Deconstructing The Steelers’ Roster: Players Inside-Looking-Out

A primer of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp roster as they get ready to report to Latrobe in exactly two weeks from today. I want to provide a slightly different spin on evaluating the roster. In describing their chances to make the 53, you can put any player into one of six buckets: locks, near-locks, inside-looking-out, on the bubble, outside-looking-in, and longshots.

We’ll work our way up by starting from the bottom. I’ll list the players considered longshots to make the 53-man roster, this does not include practice squad odds, with rough percentages that they will make it. This assumes if everyone stays healthy. While that won’t happen, it’s impossible to create percentages based off the unknowns that are injuries. We’ll break up each bucket into a separate article and put everything together at the end.

Steelers Inside-Looking-Out (56%-74% Chance Of Making 53 Man Roster)

QB Mason Rudolph (74%)
FB Derek Watt (74%)
ILB Marcus Allen (70%)
EDGE Genard Avery (66%)
WR Miles Boykin (60%)

Pretty small list here. I tried to list guys that most people would include on their 53-man roster, but a few fans would decide to leave off. That’s how I differentiated the “inside-looking-out” players versus the upcoming “near lock” types you’ll see in a couple of days. Ultimately, I only came up with five names who fit the bill.

Starting with Mason Rudolph. He’s not going to be cut outright, but the remaining 26% accounts for the possibility he’s traded. It’s certainly plausible that Kenny Pickett becomes the #2 with Rudolph falling out of favor and being dealt to a QB-needy team who loses an arm during the summer. That possibility kept him out of “near-lock” status though if the team doesn’t trade him, he should make the team. Whether he’s the #2 or #3 is a different question.

Watt has been a quality, core special-teamer, the role he was signed for coming over from the Chargers. He’ll potentially battle Connor Heyward though there’s the possibility both could make the team with Heyward as an H-back/#3 tight end and Watt as the fullback. This doesn’t have to be either/or. But Heyward is younger, cheaper, more athletic, and more versatile and if he can play well on special teams, Watt’s seat could get awfully warm.

Allen became a solid special-teamer and starting upback on the punt team last year. But his actual special teams play isn’t elite and his defensive value relatively minimal. I’m giving Robert Spillane slightly higher chances to make the roster as the better special-teamer and the next man up at inside linebacker. The Steelers like his downhill ability to play the run, especially coming off a year in which they were so bad at stopping it.

Avery is a very poor man’s version of Melvin Ingram in the sense that he’s a veteran and a more established and versatile linebacker. Avery isn’t the caliber of pass rusher Ingram was, but he should accept his role of #3 OLB more than Ingram did. Considering the lack of quality depth here, Avery would have to struggle mightily for him to be cut unless the team found a better option on the waiver wire.

Boykin is the current favorite for the #6 job. Claimed off waivers when Baltimore let him go, the Steelers have long had interest in Bokyin since he came out of the 2019 Draft. Mike Tomlin’s kept ties on him ever since and jumped at the chance to add him this offseason. He’s a height/weight/speed type with good special teams value as a gunner/jammer. But he’ll have to do more than look good in shorts and has to stay consistent once the pads come on. If the team is looking for more of a slot receiver in say Anthony Miller, Boykin may get the squeeze.

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