2011 Pittsburgh Steelers Preview: An Early Look At Who Makes The 53-Man Roster
Now that the draft is over there really is not much to look forward to in the NFL given what’s going on with the labor situation.
Free agency has not been allowed to start, and teams are not allowed to meet for organized activities or camps.
So we fans are left here to do nothing more than speculate on the future, and although I cannot predict a free agent coming in or an unknown guy having a great camp and making the team at this point, here is who I see making the Steelers 53 man roster.
Obviously the Steelers are set at starting quarterback for the 2011 season barring injury or any other unforeseen circumstances.
Behind him though, Byron Leftwich is the only other quarterback under contract at the moment with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch being free agents.
Most thought the Steelers would trade Dennis Dixon but now that the draft is past, I think he will stick with the team for at least one more year.
Although I think Charlie Batch performed admirably last season when called upon, I do not foresee a situation occurring in which the Steelers would need him to start again, which unfortunately leaves him as the odd man out.
Starter: Ben Roethlisberger
Backup: Byron Leftwich
Third String: Dennis Dixon
Gone: Charlie Batch
Roster Spots: 3
Regardless of what Rashard Mendenhall tweets, he is going to be the Steelers starting running back when the season starts.
Mendenhall has become one of the best all around running backs in the league and only continues to get better.
Isaac Redman is a bowling ball and I think the Steelers would finally admit that it was a mistake to keep Frank Summers over Redman a couple years ago.
Look for Redman to get a lot more carries this coming season, and if 2nd year guy Jonathan Dwyer can have a good camp, look for him to get more time too.
Although Mendenhall has improved a lot in the passing game, the Steelers still need a true third down back, and I do not think they are going to resign Mewelde Moore.
This leaves this year’s 7th round pick, Baron Batch, with the opportunity to really contribute to the team in his rookie year, and I think he will.
Starter Rashard Mendenhall
Primary Backup/Short Yardage: Isaac Redman
Third Down Back: Baron Batch
Backup: Jonathan Dwyer
Full Back: David Johnson/Doug Legursky
Gone: Mewelde Moore, James Johnson
Roster Spots: 4
The Steelers receiving core has seen a real youth movement and that starts with Mike Wallace, who has become one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL.
The team will also benefit greatly from the development from last year’s rookies, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
Sanders and Brown will be called upon to contribute a lot more in their second seasons and will make the Steelers offense just that more potent.
With all these young guys, you cannot forget about Hines Ward, who still has enough left in the tank, in my opinion, to be the starter in Pittsburgh this season.
Hines may not have the speed, but he still has great hands and is a nice security blanket for Ben Roethlisberger to fall back.
This leaves Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle as the last two legitimate options to make the team and I think it will come down to special teams.
The Steelers could elect to keep Randle El as an insurance policy at returner but I think it’s time they cut ties with him.
Battle may not be used much, if at all as a receiver, however he is an important part of the Steelers special teams.
Starter: Mike Wallace
Starter: Hines Ward
Third/Slot: Emmanuel Sanders
Fourth: Antonio Brown
Fifth: Arnaz Battle
Gone: Antwaan Randle El, Tyler Grisham, Wes Lyons, Limas Sweed
Roster Spots: 5
After a career year in 2009, Heath Miller came back to what he normally averages in a season, greatly due to the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger, and continues to be one of the most underrated tight ends in the league.
Even though I do not think Spaeth has done anything to retain a roster spot on the Steelers, Bruce Arians loves him and he will probably be back.
David Johnson has the potential to become a solid number two tight end for the Steelers but the team seems content to use him more as a blocking full back.
It would be good for the offense in my opinion if they started to use Johnson more in the passing game.
Starter: Heath Miller
Backup: Matt Spaeth
Backup: David Johnson
Gone: Eugene Bright, Jamie McCoy
Roster Spots: 3
There is a little bit of a question mark on the right side of the offensive line because we do not know for sure if Willie Colon is coming back, or if the Steelers really intend to switch him to guard.
I think the starting lineup I have here would be great for the Steelers going along with solid backups across the board.
Some might think it is impossible that the Steelers keep 11 offensive linemen however, with both Max Starks and Willie Colon coming off injury and Flozell Adams being in probably his last year, why not?
Jonathan Scott and Doug Legursky were crucially important to the team last season and Ramon Foster has shown to be a solid backup.
Marcus Gilbert is a future starter on the line and the Steelers seem to be really high on last year’s rookie, Chris Scott.
Keith Williams has a great shot to make the team this year, although I would not be surprised if the team opted to keep him on the practice squad.
Left Tackle: Max Starks
Left Guard: Chris Kemoeuatu
Center: Maurkice Pouncey
Right Guard: Willie Colon
Right Tackle: Flozell Adams
Backup: Marcus Gilbert
Backup: Chris Scott
Backup: Jonathan Scott
Backup: Ramon Foster
Backup: Keith Williams
Backup: Doug Legursky
Gone: Dorian Brooks, Trai Essex, Nevin McCaskill, Tony Hills
Roster Spots: 11
The Steelers’ defensive line is one of the best in the NFL, in my opinion, with two of the most underrated players in Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, and then big Casey Hampton in the middle.
Then when Aaron Smith was injured for the majority of last season, Ziggy Hood came in and the defense did not miss a beat.
Now the Steelers just added first round pick Cameron Heyward with Hood, as the future of the team’s defensive line.
To round out the line I have the team bringing back Chris Hoke, who has quietly been a really solid backup for the Steelers, for one more season.
Starter: Aaron Smith
Starter: Brett Keisel
Starter: Casey Hampton
Backup: Ziggy Hood
Backup: Cameron Heyward
Backup: Chris Hoke
Gone: Nick Eason, Ra’Shon Harris, Steve McLendon
Roster Spots: 6
We go from one strength on the team to THE strength on the team in the Steelers linebacker core.
The Steelers have the best pair of outside linebackers in the league in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, with Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior in the middle.
Keyaron Fox is a free agent and I would be surprised if he was brought back because the team still has Larry Foote as the primary veteran backup.
Jason Worilds will get a lot more playing time this season and showed the potential to get to the quarterback in his limited time as a rookie.
The Steelers used Sylvester at both inside and outside linebacker in his rookie season but he is the future replacement for James Farrior on the inside.
Christopher Carter is in a great position because he has the ability to sit behind all these great linebackers and then contribute more next year.
Starter: James Harrison
Starter: Lawrence Timmons
Starter: James Farrior
Starter: LaMarr Woodley
Backup: Jason Worilds
Backup: Stevenson Sylvester
Backup: Larry Foote
Backup: Christopher Carter
Gone: Keyaron Fox, Chris McCoy, Mortty Ivy, Chris Ellis, Baraka Atkins
Roster Spots: 8
I know that there is no guarantee that the Steelers are able to bring back Ike Taylor, however, I still think it is going to happen.
Bryant McFadden has come under fire from Steelers fans but until I actually see someone else step up in camp or wherever, he is still the starter alongside Ike.
Keenan Lewis needs to show up in camp to save his job, and he will be competing with Crezdon Butler for that third spot.
If Lewis cannot beat out Butler, than I see him either being converted to safety, or being cut from the team.
I would not be surprised to see Curtis Brown get playing time this season however, Cortez Allen is pretty much redshirting in 2011.
Look out for Donovan Warren making the team or Anthony Madison sneaking onto the roster for special teams.
This just leaves William Gay, who has shown repeatedly that he has trouble covering anything that moves on the field, and will hopefully be cut.
Starter: Ike Taylor
Starter: Bryant McFadden
Third Corner: Keenan Lewis
Fourth Corner: Crezdon Butler
Fifth Corner: Curtis Brown
Sixth Corner: Cortez Allen
Gone: Donovan Warren, William Gay, Anthony Madison
Roster Spots: 6
Troy Polamalu is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and will be back to his playmaking self this season.
Although Ryan Clark is getting older, he still plays great with Troy on the field and gives the Steelers that big hitter in the secondary.
I thought it was a great signing last season when the Steelers got Will Allen however, it turned out that he was just an expensive, injury proned special teamer.
I think the Steelers can stand to cut Allen and keep Ryan Mundy, who played well for Troy when he was injured.
I am also assuming that Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith has a good camp and shows the potential that we all saw in him in last year’s camp.
Starter: Troy Polamalu
Starter: Ryan Clark
Backup: Ryan Mundy
Backup: Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith
Gone: Will Allen, Tuff Harris
Roster Spots: 4
The Steelers lost both their starting kicker and punter last season and I really think they are going to bring in an undrafted free agent kicker in camp.
Until the team is allowed to bring in free agents however, Shaun Suisham has to be the favorite to be brought back as kicker.
Daniel Sepulveda is one of the best punters in the NFL, however, he can’t seem to stay healthy and the Steelers could be looking for a replacement.
I like Greg Warren as the Steelers long snapper, however, he has had trouble staying healthy, and almost lost his job to Matt Stewart last season.
Kicker: Shaun Suisham
Punter: Daniel Sepulveda
Long Snapper: Greg Warren
Returner: Antonio Brown
Gone: Swayze Waters, Jeremy Kapinos
Roster Spots: 3
I think the Steelers 2011 practice squad could look pretty similar to the 2010 practice squad with some minor changes.
A change I could see is Donovan Warren being picked up by another team or him actually making the team and Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith being placed here.
WR Tyler Grisham
G Dorian Brooks
OT Kyle Jolly
RB James Johnson
DT Steve McLendon
CB Donovan Warren
TE Eugene Bright
LB Chris McCoy