Marczi: 2022 Steelers 53-Man Roster Prediction: Post-First Preseason Game

I’ve been lax with my arbitrary roster prediction responsibilities thus far, but I’ll be keeping it up now through each preseason game until we reach a final (initial) 53. I’ve actually found this year’s group of decisions to be a little tougher than usual, and as is my practice, I have not reviewed the predictions of others before making my own.

Offense (24):

Quarterback (3): Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett

I think this was pretty well set in stone since April. The only variable was whether or not they would move Rudolph. At this point, there are no indications that they have any interest in doing so. They’ve only just now begun to give Chris Oladokun work.

Running Back (4): Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Warren, Derek Watt

This is the furthest out I’m going on a limb, and it’s driven by future projections, but I’m going with McFarland and Warren making the 53-man roster over Benny Snell Jr. And I’m probably going to be wrong. Maybe a bit of fan service here, but I’m intrigued by a backfield with McFarland and Warren as the complementary pieces to Najee Harris.

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

Wide receiver and defensive line are the two positions on the roster where the Steelers have to follow the talent. Carrying six makes the most sense for this roster, especially with two rookies. And Olszewski being a big offensive contributor is still somewhat of a projection.

Tight End (3): Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward

As much as Kevin Rader might be able to state his case on special teams, it’s clear that Connor Heyward is getting a roster spot, and he’s also going to earn his keep for Danny Smith. He’s already flashed promise in that area.

Offensive Line (8): Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels, Chukwuma Okorafor, Joe Haeg, Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer

This offensive line room is unfortunately not a strength, not enough to justify carrying more than eight at the expense of some other positions. You would like to make room for John Leglue here, and maybe he ultimately unseats Hassenauer, or even Green, at some point. His tackle versatility is the best argument for keeping nine, but Chaz Green and Trent Scott aren’t impressing right now.

Defense (26):

Defensive Line (7): Cameron Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Montravius Adams, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk

As mentioned above, you stock up where you have talent, and the defensive line is one area where you have guys. Adams has to get back healthy, but he is deserving of a roster spot.

Inside Linebacker (5): Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Mark Robinson

With Ulysees Gilbert III’s injury, a bit of a log jam was cleared up. And unfortunately, Buddy Johnson isn’t showing me much to convince me that he needs to be on the 53-man roster. Allen is a four-phase special teams player whom the team has been willing to put on the field on defense before.

Outside Linebacker (4): T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Genard Avery

There just isn’t much here in the way of depth, to the point where these are the four by default. The other outside linebackers they brought into camp are already gone. Can someone like Hamilcar Rashed Jr. force his way into the conversation in the final two preseason games?

Cornerback (5): Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Arthur Maulet, James Pierre

With space at a premium, a decision has to be made between Justin Layne and Miles Killebrew for a special teams spot. And Killebrew wins that battle.

Safety (5): Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew

Karl Joseph’s injury makes this decision easier. Killebrew has missed time, but he’s here for one thing, and that’s special teams.

Specialists (3):

Kicker: Nick Sciba (just kidding) Chris Boswell: Hey, we have to add a little bit of drama to the specialist conversation somewhere, right?

Punter: Pressley Harvin III: The Steelers cut their other punter, Cameron Nizialek, after giving him a full game to punt and serve as holder. So it’s Harvin’s job. That’s it.

Long Snapper: Christian Kuntz: He’s done well enough since he’s been here and he’s the only one on the roster, so I’m confident I’m going to be right on this one.

Practice Squad (16):

QB Chris Oladokun; RB Benny Snell Jr.; WR Cody White; WR Steven Sims; TE Kevin Rader; OL Trent Scott; OL John Leglue; OL Chris Owens; DL Khalil Davis; DL Carlos Davis; ILB Buddy Johnson; OLB Hamilcar Rashed Jr.; OLB Delontae Scott; CB Justin Layne; CB Chris Steele; S Donovan Stiner

Positions become a little less important, though still essential, with an expanded practice squad, and here I think we have a good mixture. Again, a guiding principle is you keep the talent. Both Davis brothers are worth keeping here, plus they’re actually athletic enough to play on special teams. Sims adds value with some changeover in the return game. The outside linebackers are a bit of a toss-up, but I liked what I saw from Rashed last week.

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