Projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers' Final 53-Man Roster After Preseason Week 2

Nick DeWitt@@nickdewitt11Analyst IAugust 20, 2012

Projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers' Final 53-Man Roster After Preseason Week 2

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    After two preseason games, it's about time for the cuts to start coming at NFL training camps.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a good opportunity through camp and games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts to evaluate the players they have.

    Injuries play a role and so does performance. Both have reared their head this season.

    Here's a look at a potential final roster and depth chart given what we know at the halfway point of the preseason schedule.

Quarterbacks

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    Ben Roethlisberger

    Is there anyone safer on the whole roster? The Steelers go nowhere without their quarterback. Roethlisberger has looked comfortable with Todd Haley's offensive scheme.

    It seems as though he'll still be throwing it and enjoying a good amount of freedom when it comes to play calls. He may even get to run the no-huddle outside of the final two minutes of either half.

     

    Byron Leftwich

    The Steelers will go with the steady veteran behind Roethlisberger. Leftwich must stay healthy, so the team is wisely using him sparingly after two years in which he was sidelined during the preseason with major injuries.

    He's looked okay, but his lack of mobility will hurt him if he has to be involved in more than mopping up.

     

    Jerrod Johnson

    I love Charlie Batch. The guy bleeds black and gold and is a coach on the field. The problem is Johnson has done a lot better so far in the preseason and looks like a guy with enough potential to merit a roster spot. He could end up on the practice squad. But if I had to pick one for the roster, I'd take Johnson at this point.

Running Backs

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    Isaac Redman

    Redman is going to be the starter when the Steelers open the season in Denver unless his groin/hip injury requires him to miss more time. He's looked good so far in camp and in the first preseason game (he missed the most recent game) and seems comfortable taking the majority of the carries.

     

    Jonathan Dwyer

    I've been pressed with Dwyer. He's more trim this season and looks faster and more versatile.

    I'm not sold on him doing much receiving out of the backfield, which will be important in an offense that will lean on screen passes. But Dwyer can be a good relief back for Redman, who never has shouldered a load as big as will be expected of him this year.

     

    Baron Batch (3rd Downs)

    Batch has been very good and has shown a surprising ability to gain yards between the tackles.

    Instead of being a receiver who can do some running on the outside edge, he's a versatile back who continues to add to his list of tools. He should handle third downs this season and play a role similar to Mewelde Moore.

     

    Chris Rainey

    Rainey has been the star of the preseason backfield and has opened eyes by shouldering a heavy load so far. He's been very good on offense and has also been excellent on special teams.

    He's going to be a big weapon on screen passes. If he finds a bit of space, he can take it to the house. 

     

    Rashard Mendenhall

    He'll be on the roster, but he probably won't dress for the first four games as he recovers from the right ACL he tore in the final regular-season game of the 2011 season.

    So far, he's made a quick recovery, but the team will work him back in slowly. They have plenty of depth.

Wide Receivers

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    Antonio Brown

    He's proven that he's capable of succeeding without Mike Wallace there to take away the double teams. He's made some highlight-reel plays this preseason.

    At this point, he seems poised to make that contract extension he just signed seem like a huge bargain.

     

    Mike Wallace

    I'll go ahead and predict that he doesn't skip any of the regular season. I don't think he can just show up after the Steelers play the Panthers on August 30th, however.

    He needs to come in for at least one game or he'll be on the shelf until he gets some reps and gets this offense down pat.

    Right now, by holding out, he's  only hurting himself and looking like a selfish jerk.

     

    Emmanuel Sanders (Slot)

    Sanders has been a nice playmaker and will be the guy starting if Wallace continues his holdout into the regular season.

    He has to stay healthy. So far, he's been just fine and keeps showing why he went into last season as the player the Steelers thought would become a star.

    Antonio Brown lived that dream. This could be the season Sanders does the same thing.

     

    Jerricho Cotchery

    Cotchery is the possession guy. He's not blazing fast like the team's top three, but he does do the heavy lifting over the middle and in the red zone.

    Getting him involved in tight spots near the goal line is going to be essential if the Steelers are to improve their scoring this year.

     

    Tyler Beiler

    I've liked what I've seen from Beiler. He's made nice plays and shown good speed and command of his route responsibilities.

    He hasn't gotten a ton of looks, but he's done what the team has asked. He's been much more consistent than Toney Clemons.

     

    David Gilreath

    If things started for real tomorrow, Gilreath did enough on Sunday night against the Colts to merit making this roster. Offensively, no other wide receiver has been more impressive.

    Toney Clemons shows too much inconsistency. Things could change in the next two weeks, but right now this is where the cut line sits.

Tight Ends

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    Heath Miller

    It's been a very quiet preseason for Miller, but that's not unusual. He's going to be a big part of the offense once things get going for real.

    One thing I've seen in practice is that his blocking has become very consistent. He has a real shot at the Pro Bowl this year if he can get back to being a big red-zone target.

     

    Wesley Saunders

    Saunders will serve a four-game ban to start the season, but he's athletic enough and has a good enough rapport with his quarterback to end up on this roster as a top backup.

    He was great in that role in 2011 and should get another boost from Todd Haley, a coordinator who knows how to use tight ends like him.

     

    Leonard Pope (FB)

    I like what I've seen from Pope as a blocker. I think he has a chance to do the lead-blocking for the Steelers should they decide they need to utilize a fullback.

    The Steelers aren't likely to employ a full-time fullback, so a tight end will likely play that role. Pope can do that.

     

    David Paulson

    I'd say Paulson has earned a spot, but it depends on whether the team wants to keep four tight ends and six receivers. We'll say that they do right now since they will be using one of the tight ends in a blocking role.

    Paulson should get some looks on offense in jumbo formations, but he must continue to improve his blocking.

Offensive Tackle

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    Mike Adams (LT)

    Adams was doing well in camp and had an okay preseason debut in which he showed both the good and bad aspects of starting a rookie at left tackle.

    He's made a quick recovery from what initially looked like a tough injury and was able to get back on the field late against the Colts. He'll be there in Denver, I think.

     

    Marcus Gilbert (RT)

    Gilbert has been getting better and better. He's done everything the Steelers could have hoped for at this point.

    He's solidified the blocking on the right side of the line and opens some great holes. He holds blocks well during pass plays, something that will help Ben Roethlisberger on those screen passes that need time to open up.

     

    Max Starks

    Starks is on track to be ready early in the season and should slot in as the top backup. He's been a key cog on this team for years and now should get to sit back and help tutor the team's young bookends.

    He is still good enough to step in for an extended period, something important after a season in which injuries decimated the line.

     

    Trai Essex

    It's taken me a few tries to place Essex correctly. He can play any of the five line positions, but he seems to be getting the most work as a tackle.

    He's done well there and should be able to come in if needed as the starter on the left side if Adams isn't ready.

Offensive Guard

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    Willie Colon (LG)

    Colon has been a tackle his entire professional and collegiate career, but he might be an even better guard. The surprise move to guard seems like a better idea every time he takes the field.

    He's a beast and has shown a great ability to adapt to his new position. I'm completely impressed by his work so far and think he has a chance to make a huge comeback after two injury-filled campaigns.

     

    David DeCastro (RG)

    He hasn't been quite as good as everyone thought, but he's improved to the point where he'll be the starter when the team opens against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

    He struggled early with being physical enough, but he was good against the Colts and looked like the player the Steelers thought they drafted.

     

    Ramon Foster

    The Steelers can use Trai Essex or Doug Legursky at guard as well, so only one backup is necessary here. Foster also can factor in at tackle, if needed.

    He was a starter last year, but now the team has improved enough to put him on the bench. He'll still be important, however. He'll be the first guy in if the Steelers need a replacement at guard.

Center

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    Maurkice Pouncey

    He's been voted to two Pro Bowls in two seasons. That's all the evidence you need to know how effective and well-regarded Pouncey is in the NFL.

    This year is all about staying healthy and not having another problem with high ankle sprains. If he can do that, he's going to be the best center the Steelers have had since Dermontti Dawson.

     

    Doug Legursky

    He's the super-sub for the Steelers, but his best work has come at center. He should see time in relief at some position, probably guard, this year.

    If Pouncey is out, the Steelers have found that they can count on Legursky. He must also prove he can stay healthy, however. He had some injury issues in 2011.

Defensive End

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    Brett Keisel

    There's no surprise here. Keisel has become a Pittsburgh icon and a top defensive end in the 3-4 defense. He makes good plays and opens up holes for rushing linebackers, corners and safeties.

    He is young enough to have several years left in the tank, and he's pretty sturdy too.

     

    Ziggy Hood

    People don't seem to like Hood and I'm not sure why. He's not Aaron Smith, but he might actually be better.

    Go ahead and bash me in the comments, but Hood is quicker and plays a better version of 3-4 end than Smith did simply because he can make the big play on occasion.


    Cameron Heyward

    He's probably the best backup defensive end in the NFL. He'd start on a lot of teams.

    He's a beast who has become a steady player in only one season. He's picked up the entire defense and could push Hood a little this year. In fact, he could force a rotation if Hood falls off even a little bit.

    Since he can play both sides, I'm not keeping an extra backup. That's why you have a practice squad.

Nose Tackle

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    Steve McLendon

    At this point, I'm giving him the job for good. If he can play this well during the regular season—and he's already worked against opposing starters in two games—he can have the job for the season and perhaps even longer.

    He's been one of the most impressive players in camp.

     

    Casey Hampton

    Now that he's ready to resume some football activities, I'll slot him in as the top backup. He'll get some situational time as a relief guy and in run situations where he can clog up the middle, but for the most part he'll be tasked with being a good teacher.

    He's done well so far and deserves some credit for McLendon's renaissance and Ta'amu's improvement.

     

    Alameda Ta'amu

    Ta'amu is coming along. He's about where you'd expect a mid-round rookie to be in a defense that is complex.

    He hasn't done badly in the preseason. Mainly, he's been steady but without any flash. He has potential to add flash, but that comes with time.

    This is a year to sit and learn. Next year will be interesting if he develops like he should.

Outside Linebackers

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    LaMarr Woodley

    I get the feeling that this is going to be a big season for Woodley. He has a steady line in front of him, and I think Steve McLendon and his ability to disrupt will have a positive impact on Woodley.

    He's been very good in the preseason. Peyton Manning should start worrying now about that Week 1 date.

     

    James Harrison

    Let's hope that knee scope will still allow him to be ready for the first game. The Steelers need their most-feared player healthy.

    Just his presence on the field strikes fear into an opposing offense. That he can sack and tackle with the best of them only makes him more essential.

     

    Jason Worilds

    He's the top backup when healthy. Right now, he's still shelved.

    He will resume the role of being the first guy off the bench once he's healthy and has time to build up his strength and reps again. He could start for several teams, but it is going to be interesting to see if he can stay healthy.

     

    Chris Carter

    Carter has been stepping in for Harrison and has done pretty well. He's still not to the point where I'd want to rely on him long term, but he has a chance to be a special player.

    He might be the next linebacker who comes out of nowhere after working with Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler.

Inside Linebacker

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    Lawrence Timmons

    Timmons should benefit from not having to shift around. He was great last year, but he didn't get a full season at his usual inside spot.

    He's going to have a lot more responsibility this year with James Farrior retired, but it seems like he can handle it.

    This might be his Pro Bowl season.

     

    Larry Foote

    Foote seems to be a lock to claim his old spot on the inside next to the guy who replaced him.

    He's played well this preseason and has shown a tenacity and drive that will make him an important and dangerous piece of this defense as things unfold.


    Sean Spence

    I've been impressed with the work of the rookie.  I think he's going to be a special player.

    He's been the best of the backup group. His ability to make disruptive lays is going to put him ahead of other players.


    Stevenson Sylvester

    He's on the bubble and was the last player I put on this roster. He just hasn't done much.

    He's gone from potential future star to bubble player in just about a year. That's what happens when your development stalls.

    He needs to get it going to wrap up the preseason or he might just be cut loose.

Cornerback

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    Ike Taylor

    This is a lock. Taylor is one of the best cover corners in the NFL, and he's been very good this preseason. He even had an interception return for a touchdown against the Colts.

    He's not known for big plays like that, but if he can add that dimension, he'll be a Pro Bowl corner for sure.

     

    Cortez Allen

    I'm a believer now. It's just impossible to ignore the work that he's done, especially in Sunday night's game against the Colts.

    He plays good coverage and can make big plays. The coverage is what I care about most. That was the biggest question I had this year and that's what will keep teams out of the end zone.

    He doesn't get out of position. I love that.


    Keenan Lewis

    Lewis has been good, but just not as good as everyone expected. He has had a few big lapses in coverage and seems like he might be better suited for the nickel at this point.

    He also hasn't made many big plays. If Allen keeps making big plays, he has to start.


    Curtis Brown

    Despite an awful preseason, Brown is still better than any other option on the current roster. He has too much potential to give up on at this point, and I think that will put him into uniform most games.

    He will still have to earn his keep on special teams, but he was great there last year.


    Walter McFadden

    He's my second-to-last guy on the roster. He had just enough of a game against the Colts to push him ahead of the other guys. Plus, he has some experience.

    A fifth corner doesn't have to dress much and mostly will just play special teams. That he has some game experience coming in means that he's probably a little more trustworthy if he needs to step in on defense for a few snaps.

Safeties

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    Troy Polamalu (SS)

    He's the best safety of his generation and one of the best in the long history of the NFL. He is the biggest cog in this defense.

    If he can stay healthy, the Steelers will once again rank near the top of the league. If he doesn't, the Steelers are in trouble.


    Ryan Clark (FS)

    Clark has been the perfect complement to Polamalu. His heavy hitting keeps teams from sending tight ends and possession receivers over the middle without worry.

    He can cover the space that Polamalu vacates to improvise. That's an important skill in this defense.


    Ryan Mundy

    Mundy is as steady as they come and has improved every year in the NFL.

    He's the top backup at free safety and will get the start on opening weekend when the Steelers travel to Denver.


    Damon Cromartie-Smith

    To this point, he's been much more impressive than Will Allen. Allen just doesn't do anything special.

    Cromartie-Smith can make plays and his coverage ability is much better. He can play special teams as well. That's been Allen's big calling card.

Specialists

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    Shaun Suisham (PK)

    As much as I've been worried about Suisham, he's been very good and looks to be much stronger than he was in previous seasons.

    His kicks have a great finish to them, and he's booming his kickoffs in a way that he wasn't before.

    That's a good sign for a guy who's a big weapon on this team.


    Drew Butler (P)

    Undrafted rookies aren't usually on a lot of final rosters, but Butler has looked like a veteran. He's mastered holding for Suisham, he booms punts with a great consistency and he can place his kicks just about anywhere.

    I feel very comfortable moving forward with him as the punter.


    Greg Warren (LS)

    Warren has been here for awhile and he's finally healthy. He's steady and does the one thing you love from a long snapper: he keeps his name out of the spotlight.

    You don't know he's there. That's a good thing in his line of work.