Pittsburgh Steelers: Predicting the Final 53-Man Roster
The preseason is almost over and the Pittsburgh Steelers' final 53-man roster is coming into focus.
Pittsburgh must make the final roster official by August 31st, so the few players on the bubble must make their final push for a spot over the next few days.
Here is a prediction of the final 53-man roster and depth chart.
Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger has had a strong preseason and is adjusting his style of play to fit Todd Haley’s offensive scheme. He was at his best against the Buffalo Bills, engineering a masterful 11-play, 98-yard scoring drive in just 1:33.
Byron Leftwich: Leftwich solidified his job as the backup with a 5-of-8 passing performance against the Bills. He threw for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Charlie Batch: Jerrod Johnson displayed some upside but this is a veteran team ready to win now, and Batch is the best option for the third-string quarterback—especially considering the injury history of Roethlisberger and Leftwich. Batch could get cut depending on the number of injured players that the Steelers keep on the roster.
Running Backs (6)
Isaac Redman: Redman has had some injury issues during the preseason and that is a concern. However, he is still the most established back on the roster right now and will get a bulk of the carries.
Jonathan Dwyer: As the season progresses, Dwyer may gain a more prominent role in the offense. He is a big back, but is fairly nimble and has good speed. Unlike Redman, Dwyer can actually break a big run. He is also capable catching passes out of the backfield.
Chris Rainey: Rainey will be an electric offensive weapon for the Steelers. He has two touchdowns in the preseason and should get plenty of receptions this year. He could lead the Steelers in all-purpose yards if he continues to develop and stays healthy.
Baron Batch: Batch is an adequate blocker and fair receiver, but has not shown much in terms of running the ball. He could get playing time on third downs, but may be the odd man out when Mendenhall returns.
Rashard Mendenhall: Mendenhall beginning to practice is an encouraging sign. He could potentially be contributing a lot early than expected.
Will Johnson: Unless the Steelers look elsewhere, Johnson should make the team as the fullback. He isn’t a devastating blocker, but he should improve with experience.
Tight Ends (3)
Heath Miller: Miller finally got involved with the offense in the last preseason game and should have a very active role in the offense once the regular season begins.
Leonard Pope: Pope is a veteran who has played under Todd Haley. He will not put up big numbers and has been disappointing as a blocker.
David Paulson: Paulson has flashed potential as a receiver, but needs to get strong and improve his blocking. But with Saunders out to start the year, he is more than worth a roster spot. He is a good candidate to be released once Saunders returns.
*Weslye Saunders: Saunders will begin the season with a four-game suspension and will not count toward the 53-man roster.
Wide Receivers (5)
Mike Wallace: Once Wallace signs his tender, he should step right in and enhance the offense.
Antonio Brown: Brown has taken advantage of Wallace’s absence and has established himself as Roethlisberger’s go-to receiver.
Emmanuel Sanders: Sanders has potential to be an excellent slot receiver if he can stay on the field. He should put up career numbers this year.
Jerricho Cotchery: Cotchery will get plenty of time, even as the No. 4 receiver. He is the most physical receiver on the roster.
Derrick Williams: Without any young receiver standing out, Williams would provide the Steelers with more experience at the bottom of the depth chart.
Note: David Gilreath could make it based on his performance against the Indianapolis Colts and return ability, or Toney Clemons solely for his size. The Steelers may even decide to keep only four receivers.
Offensive Line (9)
Max Starks (LT): Starks performed well in his first action since returning from ACL surgery. The Steelers will need him to stay in the lineup because rookie Mike Adams is not ready.
Willie Colon (LG): Colon has made the adjustment to guard and should only get better as the season progresses.
Maurkice Pouncey (C): Pouncey appears to be back in form now that his ankle is healthy. Expect a big year from the young center.
Ramon Foster (RG): Foster was slotted for a spot on the bench until rookie David DeCastro suffered a knee injury against the Bills. Though Foster does not have the talent of DeCastro, he is a powerful blocker who has proven himself to be a capable NFL starter.
Marcus Gilbert (RT): Gilbert will man the right side of the line. The 2011 Steelers' Rookie of the Year winner will need to continue to improve if the line is eventually going to develop into a strength.
Mike Adams (T): Adams has been an excellent run-blocker, but subpar in pass protection. If he can improve his pass blocking, Adams has a very bright future.
Trai Essex (G/T): Essex is a backup capable of playing any position on the line. He has struggled in the preseason, but he is still better than some of the other options.
Doug Legursky (C/G): Legursky won’t have any consideration to start at guard in place of DeCastro, but he is the top backup at center.
David DeCastro (RG): DeCastro was slated to start at right guard and was starting to settle in until he tore his MCL against the Bills. According to Pro Football Talk, DeCastro will miss anywhere from three to five months.
Note: If the Steelers place DeCastro on injured reserve, they will need to add another lineman.
Defensive Linemen (7)
Ziggy Hood (LDE): Hood’s strength training in the offseason appears to have paid off. He looks much improved this preseason as the Steelers defensive line will be one of the strongest units on the team.
Steve McLendon (NT): McLendon made a huge leap forward this year and not only is a capable starter, but he has looked very, very good. He not only is a strong run-stopper, but can get to the quarterback.
Brett Keisel (RDE): Keisel injured his ankle against the Bills, but has had a solid preseason and should have another good year.
Cameron Heyward (DE): Heyward will be a key member of the Steelers defense as he is the only true defensive end who is capable of coming off the bench and contributing this year.
Casey Hampton (NT): Once Hampton returns to the lineup, he will find himself on the bench because of how good McLendon is. He will still contribute as a backup, especially on running downs.
Al Woods (DL): Both Woods and Corbin Bryant are solid backups, but Woods has shown more in the preseason and could slide over to play nose tackle if necessary. That position versatility gives him the edge.
Alameda Ta’amu (NT): Ta’amu has shown some potential, but he has a long way to go.
LaMarr Woodley (LOLB): If he remains healthy, Woodley should be one of the best defenders in the league this year.
Larry Foote (LILB): Foote is a smart veteran who will make some nice contributions for the defense, but may eventually lose some playing time to rookie Sean Spence.
Lawrence Timmons (RILB): Now that Timmons is back on the inside full time, Timmons should have a much more productive season. He already forced a fumble against the Bills, and these are the types of plays that are expected from the team’s most athletic linebacker.
James Harrison (ROLB): Harrison may not be ready for the regular season opener, but if he is he will have to shake off the rust. The Steelers need him in there because there is no one that is ready to take over as the starter at right outside linebacker.
Sean Spence (ILB): Spence has been pretty impressive and will contribute early on special teams. He could eventually get time on passing downs.
Chris Carter (OLB): Carter took advantage of injuries to Harrison and Worilds. He has been able to get to the quarterback, but has to develop against the run and dropping into coverage.
Brandon Johnson (LB): Johnson can back up at any linebacker position and is a good special teams player. He was a nice offseason free-agent signing.
Stevenson Sylvester (LB): Sylvester is injured right now, but he will only be missed on special teams. When he returns, he can back up on the inside and outside.
*Jason Worilds (OLB): Worilds should begin the year on the physically-unable-to-perform list and will not count toward the 53-man roster.
Ike Taylor: Taylor is the clear No. 1 cornerback who is looking to bounce back from a disappointing playoff game last year.
Keenan Lewis: Lewis is solid, but not spectacular. He will start at cornerback, but is getting a lot of pressure from Allen.
Cortez Allen: Allen has a ton of upside and should eventually develop into a very good cornerback. He blankets receivers and plays the ball very well. Allen will be a great nickelback for the Steelers.
Curtis Brown: Brown has had an up-and-down preseason. He struggled early, but had a pretty good game against the Bills. He is a special teams ace and will get on the field when opposing offenses spread the field.
Troy Polamalu: Polamalu is the key to the Steelers defense and the better he is, the further this team will go.
Ryan Clark: Clark still appears to be a dependable free safety who complements Polamalu very well. He will not play in the first game in Denver.
Ryan Mundy: Mundy is the top backup and no one has challenged him for this position.
Damon Cromartie-Smith: Cromartie-Smith has good size and has the chance to make an impact this year.
Robert Golden: Golden had a good camp and takes Will Allen’s roster spot. This is simply taking upside over a maxed-out veteran. The Steelers will keep five safeties to start the year because Clark will be out for the opener.
Special Teams (3)
Greg Warren (LS): You never hear Warren’s name—that means he’s doing his job very well.
Drew Butler (P): Butler has gotten better every week and faced no competition from the injured Jeremy Kapinos.
Shaun Suisham (K): Daniel Hrapmann has been perfect on field goals and has a decent leg for kickoffs, but the low kick that was partially blocked against the Colts was scary. If Suisham falters during the season, Hrapmann will be available.