It is a wee bit early with two weeks of training camp over and three weeks to go. But I think it is time to start talking about what players are most likely to make the 53 man Pittsburgh Steelers regular season roster.
With the Steelers trying to improve special teams and add some much needed youth to the team, how the rookies and second year players do in preseason games will have a great impact on determining the number of changes on this seasons roster.
Quarterbacks; Nothing to discuss really except the unlikely possibility the Steelers will keep Charlie Batch on the roster until Ben's suspension is up.
Batch's spot could be used to keep an extra OL player or a FA pick up until Ben comes back. Roethlisberger will not count against the roster until he is reinstated.
No. 1- Ben Roethlisberger , No. 2 -Bryon Leftwich , No. 3 - Dennis Dixon .
Running Backs; For the last two RB spots there doesn't seem to be a clear cut consensus among the coaching staff who should make the roster. But that will be Tomilin's decision alone at the end of preseason.
No. 1 - Rashard Mendenhall , No. 2 - Mewelde Moore , No. 3 - Unknown ? No. 4 - Jon Dwyer.
I put Dwyer at No. 4 because of talent, good running skills and potential. He has had a mixed review through OTAs and camp thus far. Some good & some not so good.
He had very good spring OTAs, but came into camp over confident and over weight. But after the first week of camp he was starting to realize talent was not enough. That he had to show improvement every week to have a chance at making the final roster. Let alone move up the depth chart.
The number three RB spot is the question mark. Although in much better shape and improved this year, I think Isaac Redman will be No. 3, but he must show he can block when needed to and play special teams this preseason if he wants to make the roster. Otherwise it could be Summers, unless Willie comes back?
Frank Summers has quietly also shown some improvement this camp, but missed part of the second week with a concussion, giving Redman an edge in practice time.
Free agent pick up Wright showed some good things his first week in camp and seems to be a good blocker. But other than that I haven't heard much about him, so I can't tell how much of a factor he will be in the mix.
Keep in mind though that of those four backs only Dwyer and Redman are practice squad eligible.
Tight Ends;not much to think about here.
No. 1 - Heath Miller , No. 2 - Matt Spaeth , No. 3 - David Johnson.
Spaeth makes the roster because he has the best hands if Miller were to get injured.
Johnson has started to show he can catch more balls than he drops in camp, but needs to show he can do it in games. Also though very strong, he needs to get lower when blocking to beat out Sean McHugh.
No. 1 - Hines Ward , No. 2 -Mike Wallace , No. 3 - Randle El , No. 4 ,Manny Sanders ,
No. 5 - Arnez Battle , No. 6 - Antonio Brown or Stefan Logan.
No. 5 & No. 6 if there is six. I think there will be six this year.
The last two spots will be between Arnez Battle, Stefan Logan and Antonio Brown. I think both last two WR spots will be determined by how good Sanders and Brown do in returning kicks in preseason.
One defensive position could also be impacted by the out come of the rookies abilities on kick returns. I believe Battle will be on the roster and there will be six WRs because of the lack of experience there would be if an injury occurred to Ward or Randle EL.
Logans roster spot on the team could possibly be determined by the abilities of two rookies. So pay attention to who does the best job returning kicks during the preseason games.
Offensive Line; Last but certainally not least. Because of the lack of stars on the O-line there are not many easy roster assumptions here.
LT - Max Starks , Trai Essex
LG - Chris Kemoeatu , Ramon Foster
C - Justin Hartwig , Doug Legurskey
RG - Trai Essex , Maurkice Pouncey , Kraig Urbik
RT - Flozell Adams , Ramon Foster
The Steelers at the beginning of camp were pretty adamant that they wanted to make as few as changes to the O-line as possible after Colons season ending injury. If the Steelers stick to that and the Steelers go with nine O-line men, this could be what we will see. Less than ideal to say the least.
Foster has practice at G and RT with the second team squad.
Legurskey has practiced in camp drills as C ,G and the FB position. I would like to see Legurskey excel at the center position in preseason.
That way the Steelers could cut Hartwig and make Legurskey the lame duck center for this season till Pouncey takes over next season. That way the Steelers could keep Urbik and the best back up tackle availible this season.
If the Steelers keep Hartwig at center this season.Then the last Roster spot will go to either RG Kraig Urbik , T Tony Hills , T Adrian Jones or a presently unknown free agent.
Most articles I have read say T Jonathon Scott has preformed poorly in camp thus far. Hills and Urbik have made some small steps towards improvement. Not as much as a 2nd and 3d year players should.
The one day this week I went to camp I saw an assistant coach give T Adrian Jones a thumbs up after one play. But have not read or heard anything about him. So I have no idea if he is a viable candidate for the roster.