. Additionally, with their essentially being two floating gameday spots every week of the season, the Steelers can probably get away with having a core group of eight on their initially 53-man roster.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley Isaiah Buggs, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: The Steelers did draft defensive tackle Carlos Davis in the seventh-round this year and he’ll likely land on the practice squad. McCullers sure seems like a lock to make the 53-man roster again with five weeks to go.
Inside Linebackers (4) – Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysses Gilbert III, Robert Spillane
Analysis: Mark Barron and Tyler Matakevich are both now gone and Gilbert will return from injury in 2020 and try to pick up where he left off last season. Spillane needs to be a core special teams player in 2020 with the Steelers losing a few of those this past offseason. This group could use another body, but who?
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, Alex Highsmith
Analysis: Highsmith, the team’s third-round draft pick, will likely spend a lot of his rookie season playing on special teams. Both Adeniyi and Skipper seem poised to be on the 53-man roster and especially if the Steelers keep five outside linebackers in total. With only four inside linebackers, count on five outside linebackers to be kept.
Cornerbacks (5) – Joe Haden, Steve Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne,
Analysis: I previously had rookie Trajan Bandy as a sixth but now have him going to the practice squad. The five above should be locks. Will there be a sixth?
Safeties (5) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Antoine Brooks Jr., Curtis Riley
Analysis: The Steelers recently signed Riley and he is now the second-best free safety on the roster and that’s not saying much. Brooks can help out on special teams as a rookie along with the veteran Dangerfield.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Barring an injury, Boswell will be part of the 53.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Will Corliss Waitman make it all the way through training camp? If he does, he might be a practice squad player in case Boswell and Berry were to get COVID-19.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Canaday looks like he might be a scratch golfer as well, not that you need to know that or that it matters.
Summary: Once again, I have five of the Steelers six draft picks from this year making the 53-man roster. Only eight offensive linemen are on this initial offering so I could accommodate a fourth running back. The split offensively/defensively is 25/25 and the 16-man practice squad is split at 8 offense/7 defense/1 specialist. An extra lineman or linebacker can easily be promoted from the practice squad for the gameday 55-man roster if needed.
|Steelers 2020 53-Man Roster Prediction|
|Snell Jr., Benny||RB|
|Anthony McFarland Jr.||RB|
|Gilbert III, Ulysees||ILB|
|Brooks Jr., Antoine||S|
|Whyte Jr., Kerrith||RB|