With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second preseason game in the books, it’s time to update my 53 man roster predictions along with projecting out a 16-man practice squad.
If you’re curious, here is my last roster projection to compare with today’s. In today’s edition, there are fewer changes here than the pre-camp one to the post-Hall of Fame game one. As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
Analysis: Unchanged here as the roster becomes a bit more settled in. Have Rudolph remaining as the #2, though Haskins is keeping that door open with strong play last week. He’ll need to do the same, however, in each of the next two contests.
Running Backs (4) – Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland Jr., Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage
Analysis: Same group as before here, too. Snell’s spot isn’t on as solid ground as it was entering camp though. Ballage has ran well and I would have him ahead of Snell on the depth chart, though Harris is clearly the main cog in this room.
Fullback (1) – Derek Watt
Analysis: Watt’s been healthy this camp. More than we can say about a year ago. His spot is secure.
Wide Receivers (5) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud
Analysis: Anthony Johnson is making a push for the 53 but I don’t think it’s yet enough to actually land him here. There’s a high chance he can pass through waivers to the practice squad and can be promoted if need-be. Beyond that, these five are safe.
Tight Ends (3) – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Kevin Rader
Analysis: Zach Gentry’s improved but he’s not going to become a better blocker or special teamer than Kevin Rader in the next two weeks. Outside chance this team brings in a free agent/roster cut for the #3 job but I’m comfortable with Rader being the guy.
Offensive Tackles (4) – Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr.
Analysis: These should be your four. The more interesting question is if Moore can get a hat over Joe Haeg on gameday. And if he is, there’s a chance the team could cut ties with Haeg altogether, though his salary and the Steelers’ cap situation wouldn’t force their hand. Haeg, to his credit, has done well as a run blocker, which would be his role as a 6th offensive linemen if he sees time. A good battle here with Moore coming on strong over the last week.
Offensive Center/Guards (6) – Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, J.C. Hassenauer, Kendrick Green, Rashaad Coward, B.J. Finney
Analysis: Maybe I’m hedging my bets here but I’m keeping all the offensive linemen. Ten in total. Coward, Hassenauer, and Finney, who has had a fine camp. The more competition for this young, unproven group, the better. Have these guys pushing each other every single week. And with the injury history of someone like Trai Turner, depth is going to be an asset here.
Defensive Ends (4) – Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk
Analysis: Same four ends as last time. Loudermilk isn’t a lock but he’s begun to separate himself from the group he’s competing with. Played well in his first two preseason games.
Nose Tackle (2) – Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis
Analysis: Mike Tomlin has made it clear what he’s looking for out of Carlos Davis and Isaiah Buggs. I’m not sure who is ahead in that regard but I’m still leaning Davis. He’s the rarer athlete and the special teams value he’s showing is going to increase his odds. Feels like they’re giving him a chance to really cement his spot on the roster.
Outside Linebackers (4) – T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Cassius Marsh
Analysis: Nothing against Jamir Jones and Quincy Roche, who have more than flashed this summer. But Marsh is the more proven special teamer and Jones/Roche can get through to the practice squad. To be fair, Marsh probably could as well.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Marcus Allen
Analysis: Joe Schobert of course makes his way onto the list. That bumps Ulysees Gilbert III off, though I was likely to remove UG3 regardless of the Schobert trade. He’s been one of this summer’s disappointments.
Cornerbacks (5) – Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Arthur Maulet, Antoine Brooks Jr.
Analysis: Removing Shakur Brown from this list, losing out to the 10th offensive lineman. I would put Sutton in the slot with James Pierre at RCB in nickel. That’s the best five the Steelers have, though they do prefer a more physical guy like Maulet or Brooks to play inside. Interesting to see what the team decides.
Safeties (4) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Tre Norwood
Analysis: Same four as before. Could definitely see a veteran free safety added here. Norwood would effectively redshirt this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: No change here. Obviously.
Punter (1) – Pressley Harvin III
Analysis: Make no mistake, Jordan Berry’s had a good camp. But Harvin has been better. A draft pick who performs well is getting the job.
Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday
Analysis: Christian Kuntz isn’t much of a challenge here.
GAMEDAY INACTIVES (5)
QB Dwayne Haskins
OL Joe Haeg
OL BJ Finney
DL Isaiahh Loudermilk
S Tre Norwood
PRACTICE SQUAD (16)
RB: Trey Edmunds
WR: Anthony Johnson, Mathew Sexton
TE: Zach Gentry
OL: Chaz Green, John Leglue
DL: Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux
OLB: Jamir Jones, Quincy Roche
ILB: Calvin Bundage
CB: Shakur Brown, Lafayette Pitts, Mark Gilbert
S: Lamont Wade, Donovan Stiner
Analysis: Fairly similar list as last time. I’d love to keep Dobbs as the 4th QB but I can’t see any reason why he would want to sign to the Steelers’ practice squad and get almost zero reps, just as he has during camp. Got to have a better chance somewhere else even if it’s as a #3 on another team’s practice squad. Some team who carries just two QBs on their 53.
Johnson feels like one of the best practice squad bets. Green’s veteran experience gets the nod on the offensive line while Leglue can do a little bit of everything. Buggs and Mondeaux are strong adds on the practice squad, arguably making defensive line the deepest position on the team. Jones and Roche are more than deserving to land here after their camp and in-stadium performances. Pitts has made some plays on the ball while Brown is a slot option and Gilbert an interesting, long corner. Wade and Stiner have also made splash plays and in camp.