The Pittsburgh Steelers finally have a full draft class to work with and can now begin the preparations for the 2012 season. That will commence soon with organized team activities and workouts and will continue through late July's camp.
While it's still very early, here's a look at how the final roster might shape up.
Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch
Not much to report on here. The Steelers didn't draft or sign a rookie quarterback to develop, so they will likely go into the year with the same combination they've tried in recent years, minus Dennis Dixon. I don't see Troy Smith making any impact on this race.
Running Backs (five)
Isaac Redman, Rashard Mendenhall, Baron Batch, Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey (KR/PR)
This will get interesting. John Clay will be in the mix too, but I don't see him beating out these guys. Rainey, even as a rookie, is valuable just as a returner, but should have a Darren Sproles-type role eventually. Mendenhall is a wild card because of his injury. I like the potential of Batch.
Wide Receivers (six)
Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders, Derrick Williams, Toney Clemons
This could get interesting. The first four guys are locks. The team may not keep six receivers, but I think they have the flexibility to do it.
Why did I pick Williams and Clemons? I think they have the most upside. Williams is undervalued and could develop into a nice weapon. Clemons has some nice tools that the team will want to nurture.
Tight Ends (four)
Heath Miller, David Johnson (FB), Leonard Pope, Weslye Saunders
This is going to be a tough competition behind Miller, but Johnson's role as the fullback is going to be telling, and Leonard Pope was the team's lone free-agent addition. Saunders will battle with David Paulson, a rookie, for the last spot, but the Steelers like his athleticism. That should keep him for now.
Offensive Tackle (four)
Marcus Gilbert, Willie Colon, Mike Adams, Jonathan Scott
The starters are obvious, although Adams might make this interesting at some point. Jonathan Scott, as bad as he's been, has experience and is pretty durable. He's mostly harmless as a fourth tackle and probably won't dress much unless someone gets hurt ahead of him. Don't forget, Ramon Foster and Trai Essex can also play tackle.
Offensive Guard (four)
David DeCastro, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, Trai Essex
DeCastro should start from day one, although I'm not sure which side of the line he'll anchor. He might go on the right between two experienced guys. I'll take Legursky to win the other spot in a tough battle with Ramon Foster. Trai Essex, a versatile guy, sticks as a backup once again.
One? Yes. Trai Essex and Doug Legursky can play center. There's no need for an assigned backup when you have multiple guys who know how to do that job and have done it before. Pouncey will hopefully be durable enough to make it through the whole year, but if not, there's depth.
Defensive End (three)
Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward
This might seem a little thin, and this might be the trade spot if the team keeps only five receivers, but this works because Steve McLendon can slide out if it's a dire need. No one else on the list right now seems to be in the running for a roster spot, so these three should be it.
Defensive Tacke (three)
Casey Hampton, Alameda Ta'amu, Steve McLendon
Ta'amu is the future, but right now, the Steelers will probably make do with McLendon if Hampton is injured for any part of the regular season. This will likely be Hampton's last season, and he's clearly lost a step, so don't be surprised if Ta'amu sees some snaps on defense if he's as advertised.
Outside Linebacker (three)
James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds
This might seem short a guy, but don't forget that Lawrence Timmons or Chris Carter can slide out in a pinch. The starters are as solid as they come, and Jason Worilds showed last season that he could certainly be the next guy in line. This is a huge position of strength.
Inside Linebackers (five)
Lawrence Timmons, Stevenson Sylvester, Sean Spence, Larry Foote, Chris Carter
Chris Carter can play either spot, but I like him better inside. Sylvester will get first crack at replacing James Farrior, but don't sleep on Sean Spence. The way Keith Butler raves about the guy, you get the feeling he's going to see the field this season at some point. Foote is back for a last hurrah. I don't see him surviving another draft.
Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Terrence Frederick
The second starter is going to be a tough battle, but Lewis has the experience so he might get first crack. Allen is going to be tough to pass on, though. He had a great first year before leaving with an injury. Curtis Brown has a chance to get more time this year. Frederick should probably be a reserve guy who doesn't dress much.
Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Will Allen, Ryan Mundy
Nothing much to report on here. This is the same tried and trusted combination from last season. All four guys contribute in some way. There has been no attention paid here, and that's mostly because there's no reason to worry. This is another position of strength, although it's probably underrated.
The Steelers probably won't do anything at this spot this year and will trust that Suisham can continue to be solid and productive for at least one more season.
Surprised? You should be a little. This is going to be a talked about position battle. Jeremy Kapinos deserves a standing ovation for how he's carried himself and how he's performed being a replacement two years running. I think Butler has the better leg, although I wouldn't be surprised if this went the other way.
Long Snapper (one)
You have to have a long snapper, and Warren has finally proven that he can stay healthy. There's really no competition here, so it's easy to assume he'll be the guy when things open up.