Early Projections for the Pittsburgh Steelers' Final 53-Man Roster
The Pittsburgh Steelers have completed what should be the best draft of the Mike Tomlin era. It will take a few years for that to truly be judged, but right now, the names on the paper are ones that look like winners from top to bottom.
Will all of those players make the final roster? That remains to be seen. Here's a look at what that final roster might look like.
Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
This position is virtually set as of today. Roethlisberger is the starter until he retires or Pittsburgh goes in a different direction (could that be Jones someday?), so there's no point in spending much time here.
The interest in 2013 will primarily be around whether Jones can beat out Gradkowski to be the primary backup during the season. He has all of the tools of a starting quarterback and fits perfectly in Todd Haley's offensive scheme.
Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Baron Batch, Will Johnson (FB)
There will be some competition here for a starting job. Bell is expected to be the feature back from day one, but he will certainly have to earn that playing time. Dwyer and Redman, who manned the role at various points last season, will try hard to maintain their positions.
There isn't much other competition for roster spots. There should be an interesting battle for the fullback job between Johnson and recovered hybrid tight end/fullback David Johnson. Will Johnson should win that after the season he had in 2012.
Batch is a throw-in at this point until he's been beaten. The Steelers liked four running backs last season and could go with the same combination this year.
Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Plaxico Burress, Jerricho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton
The roster spots here are not likely to be up for grabs. Wheaton was picked too high to not make the roster. He will compete with fellow-draft choice Justin Brown, who will likely end up on the practice squad if he misses out on a roster spot.
The interesting part here is whether Wheaton can beat out Burress or Cotchery for a regular role in the offense. He could conceivably beat one of them out (probably Cotchery) because of his talent. That might be the most interesting offensive battle in training camp.
Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, David Paulson, David Johnson
The question here is whether Pittsburgh keeps three or four tight ends. Given Miller's injury, it seems reasonable that four tight ends will remain with the team for at least part of the season.
Johnson is a valuable keep since he can play fullback and serve a dual role whenever needed.
Pittsburgh didn't take a tight end in the draft. That's all the endorsement anyone should need of Miller's recovery. If there had been doubts, there were plenty of talented tight ends available.
Mike Adams (T), Kelvin Beachum (T/G), Marcus Gilbert (T), David DeCastro (G), Ramon Foster (G), Maurkice Pouncey (C), Nik Embernate (G), Mike Golic, Jr. (G/T/C)
For the first time in years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a settled offensive line. Gilbert and Adams will bookend everything. Beachum has an outside shot at beating out Adams, but it's very unlikely.
In the middle, DeCastro, Pouncey and Foster will set up nicely. That leaves a few of backup spots. Golic and Embernate are both undrafted players but have tremendous upside. They certainly should be able to beat out the other players and earn a roster spot.
Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Al Woods, Nicholas Williams
The defensive line is pretty set. The ends return again, although it will be interesting to see if Heyward can beat out the mildly disappointing Hood for the starting job.
At the nose spot, Steve McLendon will take over for Casey Hampton. McLendon proved last year in the preseason that he could handle the work. The backup position there should go to the rookie Willams instead of Alameda Ta'amu, who has done nothing.
LaMarr Woodley, Jarvis Jones, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, Marshall McFadden, Vince Williams, Jason Worilds, Adrian Robinson
The starters don't involve any guesswork. Jones was drafted to start at James Harrison's old spot. Woodley, Foote and Timmons comprise the remainder of the starting four.
Worilds has to be on the roster and could see some playing time if Woodley has another rough campaign. McFadden was a good backup last season and should supplant Chris Carter. He can play inside or outside.
Williams is the wild card. He should be the last guy in at this position and could be the starter by 2014 at Foote's spot if he develops in accordance with his talent.
Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Terry Hawthorne, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Curtis Brown
Taylor and Allen are the starters unless something drastically changes. Gay should slot into the nickel as he did before leaving for a year in Arizona with the Cardinals.
Hawthorne and Van Dyke are the most talented of the remaining players and could end up making an impact this season should injuries, ineffectiveness or some other malady hit the team.
Expect Brown to give everything he's got to make the roster. This is definitely his last chance to do something of note before he is sent packing. His talent is there but the results are not.
Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, DaMon Cromartie-Smith
Clark and Polamalu are back for another go. This could be the last time. There are no guarantees that Polamalu can play beyond this season (if he makes it through healthy at all). Clark also isn't getting younger and is actually two years older than his vaunted teammate.
The understudies are promising. Golden showed some flashes last season and could end up being a very good player if he can continue to develop his skills.
Thomas was an underrated player who will end up being a starter on this team within three years. He should be the next great safety to wear the Pittsburgh uniform.
Cromartie-Smith makes the roster solely as a special-teams contributor. That spot was left open when Will Allen and Ryan Mundy left. He can fill it and be effective.
Shaun Suisham (K), Drew Butler (P), Greg Warren (LS)
The only mystery here is whether Brian Moorman can beat out Drew Butler for the punting job. Butler is younger with more upside but had a miserable finish to a promising 2012 campaign. He has no job security, but the competition could spur him to rediscover the tools that won him the job.
Suisham solidified his status as the latest Pittsburgh kicking reclamation project to succeed. He was spectacular in 2012 and should be just as steady in 2013. Those early career accuracy issues seem so long ago.
Warren was re-signed and brings a steady hand to things. He does a great job at being inconspicuous. That's what you want from a long snapper.
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