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’ NEAR-LOCKS (75%-94% CHANCE OF MAKING 53 MAN ROSTER)
WR Calvin Austin III (94%)
DE Chris Wormley (94%)
RB Benny Snell (90%)
OT Joe Haeg (90%)
SS Miles Killebrew (90%)
LS Christian Kuntz (90%)
FS Tre Norwood (90%)
iOL Kendrick Green (85%)
iOL JC Hassenauer (85%)
NT Montravius Adams (80%)
ILB Robert Spillane (80%)
WR Gunner Olszewski (80%)
EDGE Genard Avery (75%)
Starting with WR Calvin Austin. Most would probably put him in the “lock” category, but I’d cite failed fourth-rounders Danny Farmer and Fred Gibson as cautionary tales. Still fully expecting Austin to make it but the precedent here reduces odds just a little bit. Wormley feels safe as the team’s starting LDE last year and knowing Stephon Tuitt isn’t coming back. His role could reduce this season with Larry Ogunjobi in the fold as the better pass rusher, but it’s difficult to see Wormely being cut unless Isaiahh Loudermilk makes a major jump and DeMarvin Leal looks Day One ready.
The running back room behind Najee Harris remains an open question, but Snell should make the team as no worse than the #3 RB. His special teams’ ability is an Ace up his sleeve. Joe Haeg is the clear #3 tackle on this team and his veteran versatillity is a plus. Unless Trent Scott shines or the team adds someone from the outside to the roster, he should make it as the backup swing tackle. Killebrew is a core special-teamer. Kuntz was fine enough last year but any camp implosion could change his odds. Norwood shined as a rookie with a good football IQ and cover ability. His role and use is up for debate but he should make this team.
It’s certainly disappointing Green’s not an absolute lock just a year removed from being the team’s third-round pick and last year’s starting center. He should make it, but if he shows zero progression, he could get beat out. I don’t think that’s an impossible outcome. By adding Mason Cole, Pittsburgh’s already quietly admitted their mistake. Hassenauer is expected to be the team’s #2 center, though that’s really the only position I’m comfortable him playing.
Adams signed a two-year deal to come back to the team and will be the back-up nose tackle. He played well after being poached off the Saints’ practice squad late last season. Some will disagree on putting Spillane’s odds this high, but he’s the #3 ILB on this team for a roster that’s likely to keep five. They like his football IQ, run defense, and special teams ability. Olszewski will get first crack as the team’s starting kick and punt returner. So long as he doesn’t show ball security issues, he’ll remain in that role come Week 1.
Avery isn’t as talented nor secure as Melvin Ingram, but has size, can play the run, and doesn’t face significant threats to his job. Still, he’s on a cheap contract and has to earn his roster spot.