It’s almost that time of the year where teams start trimming the fat from 90 to 53 players on the roster.
Some are locks to make the team while others are bordering on unemployment. After being battle-tested in the preseason opener, many players did not take advantage of the opportunity given to them.
While the lack of offseason programs has put everyone behind the eight ball, the man in the picture will not be looking for excuses. It is time to do or die and if you are not ready, be prepared to find yourself another team.
At the end of the day, here are the players I think will be playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.
Ben Roethlisberger-1st QB
Byron Leftwich-2nd QB
Charlie Batch-3rd QB
I think this is pretty much a no brainer at this point. No one is going to come close to taking Big Ben’s starting job from him.
Byron Leftwich has clearly shown that he is capable of handling backup duties. While he may be a sitting duck in the pocket, he is the better option to back up Ben.
I don't see any team wanting to trade for Dixon so I am banking on the Steelers releasing him by next week.
Roster Count: 3
Mike Wallace-1st WR
Hines Ward-2nd WR
Emmanuel Sanders-3rd WR
Antonio Brown- 4th WR
Jericho Cotchery- 5th WR
Arnaz Battle-6th WR
Currently, the Steelers are experiencing an unusual amount of activity at the receiver position.
Limas Sweed, who is on his last legs in Pittsburgh, sprained his shoulder during camp and has yet to see game action. Unfortunately, this will end up costing Sweed a roster spot.
As an insurance policy, the Steelers signed Jericho Cotchery from the Jets to a one-year deal. He will begin his first practice today and I believe he will pan out in Pittsburgh.
Emmanuel Sanders has missed the last few practices because of his surgically repaired feet, though he is expected back on Monday.
In the meantime, Antonio Brown has taken full advantage of all the first-team reps he has received thus far and it showed in the preseason opener.
Just like last year, the Steelers will carry six receivers with the six-man used primarily for special teams purposes. As of right now, that job once again belongs to Arnaz Battle.
Roster Count: 6
Rashard Mendenhall-1st RB
Issac Redman-2nd RB
Mewelde Moore-3rd RB
Rashard Mendenhall has firmly secured the starting job at running back with his excellent blend of speed and power.
Isaac Redman has further established his role as the top backup behind Mendenhall and should see a significant increase in carries this year.
By default, Mewelde Moore will carry out third-down duties for another year.
I was so looking forward to Baron Batch making the roster, but that will have to wait until next year as Batch is out for the year with a torn ACL.
For all intents and purposes, Jonathan Dwyer is done in Pittsburgh. He has a lousy work ethic and has showed up to camp out of shape for a second consecutive year.
Barring an injury, he has zero chance of making the roster.
Roster Count: 3
Heath Miller-1st TE
David Johnson-2nd TE
John Gilmore-3rd TE
When it comes to the tight ends, Heath Miller is entrenched as the starter. Behind him, the position is a jumbled mess.
After letting Matt Spaeth walk in free agency, the Steelers expected David Johnson to step up and be the backup tight end behind Miller.
That experiment has failed to yield exciting results as Johnson seems to be struggling with the role. However, I am willing to give him a few more practices to get acclimated to the position.
It appears that John Gilmore will be the third tight end as neither Jamie McCoy nor Weslye Saunders have proven they can handle the position.
Personally, I would love to have a true full back instead of a third tight end, but I might as well tell that to a brick wall for all the good it will do.
Roster Count: 3
Of all the positions on the team, deciding who will play on the offensive line has to be the toughest decision for the Steelers.
There are a few locks to the line such as Maurkice Pouncey and Willie Colon. After them is anyone's guess.
Tony Hills impressed me enough to be a backup on the line. He will most likely back up Colon at right tackle.
Chris Scott has failed to show that he is capable of handling a starting job as he looked lost and confused against the Redskins starters. I believe he will be a backup at right guard.
Marcus Gilbert played a decent amount of snaps in the opener and didn't really impress. He has been injured so I will give him a slight pass. Even though he stands a good chance of making the team, he must improve from here on out.
Even though Kemoeatu is healing from a bad knee, Big Juicy will still make the team. When he is ready to return is to be determined
In the meantime, Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster will hold down left and right guard respectively.
Roster Count: 9
For years, the defensive line has been eating up blockers so the linebackers can be as special as they are. They have also been the anchor of the best run-stopping defense in the past decade.
While the line is up in age, it will receive an infusion of youth in 2011. I firmly believe that by preseason's end, Ziggy Hood will be the starter over Aaron Smith.
Cameron Heyward impressed in his rookie debut and will be the top backup behind Brett Keisel. Expect an increase in snaps for Heyward near the end of the year.
Second-year man Steve McLendon has been working at nose tackle and showed some penetration against the Redskins. Don't expect him to push Chris Hoke for playing time yet.
Roster Count: 7
James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons will continue to roam the inside while Harrison and Woodley wreck havoc on the outside.
Larry Foote will retain the top backup and will probably replace Farrior on passing downs. Stevenson Sylvester has gotten better and will challenge Foote for the top backup spot.
Jason Worilds figures to be the primary backup on the outside. He will have to play with more fire and tenacity and linebacker coach Keith Butler is helping him do so.
Don't expect to see much of Chris Carter on the field. You might see him a play here or a play there as he tries to grasp Dick LeBeau's defense.
Roster Count: 8
The Steelers have not been given any favors so far as Ike Taylor suffered a broken thumb in the preseason opener.
While surgery is probable, Taylor is only expected to miss three weeks. That is great news as he will be back in time for the opener against Baltimore.
As you can see, I have Keenan Lewis replacing McFadden as the starter. While many of you may disagree with me, I believe that Lewis has finally turned the corner in his career. He looked very much improved against the Redskins and will only get better
Don't forget that Lewis will receive extra reps in the coming weeks with Ike Taylor injured so that works in his favor as well.
Yes, William Gay makes the roster, but at a position where he can't cause too much damage. Gay should be able to cover an opponent's fourth receiver right?
Curtis Brown has been unable to practice much due to a hamstring injury. The only reason he makes the roster is because he was the team's third-round draft choice and they will probably be willing to work with him during the season.
Similar to Brown, Cortez Allen has seen limited practice time due to injury. Before he went down, he was showing some strong athletic ability.
If he can show those same abilities in an upcoming preseason game, he will make the roster.
While Crezdon Butler has been susceptible to the deep ball as of late, I believe the Steelers will stick with him and give Butler time to improve.
Roster Count: 7
Troy did not play in the first preseason game for precautionary reasons.
According to recent camp reports, he has shown no lingering signs of his Achilles injury. I would prefer to see him in game action before I make that assessment.
His counterpart Ryan Clark will continue to roam the backfield and cover for Polamalu when he chooses to freelance.
Ryan Mundy quickly won me over as he had a dominating performance in the first game of the year.
To be honest, I had to double-check to make sure that it was not Troy Polamalu flying around on my TV screen. He has clearly earned the top backup job at safety.
Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith showed enough improvement in my eyes to give him a roster spot.
Roster Count: 4
Everyone wondered how Daniel Sepulveda would respond after tearing his ACL for a third time.
Some in Steeler Nation were even calling for him to be cut.
Sepulveda quieted the critics with superb punting against the Redskins, one of which was a 62-yarder. I think it's safe to say he has earned his roster spot back.
With little competition behind him, Shaun Suisham looks to handle kicking duties for the Steelers again this year.
I am waiting to see how he does next week at home against the Eagles as this will tell if he is ready to kick at Heinz Field again.
Roster Count: 3