Kozora: 2022 Way-Too-Early Steelers’ Roster Predictions

The 2022 NFL Draft is over. So let’s talk about the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster. I know, it’s early. Way early (you read the title). But with the 90-man roster mostly put together, let’s build out what Week One could look like. This can and will change over the next four months but if the season started today, here’s my best guess as to how things would look.

I’ll do another roster prediction right before training camp in July.

Offense (25)

Quarterbacks (3) – Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph

Analysis: Fairly obvious three. It’s a more interesting question of who slots where. Will Trubisky or Pickett start? And will Rudolph, or even Trubisky, remain on the roster should Pickett perform well enough to win the starting job? Side note: it feels awfully weird not including Ben Roethlisberger’s name on this list. First moment where you go “oh yeah, he really retired.”

Running Backs (3) – Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Jaylen Warren

Analysis: This group still looks suspect behind Harris and adding a veteran sometime before camp would be wise. Snell is a capable special teamer and served as Harris’ backup last year, though his touches and time were sparse. Adding Warren, a UDFA on here, due to his size that the team likes. Anthony McFarland’s time is up. This room feels hollow and incomplete.

Fullbacks (2) – Derek Watt, Connor Heyward

Analysis: Heyward is being listed as a tight end but I don’t see him actually working much in-line. He’s definitely more of a fullback so I’ll lump him in with Watt. Both stay on the roster. Watt is a quality special teamer and last year’s captain on the unit while Heyward can carve out a similar niche with much more offensive value, though his touches will still be capped.

Tight Ends (2) – Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

Analysis: No true #3 tight end on the team, Kevin Rader can go back on the practice squad. Freiermuth is a lock and Gentry feels safe coming off an impressive third season, one he sorely needed.

Wide Receivers (6) – Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski

Analysis: A crowded but improved receiver room compared to even the start of last season. The two established starters in Johnson and Claypool along with draft picks Pickens and Austin. All four should see the field plenty this year. Boykin has good special teams/coverage value and can rotate with Claypool as the Z as a jump-ball power forward. Olszewski is the more experienced and proven returner and he should hold off Austin, though the rookie’s skillset is interesting in the return game. Still, Austin wasn’t a big return guy at Memphis and never did kicks.

Offensive Tackles (3) – Dan Moore Jr., Chukwuma Okorafor, Joe Haeg

Analysis: Moore the starting left tackle, Okorafor the starting right tackle, and Haeg the swing man. Seems pretty cut and dry right now. Wonder if team would look to add another veteran into the mix. Chaz Green doesn’t count. At least, he shouldn’t.

Offensive Guards (3) – Kevin Dotson, James Daniels, John Leglue

Analysis: Projecting Dotson as the starting LG with Daniels at RG. Dotson will need a big third season while Daniels needs to be the team’s best lineman. Leglue has versatility and effort and can be a reserve, ninth lineman in case of injuries, which is how he grabbed his hat last year.

Centers (3) – Kendrick Green, Mason Cole, J.C. Hassenauer 

Analysis: Giving Cole the leg up on the starting center job heading into camp. Green may begin to get moved around at left guard in addition to center. Hassenauer held his own last year and should be kept around, though to me, he’s really a center-only.

Defense (25)

Defensive Ends (4) – Cam Heyward, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal

Analysis: For the moment, I won’t include Stephon Tuitt on the roster until we know with certainty he’s coming back. Of course, he may return and the Steelers are optimistic he will. OTAs later this month should give us an answer. Elsewhere, these names feel pretty locked in. Loudermilk will need to pick up where he left off last year while Leal will have to add weight and get stronger in order to have a more defined role and position.

Nose Tackles (2) – Tyson Alualu, Montravius Adams

Analysis: Alualu is about to turn 35 but people have quickly forgotten how well he was playing prior to his ankle injury last year and even MCL tear/high ankle sprain in 2020. He found the fountain of youth and he’s capable of returning at a high level. Adams did well catching the moving train last year.

Outside Linebackers (4) – TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Genard Avery, Derrek Tuszka

Analysis: Depth here is a little weak though at least Avery is a veteran. Tuszka showed a little juice late last year and got playing time over the departed Taco Charlton. The starters, of course, are excellent.

Inside Linebackers (5) – Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Ulysees Gilbert III

Analysis: A crowded room of inside linebackers. Rolling with a similar bunch as last year. Counted UG3 out last summer and he proved me wrong so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. 7th round pick Mark Robinson needs a year on the practice squad. No Buddy Johnson here, who doesn’t have a spot etched in stone this time around. He’ll have to earn it and until he does, I won’t include him here.

Cornerbacks (6) – Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Damontae Kazee, Chris Steele, Justin Layne

Analysis: New faces, new places. Wallace, Kazee, and Steele enter the mix here. Not sure how this group will shake out and there’s versatility with Kazee able to play slot corner or safety. Steele was a draftable player with sub 4.5 speed. Layne’s hopes of making a defensive impact are over but he’s been a quality gunner. No James Pierre, who struggled last year, or Arthur Maulet, as the team adds slot competition while Tre Norwood’s role should increase. Still, neither should be totally counted out here.

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

Analysis: Fairly chalk here. Still hard to believe how cheap Edmunds was to re-sign. Almost concerningly so. Pittsburgh’s seem to have found something in last year’s 7th rounder Norwood while Killebrew will be a quality player on teams.

Specialists (3)

Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell 

Analysis: No explanation needed here.

Punter (1) – Pressley Harvin III 

Analysis: Some explanation needed here. We’ll see if the team adds much in the form of punting competition but right now, the team doesn’t have much out of it outside Cameron Nzialek. Harvin could be competing against the waiver wire.

Long Snapper (1) – Christian Kuntz

Analysis: Assume there’s no long snapper change this year, though nothing is guaranteed with a second-year snapper like Kuntz.

Practice Squad (14)

QB – Chris Oladokun
RB – Mataeo Durant
TE – Kevin Rader, Jace Sternberger
WR – Cody White, Anthony Miller
OL – Jordan Tucker, Chris Owens
DL – Henry Mondeaux, Carlos Davis
EDGE – Tyree Johnson
CB – James Pierre, Isaiah Johnson
S – Donovan Stiner

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