Pittsburgh Steelers: Predicting the Final 53-Man Roster and Depth Chart
The Pittsburgh Steelers were in need of a great draft after losing veterans Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and James Farrior. Their depth was thin and they needed help in a lot of areas.
Not only did the Steelers have a good draft, they had a great draft, addressing three of their biggest needs with three of their first four selections.
Pittsburgh added two linemen who could be starting as soon as this year with guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams. In the fourth, they found the future replacement for Casey Hampton by selecting Alameda Ta'amu.
The rest of the draft filled out the roster with role players, depth and special teamers. From top-to-bottom, this was the type of draft that the Steelers needed to replenish their team with young talent.
Though it is early, the roster which will enter training camp is nearly set. Here is a prediction of the final 53-man roster and depth chart.
Ben Roethlisberger: He is one of the top quarterbacks in the league and should be even better with the new-look offensive line in front of him. Roethlisberger will not have to run for his life to make big plays in the passing game, as the Steelers may actually be able to set up the play action pass with a strong running game.
Byron Leftwich: The oft-injured backup returns for the Steelers this year. When healthy, he is the best back-up option of those currently on the roster.
Charlie Batch: Batch has done nothing but play well when called upon. Though he is the eldest member of the team, he adds tremendous veteran presence and is like another coach on the sidelines.
Running Backs (5)
Isaac Redman: Redman is a solid runner who will move the pile and will like having DeCastro in front of him. He will plow forward and pick up positive yardage virtually every carry. It will be a change of pace from Rashard Mendenhall.
Jonathan Dwyer: Dwyer is one of the most talented backs on the roster and has shown commitment this offseason by training with Tom Shaw this summer. He could have a big role this year.
Baron Batch: Without Mewelde Moore on the roster, Batch has the chance to take over as the third-down back. He is a decent blocker and has good hands out of the backfield.
Chris Rainey: He is undersized, but is an electric playmaker. He will not get many touches, but when he does, the Steelers will expect big things, especially if he's in space. He will contribute on special teams early.
John Clay: Clay is a powerful, straight-line runner who could find a role as a short-yardage back.
*Note: Rashard Mendenhall will likely start the season on the PUP list and not count against the 53-man roster.
Tight Ends (3)
Heath Miller: One of the best all-around tight ends in the league may be able to be used more in the passing with an improved offensive line.
Leonard Pope: Will primarily be used as a blocker, but is a solid second option behind Miller.
David Paulson: Beats out David Johnson for H-back role, as he can block, but offers more as a receiver.
*Note: Weslye Saunders will be suspended for the first four games of the season and will not count against the 53-man roster.
Wide Receivers (6)
Mike Wallace: One of the best deep threats in the league may have some contractual issues heading into the season, but that does not change the fact that he is the Steelers' most dangerous receiver.
Antonio Brown: Brown went from a fifth receiver to a possible top option last season. He is the best receiver after the catch on the team and should see even more passes come his way this year.
Emmanuel Sanders: Not afraid to go over the middle, Sanders is a perfect fit in the slot. He has good quickness, but needs experience and must stay healthy.
Jericho Cotchery: Without Hines Ward, Cotchery is the veteran of the group. He is an excellent fourth receiver and could start if needed.
Toney Clemons: A rookie who looks to be the next receiver to develop into a star as Wallace and Brown have.
Marquis Maze: Could develop into a slot receiver, but will be a return specialist.
Offensive Line (9)
Marcus Gilbert: After a very good rookie season, he will shift from right tackle to left tackle. It will be a challenge, but he has the talent to play on the left side and should upgrade from the players the Steelers had there last season.
Ramon Foster: Foster will be the early starter at left guard, assuming DeCastro plays the right side. His versatility pays off.
Maurkice Pouncey: The outstanding center should be even better with the talented DeCastro playing next to him. Now, if his ankles can just stay healthy.
David DeCastro: There is no reason why the Steelers' first-round pick should not start very early on. Expect him to be backup early in camp before his talent finally takes over.
Willie Colon: He is healthy again, but another injury (or poor play) could mean a shift to guard or a spot on the bench.
Mike Adams: Will likely compete at left and right tackle. His versatility makes him a good candidate to dress on game-day, and he could take over as a starter before the end of the season.
Doug Legursky: Should move back to his role as top reserve for center and guard.
Trai Essex: He is not the most talented lineman, but he can play all five positions on the line.
Kelvin Beachum: It is time to bring in new blood on the offensive line. Beachum can be developed into the next super-sub on the offensive line.
Defensive Line (6)
Brett Keisel: With Aaron Smith retired, Keisel becomes one of the main team leaders and possible captain. He will also need to pick up his performance on the field, as the defensive line started to slip last season.
Casey Hampton: He is coming off of an ACL injury, but it will not affect him as it will Mendenhall. His play slipped last season, and the Steelers need him to be better when finally healthy.
Ziggy Hood: Hood is not a bad player, but when taking over for Smith, his game is lacking. Hood has potential to be more dangerous getting to the quarterback and defending the run; now, he must put it all together.
Cameron Heyward: A big, physical defensive lineman, Heyward will be the first off of the bench and will be expected to help generate pressure from the front.
Steve McLendon: The top backup for Hampton, McLendon should see more action this year with Hampton's injury.
Alameda Ta'amu: Will need time to develop, but is the heir apparent to Hampton.
Outside Linebackers (5)
James Harrison: One of the best defenders in the league, Harrison struggled with injuries last year. He is healthy this season, and big things are needed from him.
LaMarr Woodley: See above.
Jason Worilds: Did very little with his opportunity last year. This is a make-or-break season for him.
Chris Carter: A relative unknown, Carter could jump Worilds on the depth chart.
Brandon Lindsey: A developmental prospect for the position. Good pass-rusher but needs time.
Inside Linebackers (4)
Lawrence Timmons: He was disappointing last season, bouncing around from position-to-position. With Farrior gone, Timmons needs to star in the middle.
Larry Foote: A limited athlete but dependable veteran, Foote will have to rely on his intelligence to makeup for his lack of speed.
Stevenson Sylvester: Has potential, but did not show nearly enough last season. This is a big camp for him.
Sean Spencer: Good athlete who should be an asset on special teams this year.
Ike Taylor: Should be motivated to rebound from his poor performance in the playoffs last year.
Curtis Brown: Great potential and profiles as a starter. With William Gay gone, Brown is one of the favorites to take over, and the coaches will give him every opportunity to win the job.
Cortez Allen: Earned his way into sub packages, and remember, he was very raw last season. Should be even better this year.
Keenan Lewis: Talented, but may be overtaken by the younger options. Could range from a starter to the fourth option.
Myron Rolle: Makes squad over draft pick Terrence Frederick because of his size and ability to play multiple positions.
Ryan Clark: An underrated safety who the Steelers really missed in the playoffs last year.
Troy Polamalu: With several question marks on defense, Polamalu will have to be even better.
Ryan Mundy: Quality backup who should see time in passing packages.
Damon Cromartie-Smith: A bigger and younger option for the Steelers, and he has upside, which will make Will Allen expendable.
Greg Warren: You never notice him because he's good at his job.
Shaun Suisham: Has a challenger with Grant Ressel, but he was not consistent enough in college.
Jeremy Kapinos: Did a fine job filling in for Daniel Sepulveda and will really have to falter to lose his job this year.
Follow me on Twitter @ChrisG_FC