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.
The cornerback group lost two key members this offseason with Steven Nelson being released for salary cap reasons and Mike Hilton signing with Cincinnati in free agency. It’s no secret the Steelers have had their issues with drafting and developing corners but they have a couple players ready to go on the outside. Hilton’s skill set will be more difficult to replace.
Joe Haden is the veteran of the group and entering his fifth season with the Steelers. He is the left corner and is expected to continue his productive play. In 11 seasons he has 29 interceptions and 149 pass breakup to go along with 577 tackles. He is playing in the last year of his contract and hoping for an extension
Cameron Sutton is expected to be the starter on the right side but also is going to be used in the slot in nickel/dime coverages. He was used in the slot in passing situations in 2020 and now will be given the chance to prove himself on the outside. He is signed for the next two seasons and has 73 career tackles, 3 interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Eight of those came in 2020.
James Pierre was a gem of find being an undrafted free agent and will be relied upon heavily in 2021. He cut his teeth on special teams last year working on punt block and cover as well as kick coverage and impressed through the season. He had ten total tackles last year and its looking like he will be the right corner in nickel/dime packages while Sutton kicks inside.
Antoine Brooks is also entering his second season and is currently listed as the starting nickel on the depth chart. He played safety in college and dropped some weight coming into this season to improve his quickness to play inside. Brooks looked good in the first preseason game but has been out with a lower body injury since. He could be used in nickel packages.
Justin Layne looked like he might not make the roster (and he still might not) but his performance over the last two preseason games has been better than he has showed in previous seasons. He is listed as the backup to Haden and has started to make plays on the ball in practice and games while being a willing supporter against the run.
Arthur Maulet – Added to the 90 man roster shortly after the draft, the veteran Maulet was brought in to compete for the nickel position. In his career he has spent time with New Orleans, Indianapolis and the New York Jets. He has appeared in 35 games with 12 starts totaling 77 tackles, 2 interceptions and 7 pass breakups.
On the positive side, he is a veteran with some starting experience with eleven of his starts coming in the last two years. He started the second preseason game and finished with four tackles. He is a willing participant versus the run and has experience on special teams with over 350 snaps.
Best Game in 2020 – Week 16 vs Cleveland – 5 tackles, 4 solo, 3 passed defensed, 79 defensive snaps, and 5 special team snaps
On the negative side, he is a bit undersized and can get dragged making tackles. His main competition did not play in week 2 possibly leading to him getting the start. He injured his ankle vs Detroit making his availability in the future unknown at this time. Twelve missed tackles in 79 opportunities the last two seasons.
Worst Game in 2020 – Week 1 vs Buffalo – 23 special team snaps, no tackles
Shakur Brown – Brown was an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State and got some buzz early. He is another candidate for the slot corner position. Brown declared for the draft after his junior year playing in 26 games with 12 starts. He had 54 career tackles with 7 interceptions and 9 pass breakups.
On the positive side, he plays with more physicality than his 185 pound frame. He has ball production in college with quality interceptions a trait the Steelers like. He was also used to blitz in college and had some success.
On the negative side, he’s a better fit for a Zone defense than Man coverage. He has gotten just 37 snaps in games in the preseason playing behind the other slot corners. With the use of Sutton inside that essentially make him the 4th string slot. He committed two defensive penalties versus Detroit.
Mark Gilbert – Gilbert was also an undrafted free agent but he is an outside corner. His collegiate career got off to a great start including a sophomore season in which he has six interceptions, 15 pass break up to go along with 35 tackles. His final two seasons were limited to 4 games due to a hip and foot injuries.
On the positive side, he has NFL bloodlines including being cousins with Darrelle Revis. The ball skills were off the charts in college. He has athleticism and instincts to jump routes and has two pass breakups in the preseason. If he can regain his health and stay healthy there is good potential to be this seasons Pierre.
On the negative side, hip injuries are notoriously difficult from which to recover fully. Gilbert will be an older rookie at 24 years old. He has a lean frame and could struggle with bigger receivers. He has played 49 snaps with just 7 in the Detroit game.
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 position group will be listed below going forward until you have a complete roster.
53 Man Roster – (38 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, Joe Haeg
- DL (6) – Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Carlos Davis
- OLB (4) – T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Quincy Roche
- ILB (4) – Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen
Practice Squad (9)
- QB – Joshua Dobbs, RB Kalen Ballage, WR Isaiah McKoy, TE Kevin Rader, IOL J.C. Hassenauer, OL Aviante Collins, DL Isaiah Buggs, OLB Jamir Jones, ILB Buddy Johnson