Updating my Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster predictions since my first crack at things shortly after the draft. There are a handful of changes from last time around. Of course, this list can and will change over the next months and I’ll have new predictions a couple more times before final cutdowns.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and where you would agree/disagree.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
Analysis: No change from my earlier offseason prediction. Real battle here is between Haskins and Dobbs for that #3 spot. Either guy could win and I think it’s smart and healthy for the team to carry the odd-man-out on the practice squad or at least attempt to get him there. Haskins has a higher upside though, making him the player you’d rather protect than Dobbs.
Running Backs (4) – Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels
Analysis: One notable change here, placing Samuels on the roster over Kalen Ballage. I’ve been as critical and down on Samuels as anyone on here and I’m not advocating this should be the Steelers’ move. But Snell and Ballage have a pretty redundant skillset and I think – at least on paper – Matt Canada is going to want another pass catching back on his roster. Samuels is versatile and that meshes well with the type of offense Canada wants to run, even if he is a woefully inefficient player.
Fullback (1) – Derek Watt
Analysis: Hoping for better health with Watt this training camp. Got off on the wrong foot last year and it never felt like he completely caught up. Now we’ll see how much of a fullback will be used in this offense.
Wide Receivers (5) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud
Analysis: Same five as before. First four are locks and McCloud is close. He should be your starting punt and kick returner this season and involved in the jet/horizontal pass game on offense for the 5-10 snaps a game he plays. A sixth receiver could be kept but someone will really need to impress this summer.
Tight Ends (3) – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Kevin Rader
Analysis: No movement here. Rader is the best blocker and special teamer of the group. Unless Zach Gentry is a completely different player or the team comes across a name on the waiver wire, Rader is a low-ceiling player but solid #3 tight end.
Offensive Tackles (4) – Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr.
Analysis: Offensive line is a question mark and there could be lots of moving and shaking, especially among the backups. Haeg figures to be the team’s tackle-eligible and swing man while Moore learns the NFL ropes.
Offensive Center/Guards (5) – Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, B.J. Finney, Kendrick Green, Rashaad Coward
Analysis: Turner, of course, replaces David DeCastro. Still predicting Green to be the starting center, though his spot there isn’t assured, with Finney as the top interior backup. Coward needs a lot of coaching but Adrian Klemm will like his aggression.
Defensive Ends (4) – Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Henry Mondeaux
Analysis: Competitive, deep group. Could be harder cuts here than any other position group. Sticking my neck out with Mondeaux making it over the rookie Loudermilk. Mondeaux is the better athlete and more importantly, more valuable special teamer, which is important knowing a guy like Melvin Ingram won’t be running down kicks. The Steelers aren’t afraid to cut draft picks.
Nose Tackle (2) – Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis
Analysis: Davis is a name to watch this summer. Could have a really good camp and eventual replacement for Alualu.
Outside Linebackers (4) – T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Quincy Roche
Analysis: Ingram of course gets slotted onto the roster. Choosing Roche over Cassius Marsh but they will battle hard for the #4 spot on the roster. This group looks a lot better now than it did one week ago.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Marcus Allen, Ulysees Gilbert III
Analysis: Situation became maybe a little less muddy following Vince Williams’ retirement. Spillane becomes the clear-cut starter. Depth here is young and generally unproven but there’s talent with Johnson, Allen, and UG3 has always impressed before his recurring back injuries.
Cornerbacks (5) – Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Art Maulet, Shakur Brown
Analysis: Removing UDFA corner Mark Gilbert from the 53. Still unclear how the roles will be divided in sub-package but Haden and Sutton will be the starting outside corners in the Steelers’ base defense. Maulet offers Cam Sutton-esque versatility while Brown has the size and skillset similar to Mike Hilton. Feisty, quality zone processor.
Safeties (5) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Antoine Brooks Jr, Donovan Stiner
Analysis: Adding UDFA safety Donovan Stiner as the fifth and final safety but I think there’s a good chance the team goes outside the organization to bring in someone else. Malik Hooker or someone currently on a roster because depth here is needed.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Barring injury of apocalyptic collapse, Sam Sloman poses no threat to The Boz.
Punter (1) – Pressley Harvin III
Analysis: Sticking with Harvin III over Jordan Berry. Far from guaranteed and he’ll need to prove his consistency but the team seems legitimately excited by Harvin’s leg and open-field punting ability.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: A small part of me wanted to be contrarian and put Christian Kuntz here after Canaday struggled last season. But if the team is changing its holder, they probably want to keep their snapper and I think Canaday will have a fine camp.
GAMEDAY INACTIVES (5)
QB Dwayne Haskins
OL Rashaad Coward
LB Buddy Johnson
CB Shakur Brown
S Donovan Stiner
PRACTICE SQUAD (12)
QB: Josh Dobbs
RB: Trey Edmunds
WR: Mathew Sexton, Isaiah McKoy
TE: Dax Raymond
OL: J.C. Hassenauer, Aviante Collins
DL: Isaiahh Loudermilk, Abdullah Anderson
OLB : Jamir Jones
CB: Lamont Wade
S: Tre Norwood
Analysis: Dobbs kept as the fourth QB as insurance and to keep pushing Haskins. McKoy will make some big plays downfield this summer. Draft picks Loudermilk and Norwood land on the practice squad while Wade makes it for his versatility.