Updated 53-Man Roster Projections for the Steelers Post Week 3 of Preseason
The Pittsburgh Steelers made their first round of cuts on Tuesday. This mandatory deadline put the Pittsburgh roster at 75. Between Tuesday and Sunday, the Steelers will have to make further cuts to get to the final 53-man roster.
Here is a latest prediction of the final 53-man roster, as well as the practice squad, as the preseason starts to wind down. Of this list, about 45 of these 53 are sleeping pretty well. Nevertheless, there are eight or nine guys who are still bubble players. How they perform against the Carolina Panthers could mean the difference between having a job and not.
(2): Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski
At this point, it is hard to imagine the Steelers are going to keep three quarterbacks on their final 53-man roster. No one really thought that Brandon Kay was going to come in as an undrafted free agent and win a spot, but Landry Jones is another story.
Jones’ play this preseason, combined with a bad 2013 preseason means it is time to move on. The starting spot is a point of stability with Ben Roethlisberger, and veteran backup Bruce Gradkowski is serviceable.
Pittsburgh only dressed two quarterbacks in 2013, so leaving the third off the final 53-man roster is no stretch. Should Roethlisberger get hurt the season is over anyway, so there’s no reason to panic over who the third quarterback is.
(4): Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer, Will Johnson
Pittsburgh are one of a select few teams in the NFL who will keep a fullback on their final 53-man roster. Keeping fullback Will Johnson will impact the roster slightly, but only slightly. There is always a chance that Pittsburgh could opt to keep a fifth running back, just in case there are potential punishments doled out by the franchise or the league for Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.
However, the hands of justice move slow in the NFL, so it might be better to assume there will be no possible suspensions in the near future.
As for the depth chart, Bell is the starter going into the season, with Blount and rookie Dri Archer backing him up. Blount is a big back, with nice power and agility, and Archer is a terrifying mix of speed and acceleration.
(6): Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Darrius Heyward-Bey
I’ve gone back and forth on just how many wide receivers will keep on the final 53-man roster. I’ve stuck to the notion of five for most of the offseason. However, with the Steelers using so many four- and five-wide receiver sets, it might be prudent to keep an extra.
If Pittsburgh does choose to only keep five, Darrius Heyward-Bey is probably the odd man out. Even if the Steelers keep six, Derek Moye could supplant Heyward-Bey in that last spot. Another factor is how the wide receiver depth chart will be impacted somewhat by the running backs.
The Steelers’ coaches could consider Archer that final wide receiver, go with five, and add an additional running back for balance. Either way, this group is largely in place, and very talented.
(3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Michael Palmer
Another change from the norm here is Pittsburgh choosing to carry only three tight ends. When you have Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, you feel like things are in good hands. Miller is a great receiving threat, and both are tremendous in-line blockers.
Pittsburgh does have some interesting young tight ends on the roster, namely Eric Waters and Rob Blanchflower. Unfortunately, neither have done enough to warrant serious consideration here.
Along those same lines, keeping only three tights means that veteran David Paulson is the odd-man out and won’t be back on the practice squad.
(9): Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Chris Hubbard, Cody Wallace, Mike Adams, Wesley Johnson
This group is fairly set and has been for some time. The starting five are locked in at this point:
Left Tackle: Kelvin Beachum
Left Guard: Ramon Foster
Center: Maurkice Pouncey
Right Guard: David DeCastro
Right Tackle: Marcus Gilbert
Not an elite group, but there are some exceptional players in this group. The key to the depth here are players that can help at multiple spots. That’s why players like Cody Wallace and Wesley Johnson are so appealing.
The one position still up in the air on this list is tackle Mike Adams over Guy Whimper. Whimper offers more versatility, while Adams has more talent as a pure run-blocking tackle. The best we can hope for is that the Steelers never need either of them.
(7): Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt, Brett Keisel, Josh Mauro, Daniel McCullers
The Steelers look to be keeping seven defensive linemen at this point. It is an interesting mix of youth and experience, but can they take that next step and be a dominant front?
Hard to say at this point. It’s really impossible to know for sure which players, beyond defensive end Cameron Heyward are even going to start.
Steve McLendon is the incumbent nose tackle, but Cam Thomas might be a better fit. Rookie Stephon Tuitt is going to be an elite defensive end in time but veteran Brett Keisel might be a better player to start the year with, while Tuitt learns.
(9): Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Arthur Moats, Terence Garvin, Chris Carter
The linebacker depth chart is a crowded bunch for the Steelers this year. Even keeping nine linebackers, there is still going to be some talented players who are going to find themselves either on the street or on the practice squad.
Pittsburgh will trot out Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones on the outside as pass-rush specialists. However, inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier have a chance to be a special tandem.
The two linebackers omitted here are inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and outside linebacker Howard Jones. Jones has flashed some elite skills, but he is still very raw. Zumwalt is a tough guy, who goes hard every play.
However, he’s competing against a very talented group of interior players. Nevertheless, don't be surprised if Jones or Zumwalt bump Carter from this list.
(5): Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, Brice McCain
It is too bad that a team which needs cornerbacks so much, are only going to be able to keep five. Don’t get me wrong, there are more on the roster. There just aren’t enough worth keeping around.
Veterans Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay will start, and Antwon Blake will be the dime cornerback. Pittsburgh is utilizing so much nickel defense it has practically become their base defense.
The most disappointing thing here is the lack of Shaquille Richardson. Pittsburgh didn't address cornerback properly in the draft, and Richardson, the one cornerback they did pick, hasn't been able to show anything this preseason.
(5): Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden
Along with five cornerbacks, Pittsburgh will keep five safeties as well. This goes along with their philosophy of more nickel and less base defense. Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell will start, and backup safety Shamarko Thomas has some experience as a dime cornerback, so look for him to see plenty of the field as well.
The one surprising name not on this list is Jordan Dangerfield. Unfortunately, Dangerfield was part of the first round of cuts, so he won’t be part of the final 53-man roster. Dangerfield had a strong preseason, so this could just be a move to get him onto the practice squad before other teams trim down enough to sign him.
(3): Shaun Suisham, Brad Wing, Greg Warren
This is the toughest group of all to sort out at this point. The one sure thing is kicker Shaun Suisham. Suisham was one of the most consistent and effective kickers in the league in 2013.
I honestly don’t believe the Steelers’ punter is currently on the roster. Brad Wing might get the job by default if there is no better option but perhaps some team will drop a young punter the Steelers can bring in.
It’s unclear whether or not long snapper Greg Warren will be ready for the start of the season. However, I am not convinced the Steelers are going to release him after nine seasons. Instead, I think they keep him, and stash another long snapper on the practice squad as a backup plan.
Here is my current prediction for the 10 players who will end up on the Steelers’ practice squad. Here is the link to a great explanation of the new expanded practice squad and the rules.
Will Simmons, OG
Brian Arnfelt, DE
Rob Blanchflower, TE
Jordan Dangerfield, S
Jordan Zumwalt, LB
Shaquille Richardson, CB
Isaiah Green, CB
Luke Ingram, LS
Howard Jones LB
Josh Harris RB