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Kozora: Post-Lions Game Steelers’ 53-Man Roster Prediction

Kalen Ballage

With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ third preseason game in the books, it’s time to update my 53 man roster predictions along with projecting out a 16-man practice squad.

My penultimate roster prediction. The final one will come shortly after the team’s final preseason game on Friday versus the Carolina Panthers. If you’re interested in what the previous version’s looked like, click here. There’s a couple changes to my roster this time around. Remember, it’s based on what I think the team will do. Not my ideal grouping.

OFFENSE (25)

Quarterbacks (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins

Analysis: Status quo here. These three and in this order. Rudolph’s work leading up to the Lions game, out-repping Haskins by considerable margin, and the fact Rudolph ran ahead of him in the tune-up game tells me he’s going to be the #2 QB this season. Haskins will have to play a perfect game Thursday to challenge that.

Running Backs (3) – Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage

Analysis: Making a move here by removing Benny Snell Football™ from this list. He’s going to have to do something to earn his roster spot. Starting with playing and playing well against the Panthers this Friday. Steelers could keep four RBs but with an every down back like Harris, there’s less incentive to keep that many. Ballage is a more explosive runner, a better receiver, blocker, and brings similar value on special teams.

Fullback (1) – Derek Watt

Analysis: Watt will be your starting FB and perhaps #3 TE if the team chooses to keep only two active on gameday.

Wide Receivers (5) –  JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud

Analysis: Haven’t made a change to this group throughout camp. Mathew Sexton has done enough to earn a practice squad look. But not take McCloud off the roster, who can return kicks and punts, and does both well.

Tight Ends (3) – Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

Analysis: Another change here, putting Gentry over Rader. Personally, I’d still take Rader, But this is a projection of what I think will happen. Gentry played over Rader versus Detroit (he had 11 snaps before Rader took his first) and played well, especially as a blocker in pass pro. This one could come down to the wire in the Panthers’ game.

Offensive Tackles (4) – Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr.

Analysis: Some may argue to remove Haeg from this list. But there’s no real incentive to do say. Saves hardly any money, a couple hundred thousand, it actually might work against you from a comp pick standpoint (and the Donte Moncrief loophole is closed) and there’s no other tackle worth keeping over him.

Offensive Center/Guards (6) – Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, J.C. Hassenauer, Kendrick Green, Rashaad Coward, B.J. Finney

Analysis: Same deal with the offensive line, keeping all ten of these guys. I’d give Finney the hat over Coward though. Coward may have talent but he’s not NFL-ready.

DEFENSE (25)

Defensive Ends (4) – Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk

Analysis: Same group of four here. Loudermilk should be a weekly inactive but he’s shown enough to make the 53. Improving play strength, hand usage, with a strong motor.

Nose Tackle (2) – Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis

Analysis: Isaiah Buggs is #54 on my 53 man roster. I’m tempted to keep seven defensive linemen just because of how talented this group is but that’d be out of step for what the Steelers always do. This continues to be my most difficult prediction of the roster.

Outside Linebackers (4) – T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Cassius Marsh

Analysis: Sticking with Marsh on the 53 even if it’s been a quiet couple of weeks for him. Special teams value wins out over someone like Quincy Roche. Gotta have some guys you know and trust and have done it inside stadiums heading into Week One.

Inside Linebackers (5) – Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Marcus Allen

Analysis: Group feels pretty locked in at this point, especially assuming Marcus Allen serves as the upback, the QB of the punt team.

Cornerbacks (6) – Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Arthur Maulet, Antoine Brooks Jr, Justin Layne

Analysis: Welcome back Justin Layne. His play ranges from inconsistent to super inconsistent but Mike Tomlin has praised him throughout camp and he’s improved as the summer’s gone along. Provides another outside corner, some special teams value, and none of the UDFAs have stepped up enough to replace him.

Are Maulet and Brooks’ spots safe? I think it’s at least a question. Brooks especially hasn’t done much due to injury. He’s a second-year, former 6th round pick, with about 30 career snaps under his belt. Nothing is tethering him to the roster.

Safeties (4) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Tre Norwood

Analysis: Team certainly could and probably should add a FS to the roster. Norwood made strides versus Detroit and is worth holding onto.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell

Analysis: Sam Sloman didn’t need to be cut in order for Boswell to write his name in pen.

Punter (1) – Pressley Harvin III

Analysis: This continues to be a close battle. For once, it’d be nice to see this team punt in-games. Until Harvin does something massively wrong, I’m going to give him the edge of Jordan Berry. But Berry has had an impressive camp.

Long Snapper (1) – Kameron Canaday

Analysis: A little weird Canaday worked in the second half of the Lions game behind Christian Kuntz. But that felt like a unit thing more than a pecking order deal. Still have Canaday on my 53.

GAMEDAY INACTIVES (5)

QB Dwayne Haskins
OL Joe Haeg
OL Rashaad Coward
DL Isaiahh Loudermilk
S Tre Norwood

PRACTICE SQUAD (16)

RB: Trey Edmunds
WR: Anthony Johnson, Mathew Sexton
TE: Kevin Rader
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: Not many changes here to the practice squad. Rader replaces Gentry who lands on the 53. Perhaps the team doesn’t keep three CBs or a guy like Bundage and fills that space with a third wide receiver. Lot to be decided in the finale Friday versus Carolina.

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