With us now past what would have been the Pittsburgh Steelers fifth and final preseason game had they all not been wiped out by the pandemic, it’s time for my to throw out my final 53-man roster prediction for the 2020 offseason. This is my fourth offering since the 2020 NFL Draft took place and my third 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 also included and that’s up from the previous 12-man unit it originally looked like teams would have in 2020.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges
Analysis: I recency removed Paxton Lynch from my 53-man roster in my last offering due to him not receiving any reps in the team’s Friday night practice. Since then, I’ve seen nothing to convince me to add him back so I will guess he’ll be cut and ultimately land on the practice squad. This leaves the Steelers with Roethlisberger, Rudolph and Hodges as the three quarterbacks on the 53.
Running Backs (4) – James Conner, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Samuels
Analysis: Judging by the little information that has come out camp and combined with some recent things said by Mike Tomlin, it;s hard to envision Samuels losing his roster spot to Kerrith Whyte Jr., Trey Edmunds or Wendell Smallwood. Assuming Samuels is kept, I think Whyte has the best shot at landing on the practice squad as Smallwood might get a look from another team.
Fullbacks (1) – Derek Watt
Analysis: Watt was destined to be the team’s one and only fullback the moment he signed the three-year contract in March.
Wide Receivers (6) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
Analysis: At this point it seems the only question with this group is whether or not a sixth one is kept and who that sixth one is. The first five above are all locks and that includes Switzer. I have floated several into the sixth spot and will finally settle on Cain, who ended the 2019 season on the 53-man roster. I have Ray-Ray McCloud and Amara Darboh landing on the practice squad.
Tight Ends (3) – Vance McDonald, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry
Analysis: These three have been set in stone for a long time and quite honestly, Kevin Rader to the practice squad seems to have been as well. It’s hard to imagine getting any of this position group wrong.
Offensive Linemen (8) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Stefen Wisniewski, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Kevin Dotson
Analysis: At this point the only mystery with this position group is the health of DeCastro. Is his injury serious enough to warrant him going on the Reserve/Injured list to start the regular season? We’ll find out soon. Even if that happens, he’ll still need to be on the initial 53-man roster. If he does go to IR, Derwin Gray is probably the likely roster replacement. Because I don’t know for sure, I have Gray on the practice squad.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley Isaiah Buggs, Daniel McCullers
Analysis: Still no reason to alter this group of six players for obvious reasons. The Steelers did draft defensive tackle Carlos Davis in the seventh-round this year and he’ll likely land on the practice squad. I have rookie Calvin Taylor and Henry Mondeaux both landing on the practice squad as well.
Inside Linebackers (4) – Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysses Gilbert III, Robert Spillane
Analysis: These four inside linebackers are the only ones on the 80-man roster right now. Plus, you can add Marcus Allen to this group as well even though I still have him listed with the safeties.
Outside Linebackers (5) – Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Alex Highsmith, Tuzar Skipper
Analysis: I flirted with the notion of keeping Jayrone Elliott over Skipper but ultimately chose against doing that due to the Steelers having signed the latter to a two-year contract. Even so, there was virtually no buzz about Skipper throughout training camp and that’s concerning. I have Elliott landing on the practice squad.
Cornerbacks (5) – Joe Haden, Steve Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne,
Analysis: These five sound like the five with James Pierre and Trajan Bandy both seemingly being locks for the practice squad. Pierre seemed like he may have been a ball magnet throughout training camp.
Safeties (5) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Curtis Riley, Marcus Allen
Analysis: Riley was a later offseason add and seems like a lock at this point and with Allen seemingly being a lock as a safety/linebacker, that will likely result in rookie Antoine Brooks Jr. landing on the practice squad with another draft pick, Davis.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Never in question at this position.
Punter (1) – Jordan Berry
Analysis: Corliss Waitman made it all the way through training camp and that’s a tiny surprise. Even so, it’s hard to imagine that the Steelers saw enough of the rookie during training camp to warrant keeping him over Berry. Waitman might land on the practice squad in case Boswell and Berry were to get COVID-19.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Canaday is dealing with a knee injury right now but it sounds like he’ll be ready for Week 1.
Summary: I have had several mainstays throughout the 53-man roster prediction roster process. In fact I think that number is 46 of 53. this final prediction is a lot like my first one from May. In fact, 49 of those 53 players are in my final prediction. The ones who weren’t are Hodges, Switzer, Riley and Allen.
|Steelers 2020 53-Man Roster Prediction|
|Snell Jr., Benny||RB|
|Anthony McFarland Jr.||RB|
|Gilbert III, Ulysees||ILB|
|Whyte Jr., Kerrith||RB|
|Brooks Jr., Antoine||S|