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Kozora: Pittsburgh Steelers Roster Prediction (Post First Preseason Game)

With the Pittsburgh Steelers first preseason game in the books, I’m updating my Week One, 53-man roster predictions. A couple updates since my last guess prior to the start of training camp and you’ll see those changes reflected below with explanations for each position group. I’ll update these predictions following every preseason game. If you want to check out my previous ones, click the links below.

Post-Draft Predictions
Pre-Camp Predictions

OFFENSE (24)

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

Analysis: No changes here. Trubisky still seems to be the clear favorite to be the team’s Week One starter. The #2 is more in question after Pickett’s strong debut though only three quarterbacks played well against Seattle. Chris Oladokun is still searching for his first rep.

Running Backs (3) – Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland

Analysis: Jaylen Warren gaining all the buzz but I’m keeping McFarland ahead of him. Warren’s flashed power and had a nice summer but McFarland’s having his best camp ever and has shown better ball security. Warren has promise but he can land on the practice squad. McFarland could be the #2 behind Harris with Snell a #3 and special teamer.

Fullbacks (1) – Derek Watt

Analysis: Watt’s battling a shoulder injury but his spot here still seems safe.

Tight Ends (3) – Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward

Analysis: I’ll give in and lump Heyward with the tight ends, even if he doesn’t look like one. He’s a plus athlete with good hands but needs to be more consistent and his in-line blocking is poor. He’s at his best when he’s moved around and played in more space. Freiermuth and Gentry are locks.

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

Analysis: Anthony Miller’s faded since the start of camp while Boykin’s come on strong, including in the preseason opener. He made an impact as a receiver and crucially, as a special teamer. He should get the nod. Olszewski will work as the starting kick and punt returner. Hopefully Austin’s foot injury is minor.

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

Analysis: No changes here as well. Joe Haeg is clearly the better option than Trent Scott and hopefully the organization sees that. He’ll be the swingman and backup tackle to Moore Jr. and Okorafor.

Offensive Guards (3) – Kevin Dotson, James Daniels, Kendrick Green

Analysis: Removing Chris Owens from my pre-camp 53. He’s run third-team guard most of camp and hasn’t made the impact I thought he would. John Leglue is fighting for that ninth spot and played well overall against the Seahawks but he’s my 54th player on the roster here. Dotson is dealing with an ankle injury but still seems like the better option at LG compared to Kendrick Green.

Centers (2) – Mason Cole, J.C. Hassenauer 

Analysis: Cole has had a really solid summer while Hassenauer should be the team’s top backup. This group hasn’t changed.

DEFENSE (26)

Defensive Ends (5) – Cam Heyward, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal, Larry Ogunjobi

Analysis: Larry Ogunjobi hasn’t worked in team sessions a lot but he’s made an impact. Loudermilk and Leal have had nice summers and there’s no one worthy of being cut here.

Nose Tackles (2) – Tyson Alualu, Montravius Adams

Analysis: Some injury concerns to factor in here with Alualu dealing with a knee issue, though he’s worked his way back, while Adams has missed time with an ankle injury of unknown severity. For now, they’ll both stay and hopefully no one lands on IR. This group is worthy of keeping seven.

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

Analysis: Some interesting names behind these four but I’ll keep the group the same. Avery missed the opener with a groin injury while Tuskza has been healthy and active all camp and works best as the team’s #4 OLB and multi-phase special teamer.

Inside Linebackers (5) – Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Mark Robinson

Analysis: Couple of changes here. Ulysees Gilbert III comes off with him landing on IR while Mark Robinson makes the 53 over Buddy Johnson. Robinson is raw and lacks long speed but he’s a run-and-hit player who could make an impact on special teams. Marcus Allen getting the nod for now but the sooner he gets healthy, the better.

Cornerbacks (5) – Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, James Pierre, Arthur Maulet

Analysis: Adding Arthur Maulet, subtracting Justin Layne. Maulet could still see work as an early-down nickel corner thanks to his tackling and overall run defense. Layne has fallen to the back of the depth chart. Pierre is an up-and-down player and gambler in coverage but should make this roster.

Safeties (5) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, Damontae Kazee

Analysis: I likely would’ve put Karl Joseph on here but his season appears to be over after suffering a serious ankle injury. Kazee gets added after running 1st team FS while Minkah Fitzpatrick was out and playing well this summer. He’s still an impactful hitter. We’ll see if he sees any slot work with Joseph seemingly done and Fitzpatrick back. Norwood is on track to be this team’s 6th DB in dime packages. Keeping ten DBs after keeping only nine in my pre-camp prediction.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell 

Analysis: Easy decision here.

Punter (1) – Pressley Harvin III 

Analysis: It was surprising to see Harvin not punt in the opener. That certainly indicates his roster spot is pretty safe.

Long Snapper (1) – Christian Kuntz

Analysis: Kuntz has done nothing to rock the boat. Which is a good thing for a man in his line of work.

PRACTICE SQUAD (16)

QB – Chris Oladokun
RB – Jaylen Warren, Master Teague
TE – Kevin Rader
WR – Steven Sims, Anthony Miller
OL – John Leglue, Trent Scott
DL – Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis
EDGE – Delontae Scott, Ron’Dell Carter
ILB – Buddy Johnson
CB – Carlins Platel, Chris Steele
S – Donovan Stiner

Analysis: Fewer changes than I thought there’d be. Teague going to the practice squad with his size and power. Sims has come on strong and could be the backup KR/PR behind Gunner Olszewski. Only eight offensive linemen on the 53 so two need to be on the practice squad. Davis twins on the practice squad though I hope they show up a bit more the next two preseason games. Scott has been consistent on the EDGE but is an average athlete while I like Carter’s makeup and explosiveness. Johnson lands on the practice squad, similar to what happened to Marcus Allen a few years ago. Platel can play inside/out at corner while Steele has shown some ball skills but must be less panic-y in coverage. Stiner rounds out the safety group.

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