We now have two preseason games in the holster, and with another round of cuts just around the corner, it’s time to take a second crack at predicting the 53-man roster. There is only one change, spoiler alert, and it is the one spot where I basically stated last week that I knew I would be wrong.
Quarterback (3): Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett
Are the Steelers trying to showcase Mason Rudolph for trade? I don’t know, but unless or until he gets traded, he is going to be included on the 53-man roster. But it’s looking increasingly likely that he will be the number three quarterback.
Running Back (4): Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Warren, Derek Watt
I’m sorry, Anthony McFarland Jr., but I have to get back to reality. Benny Snell is going to be on this team, not just for his offensive abilities, but also his special teams work, which he got an opportunity to display on Saturday. As long as Jaylen Warren holds onto the ball, he seems to be on track to take over the third spot, as he is the more versatile and complete back.
Wide Receiver (6): Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, Gunner Olszewski, Miles Boykin
Nothing happened this past week to make me change my mind that Miles Boykin is thus far the number six receiver. He did the same thing that he did in the first preseason game: perform on special teams and make catches on third down.
Tight End (3): Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward
I could write the same thing here that I did last week. Kevin Rader flashes as a plus contributor on special teams, but he’s just not going to make the 53-man roster over Heyward. And there isn’t room to keep four.
Offensive Line (8): Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels, Chukwuma Okorafor, Joe Haeg, Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer
I’m still sticking with eight for the time being, and I’m still sticking with Hassenauer as the eighth lineman. Why? Because John Leglue is only an emergency center at best. Hassenauer will dress as the backup center on Sundays, with Green as the backup guard, and Haeg as the backup tackle.
Defensive Line (7): Cameron Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Montravius Adams, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk
Depending on how long it takes him to get back, you do have to start wondering about Montravius Adams’ place on this roster if they want to find another roster spot for a position other than defensive end. That is the biggest question here, I think. But I struggle to find another player more deserving at another position.
Inside Linebacker (5): Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Mark Robinson
And this is still my five inside linebackers for now. I know plenty of people want to cut Devin Bush, but it would cost them money to do so because his contract is guaranteed. I would still like to see Buddy Johnson state his case and force his way onto the team, but he needs to actually make some plays first, and he hasn’t. Rookie Mark Robinson has been significantly more noteworthy. His best shot is displacing Marcus Allen on a special teams basis, but that’s unlikely.
Outside Linebacker (4): T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Genard Avery
After missing last week’s game, Avery was able to get into the action on Saturday, and he looked like the best outside linebacker on the field not named T.J. Watt. He at times displays a great get-off, and he pursues the ball well as a run defender.
Cornerback (5): Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Arthur Maulet, James Pierre
Justin Layne’s gimme interception doesn’t change anything, for now. But there is still a question of whether or not he can make the team over safety Miles Killebrew on the basis of special teams. At this point, my answer is still no.
Safety (5): Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew
A lot of people are probably not going to be happy about Killebrew’s inclusion here (“too many special teamers”), but that’s how rosters work. That’s why the Steeleres re-signed him to a two-year contract this offseason. The rest of the group is secure, with both Kazee and Norwood impressing in their preseason play, though Norwood not so much this past week. But certainly, neither of them are going anywhere.
Kicker: Chris Boswell: One of the best kickers in the game. Highest-paid behind only Justin Tucker. I think he makes it.
Punter: Pressley Harvin III: While there isn’t another punter on the roster, it must also be stated that Harvin is showing improved consistency thus far in his second season.
Long Snapper: Christian Kuntz: Look, I’m just going to come out and admit it, guys. I don’t pay a ton of attention to the long snapper position. If I don’t see many erratic snaps, then I’m good. And so I’m good with Kuntz. Plus, you know, there isn’t another long snapper.
Practice Squad (16):
QB Chris Oladokun; RB Anthony McFarland Jr.; WR Cody White; WR Steven Sims; TE Kevin Rader; OL Trent Scott; OL John Leglue; OL TBA; 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
The only change I’m making from last week is flipping Snell and McFarland, and to note the additionofan outside OL, because I don’t see anyone else making the roster. The former is now on the 53, the latter on the practice squad. And that’s much more likely to be correct than the reverse, which I knew last week, anyway.
Odds are, a few players who are not even on the roster right now will be on the practice squad. But for the time being, I’m just going by what’s currently available. I think the positional reasoning at least is sound here, even if the names might be different.