The last week of August can only mean one thing.
It is time for most of us to go back to class in about a week, and more importantly there is only about two weeks left till the Pittsburgh Steelers start their season against the Atlanta Falcons.
I for one cannot wait to finally be able to spend every weekend with my girlfriend watching the Steelers make their way towards another Super Bowl ring.
However the Steelers have a lot of tough decisions to make prior to the regular season’s highly anticipated arrival.
Some dates to note are August 31, where teams must cut their rosters down to 75,
And then September 4th, final roster cuts and teams must be down to 53 players.
In this article I will discuss who I think will earn a spot on the 53 man roster and the honor of representing the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010.
This quarterback position on the Steelers is as much up in the air as it is the easiest to predict.
First of all, the Steelers are given a special exemption to compensate for Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension so he will not count towards the 53 man roster until he gets back.
Secondly, fans and media alike have been debating all offseason who will start for the Steelers in week one, however not who will make the team.
I really wish they would give Dixon a chance to start the season, however, I just think the Steelers are set on throwing Leftwich out there until Ben returns.
EXEMPTION: Ben Roethlisberger
Starter: Byron Leftwich
Backup: Dennis Dixon
Third String: Charlie Batch
Cuts: It is pretty much known that Batch will be cut as soon as Ben returns from suspension.
Roster spots – 3
With Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension, this has become one of the most important positions to watch in preseason and I think it has been clear who has earned a spot.
Rashard Mendenhall is undoubtedly the starter and has a ton of expectations on him for this season and Mewelde Moore will be listed as the backup, however, will be used primarily on third down and passing situations.
With Jonathan Dwyer disappointing in camp, Isaac Redman has clearly earned a spot on the Steelers as the short yardage back and along with running hard has shown that he has become more of a complete back in blocking and receiving.
The only spot in question is what happens with the fullback position as the Steelers might opt to just keep an extra tight end and use him in that spot. Redman has also been working a bit at fullback, however, I think just like last year, Frank Summers makes the team and seems to have improved his game.
Starter: Rashard Mendenhall
Primary Backup/Third Down Back: Mewelede Moore
Backup/Short Yardage: Isaac Redman
Fullback: Frank Summers
Cuts - Jonathan Dwyer, Stefan Logan, Justin Vincent, Dwayne Wright
Practice Squad – Jonathan Dwyer
Roster spots – 4
I don’t think anyone would argue with Hines Ward and Mike Wallace as the starters in addition to Antwaan Randle El starting the season as the third receiver.
I will say, however, that I do believe that Emmanuel Sanders will take that spot from Randle El by the end of the season.
That being said, Sanders has been a bright spot in camp with good route running, nice hands, and has been showing understanding with his blocking.
Arnaz Battle is a capable receiver and a great special teams guy and Antonio Brown has dazzled everyone with his development this preseason.
In the end I believe both of them will make the team.
Starter: Hines Ward
Starter: Mike Wallace
Third/Slot: Antwaan Randle El
Fourth: Emmanual Sanders
Fifth: Arnaz Battle
Sixth: Antonio Brown
Cuts - Tyler Grisham, Brandon London
Practice Squad - Tyler Grisham
Roster spots – 6
The Steelers have one of the best tight ends in the league in Heath Miller and I believe he is in line for a huge season this year.
After Miller the Steelers have three main guys fighting for two spots in my opinion.
Matt Spaeth probably has the best hands of the three and will make the team, however, I believe this will be his last year with the Steelers.
That leaves David Johnson and Sean McHugh fighting for one spot and, to me, the Steelers will choose Johnson’s potential over McHugh.
Both McHugh and Johnson have been used as a fullback in certain formations and both are capable blockers.
The difference is in their hands and Johnson has shown improvement this offseason in that area, not that McHugh is horrible, but I believe Johnson has the potential to be a very good player for the Steelers in the future.
Starter: Heath Miller
Backup: Matt Spaeth
Backup: David Johnson
Cuts – Sean McHugh, Eugene Bright
Roster spots – 3
The Steelers offensive line over the past few years has been looked upon as a weakness on the team.
This year is no different and with Willie Colon out for the season, the pressure is even more intensified for the guys in the trenches.
Max Starks and Chris Kemoeuatu are set on the left side of the line and it is widely believed that Flozell Adams is going to get a shot this season at right tackle despite struggles this preseason.
At right guard I believe Trai Essex has proven enough and shown enough in preseason to earn the chance to at least start the season.
Now to the best news to a Steelers fan all offseason, Maurkice Pouncey will be the opening day starter at center.
Left Tackle: Max Starks
Left Guard: Chris Kemoeuatu
Center: Markauce Pouncey
Right Guard: Trai Essex
Right Tackle: Flozell Adams
Backup: Ramon Foster
Backup: Doug Legursky
Backup: Jonathan Scott
Cuts – Justin Hartwig, Tony Hills, Dorian Brooks, Adrian Jones, Kraig Urbik, Kyle Jolly, Chris Scott(currently on PUP)
Practice Squad – Dorian Brooks, Chris Scott
Roster spots – 8
The defensive line gains a huge jolt this season by having Aaron Smith back healthy and with him and Brett Keisel, the Steelers have two of the best 3-4 ends in football.
In all the talks this offseason about the Steelers needing to get younger at defensive tackle, I think people have forgotten how good Casey Hampton actually is.
To add to our already stout defensive line is last year’s first round pick Ziggy Hood, who has been lighting things up in camp. Although Hood hasn’t had a dominant preseason, he has still shown great development and will be a main contributor on defense for the Steelers.
I am still holding out hope that rookie Doug Worthington makes the team however it is more likely that the Steelers go with veterans Nick Eason and Sunny Harris with Chris Hoke being a lock behind Hampton as well.
Starter: Brett Keisel
Starter: Casey Hampton
Starter: Aaron Smith
Backup: Ziggy Hood
Backup: Nick Eason
Backup: Sunny Harris
Backup: Chris Hoke
Cuts – Jared Retkofksy, Steve McLendon, Scott Paxson, Doug Worthington
Practice Squad – Doug Worthington
Roster spots – 7
In my opinion linebacker is one of the more straight forward positions on the team right now as far as who is going to make the team.
On the outside we have two of the best linebackers in the league in James Harrison and Lamar Woodley and backing them up are Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson.
On the inside we have Lawrence Timmons, who is primed for a great season, and James Farrior, who is one of the leaders on the Steelers defense.
Farrior is old and started to show it last season, however, I think he still has enough in the tank for one more season with the Steelers.
Backing Timmons and Farrior up will be veterans Larry Foote and Keyaron Fox, along with rookie sensation Stevenson Sylvester.
I thought maybe Foote or Fox could be cut, however, they won’t cut Foote and Fox is too good as a backup to get rid of.
That leaves the rookie Sylvester, whose play in camp and in preseason has forced the Steelers to keep him on the roster.
Starter: Lamar Woodley
Starter: Lawrence Timmons
Starter: James Farrior
Starter: James Harrison
Backup: Jason Worilds
Backup: Thaddeus Gibson
Backup: Larry Foote
Backup: Keyaron Fox
Backup: Stevenson Sylvester
Cuts – Patrick Bailey, Brandon Renkart, Renauld Williams
Practice Squad – Brandon Renkart
Roster spots – 9
The secondary was one of the weakest parts of the entire Steelers team last season, however, I believe they will be greatly improved this coming year.
Ike Taylor can still get it done in coverage and Bryant McFadden is a definite upgrade over William Gay last season.
That being said, I believe Gay will win the nickel corner spot since that is what his skill set is and he will benefit from not starting.
Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett have both had a really good camp and preseason and will be big contributors in the secondary as backups.
It pains me to say this, but I believe Anthony Madison is going to make the team over Crezdon Butler solely based on special teams.
Madison won’t be used much at corner but will be big on kick and coverage units and the Steelers will choose to develop Butler on the practice squad for a year.
Starter: Ike Taylor
Starter: Bryant McFadden
Nickel: William Gay
Third Corner: Keenan Lewis
Fourth Corner: Joe Burnett
Fifth Corner: Anthony Madison
Cuts – Crezdon Butler, David Pittman
Practice Squad – Crezdon Butler
Roster spots – 6
There aren’t many sweeter words you can say to a Steelers fan than the phrase; "Troy Polamalu will be healthy to start the season."
Troy’s injury last year was one of, if not the main reason for the decline of the Steelers defense and he makes everyone around him better.
He makes the corners better and his presence in the secondary absolutely makes his starting mate, Ryan Clark, much better.
Clark and Polamalu work well together and with the signing of Will Allen this offseason, the safety position has become a strength on the team.
As for that last safety spot, Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith has been putting up a fight this preseason, however, the Steelers will go with Ryan Mundy.
Starter: Troy Polamalu
Starter: Ryan Clark
Backup: Will Allen
Backup: Ryan Mundy
Cuts – Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, Justin Thornton
Practice Squad – Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith
Roster spots – 4
There really isn’t much you can say about the Steelers special teams play last season other than that it was horrible.
The Steelers have done numerous things this offseason to try and strengthen this fault by signing good special teams guys in Will Allen and Arnaz Battle.
Also, they are probably going to go with punter Daniel Sepulveda for the kickoffs this year in relief of kicker Jeff Reed.
Sepulveda is able to kick with more power than Reed and is a much better tackler which improves the special teams even more.
Antonio Brown’s play this preseason made Stefan Logan expendable and Brown will take over as the returner for the Steelers.
Rounding out our special teamers is Greg Warren as the long snapper.
Kicker: Jeff Reed
Punter: Daniel Sepulveda
Long Snapper: Greg Warren
Returner: Antonio Brown
Cuts – Matt Stewart
Roster spots - 3
The Steelers are allowed up to eight players on their practice squad team and hopefully no other team signs any of these guys away because I think most of them still have a good future with Pittsburgh.
RB Jonathan Dwyer
WR Tyler Grisham
DE Doug Worthingon
CB Crezdon Butler
OT Chris Scott
S Da’Mon Cromartie Smith
G Dorian Brooks
LB Brandon Renkart