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Deconstructing The Steelers Roster: Players Squarely On The Bubble

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 SQUARELY ON THE BUBBLE (41%-55% Chance Of Making 53-Man Roster)

ILB Ulysees Gilbert III (55%)
P Pressley Harvin III (55%)
H-Back Connor Heyward (55%)
DB Damontae Kazee (55%)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (55%)
EDGE Derrek Tuszka (55%)
CB Justin Layne (55%)
OL John Leglue (51%)
CB Arthur Maulet (51%)
ILB Buddy Johnson (50%)
CB James Pierre (49%)

So far, the bubble players have been the hardest names to come up with, and I imagine will be the toughest group of the lot for me to judge. Lot of guys slightly on the right side of the roster bubble. The inside linebacker battle, though not the most consequential, will be one of the fiercest. Robert Spillane and Marcus Allen aren’t listed here but aren’t locks, while Gilbert III and Buddy Johnson sit right on the bubble with seventh-rounder Mark Robinson outside-looking-in. Five guys fighting for three spots.

The internal punter battle won’t be as fierce as last season but that doesn’t mean Harvin’s spot is safe. He must prove consistency this summer. If not, the team could easily look to a veteran option that shows up on the street. Right now, I’ll give him slightly better than 50% odds to do so.

Heyward is penciled in as the #3 tight end/H-back, but he’s still a sixth-round rookie without a true home who must cut his teeth on special teams. Kazee has versatility but it’s fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank. Not even Dan Quinn, whose coached him his whole career, wanted him back in Dallas. Loudermilk’s number may look a little low but he’s my odd man out if the team stays with its history and keeps six defensive lineman. Of course, injuries may take the decision out of the team’s hands.

I recently wrote Tuszka is safer than people think, but he’s still on the bubble. Justin Layne has established himself as a good gunner and special-teamer, but could battle James Pierre for a final DB spot. Giving Layne slightly better odds than Pierre right now. Leglue is the slight favorite to be the ninth offensive lineman, if the team even decides to keep that many. Maulet was brought back on a two-year deal but may get squeezed out by Tre Norwood and Kazee. It’s hard for me to see the team keep both Maulet and Kazee.

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