With the 2021 NFL Draft now completed, it’s time for me to throw out my initial 53-man roster prediction for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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.
My next stab at the Steelers 53-man roster will likely be posted right before the team reports to training camp. After that one will come one after each and every preseason game.
Quarterbacks (3) — Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
Analysis: The first two of Roethlisberger and Rudolph are givens. That leaves the third and final spot up for grabs. It sure seems like the term really would like to see Haskins do enough this summer to beat out Joshua Dobbs for that spot, so that is the way I will predict it ultimately plays out.
Running Backs (4) – Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Kallen Ballage
Analysis: Past Harris, I’m not really sure you can consider any other running back currently under contract as a lock. Sure, Snell and McFarland should make the roster, but I’m not so sure I would bet my house that both ultimately do just the same. Jaylen Samuels is in the mix once again, but I just can’t see him being back on the 53-man roster another season. For now, I will go with Ballage beating out Samuels for a fourth spot on the running back depth chart. Ballage isn’t much, but at least he is good in short yardage and can play some on special teams.
Fullbacks (1) – Derek Watt
Analysis: The Steelers certainly need to get more of Watt than they did in 2020. He needs to stay healthy, as well. The Steelers restructured his contract several weeks ago, so he should be back on the 53-man roster again this summer barring something surprising happening.
Wide Receivers (5) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
Analysis: The Steelers did not draft a wide receiver this year. That is the first time that has happened since 2011. The big winner during this year’s draft was McCloud, who doubles as a returner. Will and can McCloud be pushed by another wide receiver currently on the offseason roster? We’ll see, but for now you must like his chances of making the 53-man unit again.
Tight Ends (3) – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Jesse James
Analysis: I am calling my shot here and saying the Steelers bring back James in the coming weeks. It makes so much sense for the Steelers to do that. If not James, the Steelers need another accomplished blocking tight end to go along with Ebron and Freiermuth. I am not so sure Zach Gentry or Kevin Rader are what the team wants right now.
Offensive Linemen (8) – David DeCastro, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Kevin Dotson, Joe Haeg, B.J. Finney, Kendrick Green, Dan Moore Jr.
Analysis: These eight certainly figure to be locks as we sit here in May. Man, these eight look a lot different from the eight from last year. Haeg was added in free agency while Green and Moore were both added via the draft. Barring injuries, one must bet that these will be the final eight.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiahh Loudermilk
Analysis: The first five seem like locks, with Davis likely being the most questionable of them all. As for Loudermilk, the Steelers gave away a 2022 fourth-round draft pick so they could trade up to pick him last Saturday. He better make the 53-man roster based on that move alone. The team usually likes to carry just six total defensive linemen, so my best guess is that these are the six.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Marcus Allen, Miles Killebrew
Analysis: It’s true, I left Vince Williams off this list. Killebrew is a special teams ace while Johnson is a rookie draft pick. If the Steelers carry just five inside linebackers this year, these might be the five. Allen can play some safety in a pinch and has special teams value. Williams is up there in age and no longer a demon on special teams like he once was, so he might need an injury to happen to make the team this year.
Outside Linebackers (5) – T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche, Free Agent
Analysis: The only shot I am going to call here is that the team needs another experienced outside linebacker to go along with Watt, Highsmith, Marsh and Roche. I am not sure who that player will ultimately be, but I am not convinced he’s on the roster right now. Shame on Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert if he goes into the 2021 season with just Marsh and Roche backing up Watt and Highsmith.
Cornerbacks (6) – Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Shakur Brown, Trevor Williams
Analysis: Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton are both gone, and Layne is handing on by a thread. We might see another experienced veteran added before training camp. Until something like that happens, these six of Haden, Sutton, Layne, Pierre, Brown, and Williams seem to be the best educated guess among all currently under contract for 2021.
Safeties (4) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Antoine Brooks Jr., Tre Norwood
Analysis: There is not much depth behind Fitzpatrick and Edmunds right now. Brooks has barely played since being drafted last year and Norwood, who is expected to be a free safety after being drafted this year, is obviously just a rookie. Might we see another experienced safety added in the coming weeks? I think it is possible for sure. Norwood is probably better served cutting his teeth on the practice squad in 2021.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Barring an injury, Boswell is a lock again this season. Look for his contract to be restructured later in the summer.
Punter (1) – Pressley Harvin III
Analysis: The Steelers drafted Harvin to hopefully beat out incumbent Jordan Berry, who failed to make the initial 53-man roster last year. It will really be disappointing if Harvin does not win the job after the Steelers used a draft pick on him this year.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Hooray, another year and no long snapper was drafted.
Summary: Yikes, I have all nine of the Steelers’ 2021 draft picks making the 53-man roster this year. That’s likely a big mistake. Only eight offensive linemen are on this initial offering so I could accommodate an extra running back. The split offensively/defensively is 24/26, and that might be one light on offense. Not even going to bother with a practice squad this early because of how the size of it might ultimately play out due to the pandemic.
|Steelers 2021 53-Man Roster Prediction|
|Snell Jr., Benny||RB|
|McFarland Jr., Anthony||RB|
|Moore, Jr., Dan||T|
|Unknown Free Agent||OLB|
|Brooks Jr., Antoine||S|
|Harvin III, Pressley||P|