With the Pittsburgh Steelers reporting to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Wednesday for the start of their annual training camp, it’s time for me to finally throw out my initial 53-man roster prediction for the team along with a 16-man practice squad prediction. It still isn’t known if the practice squad will indeed be 16 members like last year, but it certainly sounds like that’s what will ultimately be the case.
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’s first preseason game, which is the Hall of Fame game. After that one will come one after each and every preseason game.
Quarterbacks (3) — Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
Analysis: Is Haskins really the lock most think he is? Probably not and so with that, it shouldn’t be a shock if Joshua Dobbs winds up landing the third spot for a multitude of reasons. Let’s see if Haskins can earn it.
Running Backs (4) – Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage
Analysis: Past Harris, I’m not really sure you can consider any other running back currently under contract as a sure lock. Sure, Snell and McFarland should make the roster, but I’m not so sure I would bet my house that both ultimately do that 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 to start with. The Steelers restructured his contract earlier in the offseason, so he should be back on the 53-man roster again 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 and once again, that is the first time that has happened since 2011. McCloud, who doubles as a returner, seems to be the big winner as a result of that. For now, these five seem to be the five and it’s the same five the team ended 2020 with.
Tight Ends (3) – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Kevin Rader
Analysis: Well, no sign of Jesse James on the roster like I was hoping for. Based on the players currently on the 90-man roster, one must give the edge to Rader over Zach Gentry, the team’s former fifth round draft pick. Rader is the better blocker and special teams player and it’s not close in either of those categories.
Offensive Linemen (9) – Trai Turner, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr., B.J. Finney, Rashaad Coward
Analysis: Out goes David DeCastro unexpectedly and in comes Turner and he’ll now be the starting right guard. I added Coward as my ninth since my last prediction. Barring injuries, it will be hard to bet against these nine and man, does this nine look a lot different than last year’s nine. Gone from a year ago are DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva.
Defensive Linemen (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiahh Loudermilk
Analysis: These six sure do seem to be the six barring injuries and if so, that makes Isaiah Buggs the odd man out in lieu of essentially Loudermilk, the team’s fifth round draft pick this year. The team usually just keeps six defensive linemen in total and so you will be hard-pressed to go against these six.
Inside Linebackers (4) – Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Marcus Allen
Analysis: I still have Vince Williams off this list. In addition to these four players, Miles Killebrew can play inside as well but he is mainly a special teams ace. Johnson is a rookie draft pick. If the Steelers carry just four inside linebackers this year plus Killebrew, Williams will have a tough time making it. 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, Melvin Ingram, Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche
Analysis: The Steelers just signed Ingram and it sure seems like Marsh might be a hard out because of his special teams abilities. Is Roche a lock? He’s going to have to show some ability on special teams I do believe.
Cornerbacks (6) – Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet, Shakur Brown
Analysis: Analysis: Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton are both gone, and Layne is hanging on by a thread it seems. Pierre, however, is moving in the right direction. Brown is an undrafted free agent with a good deal of upside. The Steelers signed Maulet earlier in the offseason and he is versatile player that can play all over in the secondary.
Safeties (4) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Antoine Brooks Jr., Miles Killebrew
Analysis: I have Tre Norwood landing on the practice squad and instead, the team adding another outside free agent. This team needs another experienced and versatile safety, and they have the cap room to go get a player such as Malik Hooker. Brooks is more of a box safety. Is Killebrew an inside linebacker is he safety? Does it really even matter? Not in my mind. Killebrew was brought in to play special teams and be a core member. If he must play any on defense, something has gone really wrong.
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: How many total linebackers will be kept overall, and will Williams be in that group? That’s one of the toughest questions to answer right now. The same goes for the last running back spot, assuming four in total are kept along with a fullback. What about safety depth? I really think the Steelers should add a player like Hooker if possible.
|Steelers 2021 53-Man Roster Prediction|
|Snell Jr., Benny||RB|
|McFarland Jr., Anthony||RB|
|Moore, Jr., Dan||T|
|Brooks Jr., Antoine||S|
|Harvin III, Pressley||P|
|Gilbert III, Ulysees||ILB|