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.
Thanks to a change of heart from Tyson Alualu the starting defensive line will all be returning for the 2021 season. This meant that going into the draft defensive line was not a position of need but that didn’t stop the Steelers from trading up to get a player they thought would fit the mold they have for defensive ends. The depth of the defensive line has youth on its side and has shown flashed of being depth that can be relied upon.
Cam Heyward is still the leader of the pack and still a force to be reckoned with even against the best offensive linemen in the game. This season will be Heyward’s eleventh with the Steelers and statistically he is very consistent while still being able to draw the double team to give his teammates more one on one situations.
Alualu flirted with leaving and was nearly on his way before he decided to return to Pittsburgh. This will be his fifth season with the Steelers and he has enjoyed resurgence and will once again man the middle. His 79 total tackles combined over the last two years is his highest two year total since the 2012-2013 seasons when he combined for 87 tackles.
Stephon Tuitt enters season number eight in the black and gold and had the best statistical year of his career in 2020. He set career highs in games started (15), sacks (11), tackles for a loss (10) and quarterback hits (25). He was able to stay healthy and will complete the formidable trio up front.
The group that will ultimately make up the reserves will come from a group of at least five players. The Steelers traded up to get Isaiahh Loudermilk. He has been compared by coached and teammates to a young Heyward. He could have a better pair of defensive ends to learn from so he was solid in the first preseason game. He’s likely to make the roster
Chris Wormley is the veteran depth and can play outside or inside. The 2020 season was his first in Pittsburgh and was statistically underwhelming but he is a solid run defender. He is the only reserve who has true starting experience starting 15 games while with Baltimore.
Isaiah Buggs – Entering year three in the NFL, Buggs has progressed in is two seasons and set modest career highs across the board. He appeared in 10 games with one start (vs Dallas) and on the season he totaled 11 tackles and one quarterback hit. The defensive charting from Alex Kozora shows he lined up all along the line from the left end to the right end.
On the positive side, he has the versatility to play up and down the defensive line and is currently listed as the backup nose tackle. He looks to playing with more aggressiveness and was disruptive in the Hall of Fame game. He finished with two tackles and a tackle for a loss. He is possibly the most talented of the young backups from last year’s roster.
Best game in 2020 – Week 8 vs Baltimore – 34 defensive snaps, 5 total tackles, 3 solo, 1 QB hit
On the negative side, he struggled last year to get a helmet on game day often at the expense of the next player on this list. He was only active for 3 games over the final 8 games. Just 206 snaps in two seasons with 14 total tackles and zero sacks.
Worst game in 2020 – Week 13 vs Washington – Just three defensive snaps, inactive for 3 weeks
Carlos Davis – Davis is the other likely candidate to back up Alualu. After being inactive for the first 7 games as a rookie he was active for 8 of the last 9 games. He was given limited opportunities but handled himself well and showed improvement over the season. He too lined up all along the defensive line.
On the positive side, he is the younger option if only by a year. Battling for a spot on the game day roster, he did enough in practice to earn the nod the majority of the second half of the season. He also performed well in the first preseason game with one tackle and one quarterback hit. More natural in the notes tackle position and has better length than Buggs and was also praised by head coach Mike Tomlin this week.
Best game in 2020 – Week 9 vs Dallas – In his first career game he played 16 snaps making 2 solo tackles, one for a loss.
On the negative side, there is still work to be done when it comes to shedding blocks. He did not show the chops to be a threat as a pass rusher in limited opportunities. He played just 54 snaps in the seven games he appeared. He is currently listed as third team possibly pointing to having to overcome Buggs.
Worst game in 2020 – Week 15 vs Cincinnati – played 2 snaps, inactive for 8 games
Henry Mondeaux – It took a while for him to get his NFL opportunity but he took advantage of his chance last season. He spent time with New Orleans and Kansas City before signing with Pittsburgh after a tryout. Mondeaux will do anything to get on the field. He’ll line up anywhere on the defensive line, he played special teams and he even played fullback for a play which resulted in a Benny Snell touchdown. He played 11 games with five tackles and one for a loss with two quarterback hits.
On the positive side, after joining the active roster in week 7 he played in every game. He had the most plays of the bunch due to his participation on special teams with 271 total plays with 182 on special teams which give him extra value. Good motor on every play and will drive the bus to the game if asked.
Best game in 2020 – Week 12 vs Baltimore – 21 snaps, 6 on defense, two total tackles
On the negative side, he will have maybe the biggest uphill battle for the roster. Listed at defensive end he’ll have several players to earn a spot. He is probably the least athletic of the bunch and the oldest of these three players. He doesn’t have the “possible future starter” feel that the other two players have.
Worst game in 2020 – Week 14 at Buffalo – 3 snaps on defense, 14 on special teams
Realistically, it’s 4 spots (3 on the roster and at least on the practice squad) for seven players if you want to include Abdullah Anderson as well. Also, if you don’t think Loudermilk or Wormley deserves a roster spot let me know in the comments who would be your three backups and practice squad player.
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 – (24 of 53)
- QB (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
- RB (3) – Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell Jr
- FB (1)– Derek Watt
- WR (5) – Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
- TE (3) – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
- IOL (5) – Kevin Dotson, Trai Turner, Kendrick Green, Rashad Coward, B.J. Finney
- OT (4) – Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Dan Moore, Jr, Joe Haeg
Practice Squad (6 of 16)
- QB – Joshua Dobbs, RB Kalen Ballage, WR Isaiah McKoy, TE Kevin Rader, IOL J.C. Hassenauer, OT Aviante Collins