You’re going to build the roster.
If you’re like me you’d love the chance to be a General Manager. We all have our opinions on players throughout the draft process and throughout the season of who we would prefer to have on the team or active roster. I thought this might be a fun process to look at a group of players give some background information on each player and see who you would keep. And yes, I understand you want to see how everyone does in training camp.
I’ll give you three players from each position group and you decide which two you will keep (one to the active roster, one to the practice squad) and one player to cut. At the end of this process we’ll have a 53 man roster and a good portion of the practice squad built by you.
That is where the Steelers finished in rushing last year and from the front office there was an edict to improve the running game.
Out is James Conner. In is Najee Harris. Conner was solid when he was healthy but struggled to stay in that state. He averaged just 55.5 yards per game last season and has his lowest yards per receptions numbers of his career (6.1 ypr). He was not resigned and moved on to the Arizona Cardinals.
The Steelers drafted Harris in the first round and will be the bell cow in the backfield. He’ll be running behind a new starting five for the Steelers but his combination of size, speed and agility looks to be up to the task.
Anthony McFarland enters year two and will definitely benefit from a full training camp and preseason and should benefit having experience with the new offensive coordinator. He managed just 113 yards on 33 carries (3.4 ypc) and his pace and vision to find the right gap struggled throughout the season. Matt Canada should have plenty of ideas on how to get him situated.
Benny Snell is entering year three and has performed well when given 15+ touches per game. After his rookie season he wanted to get quicker, so he dropped some weight. It may have helped a little but in year two, the Steelers wanted to make him a short yardage back. It seems they are trying to find a role for him but are torn between making him quicker and being a chain mover.
Another player who should benefit from Canada’s influence is full back Derek Watt. Canada was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin during Watt’s freshman season when he had twelve receptions for 150 yards. He too struggled to find a role so there is some hope coming into this season.
Last season the Steeler kept four running backs and one full back on the 53 man roster.
Jaylen Samuels – After getting 113 touches in 2019, Samuels’s role was severely limited receiving just 18 touches in 2020 and when he got those touches he was ineffective averaging 3.1 yards per carry and 5.1 per reception. His offensive snaps were the lowest of his career at 121 and he had 135 snaps on special teams. In his career he has 131 rushes for 459 yards, 3.5 yards per carry and 82 receptions on 100 targets for 550 yards averaging 6.7 yards per reception and he has five total touchdowns.
On the positive side, he is entering year four and knows the offense. He can be used in the backfield, split out wide or in the slot and other than Harris he probably has the best hands out of the running backs. Like some others, he too could benefit from Canada’s creativity to put him in advantageous situations.
Best Game in 2020 – Week 14 at Buffalo – 4 rushes for 15 yards, 3 receptions for 18 yards
On the negative side, what does he do better thank Harris, Snell or McFarland? What will his role be with Harris likely getting the majority of reps as the receiving back? He’s not in line to get carries and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry. On special teams there were at least 6 players who had more special team tackles than him.
Worst game in 2020 – Week 1 at New York Giants – 1 rush for 2 yards, 1 reception for 1 yard
Kalen Ballage – Is also entering his fourth season and Pittsburgh is his fourth team. He has spent time with the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Los Angeles Chargers. He has good size listed at 6’2” and 231 pounds and that has helped him have success in short yardage situations. It would seem his main competition would be with Snell as they have similar skill sets. In his career Ballage has 201 carries for 629 yards, 3.1 yards per carry and 52 receptions on 72 targets for 285 yards, 5.5 yards per reception and 7 TD’s all rushing.
On the positive side, as Alex Kozora pointed out he is good in short yardage situations converting 75% (18 of 24) in the last three seasons which put him in the top 5 in the NFL over that time period. He is capable of handling a bigger role if injuries occur He had double digit touches 7 times over the last 2 seasons. He has special teams experience on punt and kick teams with 292 snap in his three seasons.
Best Game of 2020 – Week 9 vs Las Vegas – 15 carries for 69 yards and 1 TD, 2 receptions for 15 yards
On the negative side, he is on his fourth team in four years for a reason whatever that reason may be. In 2020, he averaged 3.3 yards per carry and per Pro Football reference has broken just 5 tackles on 201 carries at 231 pounds. As a receiver he has 7 drops, about one every ten targets. Do they need a short yardage back with Harris in the fold?
Worst Game of 2020 – Week 15 at Las Vegas – 8 carries for 11 yards, 1.38 yards per carry, 1 TD
Trey Edmunds – This will be season number 5 in the NFL and the 4th with brother Terrell. He is the high effort, do whatever the coaches ask player. The majority of his time on the field is on special teams were he has 566 plays in his career. He has just 113 plays on offense with 93 of them coming in 2019. For his career he has 31 carries for 140 yards, 4.5 yard average and 6 receptions on 7 targets for 48 yards, 8.0 yards per reception and 1 career touchdown. He went on injured reserve in week 12 of 2020.
On the positive side, it will be tough for Edmunds but his experience on special teams could help. The Steelers lost Jordan Dangerfield (10 tackles) and Ola Adeniyi (9) who were strong on special teams. He his 13 career tackles to his name. His YPC is much better than the other candidates in a small sample size. The Steelers do love NFL family bloodlines and he could fill in at full back if Watt goes down.
Best Game in 2020 – Week 5 vs Philadelphia 6 offensive snaps, 12 on special teams
On the negative side, will not have a role on offense and if he does many bad things have happened to the backfield. No kick return experience though there isn’t much with any of these guys.
Worst Game in 2020 – Week 2 at Tennessee – 1 offensive snap, 0 special team snaps
The choice is yours. I will tally up the comments and also do a poll on Twitter to get the results. The results of each positon group will be listed below going forward until you have a complete roster.
53 Man Roster
QB – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
QB – Joshua Dobbs