Pittsburgh Steelers: Predicting the Final 53-Man Roster

Chris GazzeCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: Predicting the Final 53-Man Roster

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    There have been just over a week's worth of practices in training camp so far, and after having taken in five of those practices, how the Pittsburgh Steelers final roster will fall into place is becoming clear.

    Pittsburgh has all 22 starters returning from last season, but still has room on its roster for its entire 2011 draft class, as well as a couple of potential surprises.

    Granted, there is a lot of time until final cuts have to be made, and a lot can happen between now and then, but there is actually very little room for movement assuming the team stays relatively healthy.

    When it comes to the final few cuts, Mike Tomlin will have a tough job. However, several of the borderline players can sway opinions when it comes to actual game play.

    Until Tomlin and Kevin Colbert make the their decisions, here are the 53 players who should make the Steelers final roster based on my training camp observations.

Quarterbacks (3)

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    Pittsburgh will once again be a Super Bowl contender and will go with the veterans at quarterback.

    Makes the Cut:

    Ben Roethlisberger

    Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback is having another outstanding camp and should have a big season.

     

    Byron Leftwich

    Clearly established himself as the second-best quarterback in camp.

     

    Charlie Batch

    Has not had the best camp, but knows the offense and performs well in games.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Dennis Dixon

    Dixon has tremendous mobility, but is still looking to use his legs rather than his arm.

Running Backs (4)

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    Last season, the Steelers were looking for a young back behind Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore. They found one with Isaac Redman. There are a number of talented options in camp this year making for great competition for the final running back spot.

    Makes the Cut:

    Rashard Mendenhall

    Looks fast and strong, and with a healthy offensive line, should be even better this year.

     

    Isaac Redman

    Becoming a more complete back and is the clear backup.

     

    Mewelde Moore

    Came into camp late but is the best blocking back.

     

    Baron Batch

    Can run, block, catch and play special teams, but is still learning.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    John Clay

    He has been a powerful, straight-line runner, but needs work on blocking and other aspects of his game. He would be a good practice squad option.

     

    Jonathan Dwyer

    He had a disappointing rookie season but has not appeared to work to improve. Dwyer has shown no interest in blocking and is buried deep on the depth chart.

     

    James Johnson

    He has been a hard worker, but has not shown enough.

Wide Receivers (5)

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    When healthy, the Steelers receivers have speed, quickness and toughness. It would make for one of the best units in the league. However, they are struggling with injuries right now, which could mean they sign a veteran or keep an extra receiver heading into the season.

    Makes the Cut:

    Mike Wallace

    Working a lot on short and intermediate routes and is catching everything that comes his way.

     

    Hines Ward

    Has not practiced with the team, but is always dependable.

     

    Emmanuel Sanders

    Injured foot is holding back what was a great start to camp.

     

    Antonio Brown

    Getting valuable time in starting role due to injuries, but has to catch up on mental game.


    Arnaz Battle

    Dependable veteran plays special teams and is a favorite target of Leftwich.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Limas Sweed

    Sweed still has the occasional drop, though he has been able to get open and carry himself with confidence. His latest injury will hold him back.

     

    Tyler Grisham

    Always a borderline player, Grisham will stand out and then miss a play that makes you remember why he is not playing in the league. However, this may be the year he sneaks onto the roster.

     

    Wes Lyons

    Standing at 6’8”, Lyons is a huge target that runs well for his size and has nice hands. He has had trouble on days getting open 11-on-11, but has been the main target other days. Still has room to develop.

     

    Armand Robinson

    Had a decent start to camp but has since faded and has not been noticed.

     

    Terrence McCrae

    McCrae has good size but has not done enough.

     

    Adam Mims

    He has excellent quickness and is a threat over the middle but is limited by his lack of size.

     

    Eric Greenwood

    Greenwood is tall and lanky and would not do well against physical defensive backs.

Tight Ends (4)

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    Now that Matt Spaeth has moved on, the Steelers have legitimate competition behind Heath Miller. There are a number of players vying for the job.

    Makes the Cut:

    Heath Miller

    One of the best all-around tight ends in the league.

     

    David Johnson

    Blocking even better this year, and is getting a lot of looks in the passing game. Has improved his receiving ability from H-back role.

     

    Weslye Saunders

    Still needs to improve blocking, but is showing a lot of potential in the passing game. He is too good of a prospect to not keep on the roster.

     

    John Gilmore

    Steelers want a blocker for their two tight end set.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Jamie McCoy

    Has shown some blocking ability, but it is not enough.

     

    Charlton Vaughn

    He has been outshined by the other tight ends in camp.

     

    Eugene Bright

    Bright has spent camp on the PUP list.

Offensive Line (9)

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    Sean Kugler has had his work cut out for him this camp with Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott missing the early part of camp since they could not practice until Aug. 4, and Chris Kemoeatu has been on the PUP list. Now, injuries to Scott and Ramon Foster have resulted in more shuffling. Soon enough, Kugler should get the starting unit healthy and together.

     

    Makes the Cut:

    Jonathan Scott, LT

    Did an adequate job at left tackle last season.

     

    Chris Kemoeatu, LG

    Will step in at left guard after coming off of PUP list.

     

    Maurkice Pouncey, C

    Most dominant player in camp, will eventually be the best center in the game.

     

    Ramon Foster, RG

    Favorite to start at right guard.

     

    Willie Colon, RT

    Shows no sign of injury that kept him out in 2010.

     

    Doug Legursky, C/G

    Competing for right guard job but is more valuable as a backup at center and guard.

     

    Chris Scott, G/T

    Will be a ‘swing’ backup at both tackle and guard. Scott is a year away from competing for starting job.

     

    Marcus Gilbert, T

    Injuries have held him back but has upside.

     

    Keith Williams, G

    Rookie has impressed, especially in run blocking.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Tony Hills, T

    This year is likely Hills' last chance, and he is not making the most of it.

     

    Kyle Jolly, T

    Jolly got time with the starting offensive line due to various circumstances, but he has since moved down the depth charts.

     

    Trevis Turner, T

    He is noticeable because of his size, but the other tackles are simply better.

     

    Collin Miller, C

    Miller looks smaller compared to other lineman and has been pushed around at times.

     

    Nevin McCaskill, G

    He has not distinguished himself in camp so far.

     

    John Malecki, G

    He came into camp late after Dorian Brooks left and has too much talent ahead of him.

Defensive Line (6)

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    Pittsburgh’s already great defensive line got even better with the return of Aaron Smith from injury and the addition of first-round draft choice Cameron Heyward.

    Makes the Cut:

    Aaron Smith

    Looks good coming off of his shoulder injury and should have a reduced role in the defense.

     

    Casey Hampton

    In shape and should have another year as a dominant run stuffer.

     

    Brett Keisel

    Keisel is a good all-around defender coming off his first Pro Bowl season.

     

    Ziggy Hood

    Came on at the end of last year and has not shown a drop off. Hood should eventually take over for Smith as the starter at left defensive end.

     

    Chris Hoke

    Quality backup behind Hampton. No drop off when he is on the field.

     

    Cameron Heyward

    Quick learner has NFL strength and will rotate in behind Keisel.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Steve McLendon

    McLendon does a nice job while in but is a borderline NFL player.

     

    Anthony Gray

    Gray shows some nice push in drills but has a lot of developing to do.

     

    Ra’Shon Harris

    With two first round picks as the backups, any other defensive end will have a tough time making the roster.

     

    Corbin Bryant

    See above.

     

    Miguel Chavis

    See above.

     

    Ty Boyle

    See above.

Linebackers (8)

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    Other than defensive line, the Steelers linebackers are one of the deepest areas on the team with Larry Foote, Stevenson Sylvester and Jason Worilds as backups.

    Makes the Cut:

    LaMarr Woodley, LOLB

    New contract places high expectations on Woodley.

     

    Lawrence Timmons, ILB

    Had a breakout in the first half of 2010 and will look to maintain that success throughout the entire 2011 season.

     

    James Farrior, ILB

    Is in good shape but is likely his final year as a starter.

     

    James Harrison, ROLB

    Recovering from offseason back surgery, Harrison is still one of the best pass rushers in the league.

     

    Larry Foote, ILB

    Quality backup and special teams player is still showing he can be an effective run stopper.

     

    Stevenson Sylvester, ILB

    One of the stars of training camp, Sylvester will be starting soon enough.

     

    Jason Worilds, OLB

    Continues to develop as an all-around outside linebacker.

     

    Chris Carter, OLB

    Carter has been flashing potential with a quick first step.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Chris Ellis, OLB

    Ellis has worked opposite Worilds on the second team defense but has not shown as much as Carter so far.

     

    Mario Harvey, ILB

    Injuries to Harvey have hurt his chances but could still make an impression on special teams when healthy.

     

    Morty Ivy, LB

    Ivy finally made an impact at practice on Saturday but has an uphill battle.

     

    Baraka Atkins, LB

    Atkins has shown little so far.

     

    Chris McCoy, LB

    McCoy, like Atkins, has not shown much.

Cornerbacks (7)

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    Pittsburgh has a lot of young talent it hopes can step up at cornerback.

    Makes the Cut:

    Ike Taylor

    Most physical cornerback gives Steelers a legitimate No. 1 corner.


    Bryant McFadden

    Strong camp so far but is susceptible to short and midrange passes.


    William Gay

    Veteran presence is important but may fall to dime role.

     

    Keenan Lewis

    Best camp so far. He has defended Wallace one-on-one.

     

    Curtis Brown

    Third rounder has missed time with injury.

     

    Crezdon Butler

    Injury has slowed his development and he only looked okay prior to that.

     

    Cortez Allen

    Showed a ton of natural ability and could be a starter in two years.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Donovan Warren

    Has moved up the depth chart due to injuries and has shown some ability, just not as much as those ahead of him.

     

    Niles Brinkley

    Brinkley continually has passes thrown his way.

Safeties (4)

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    The Steelers do not have much depth at safety and are in trouble if one of their starters goes down. There are also no young developmental prospects on the roster.

    Makes the Cut:

    Troy Polamalu

    Best safety in the game.

     

    Ryan Clark

    Very vocal calling out signals. Good complement to Polamalu.

     

    Ryan Mundy

    Best of the backup safeties.

     

    Will Allen

    Second best of the backup safeties.

     

    Misses the Cut:

     

    Da”Mon Cromartie-Smith

    He has the measurability’s that you would love to have on the field but has not been productive enough.

     

    Brett Greenwood

    Greenwood has yet to make much of an impression in his opportunities.

Specialists (3)

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    After the early part of camp without Shaun Suisham, Daniel Sepulveda and Greg Warren, it became very apparent that all three needed to return.

     

    Makes the Cut:

    Shaun Suisham

    Not enough competition from Swayze Waters.

     

    Daniel Sepulveda

    Much better performing than Jeremy Kapinos with more hang time and distance on his punts.

     

    Greg Warren

    His snaps do not hit the ground.

     

    Misses the Cut:

    Jeremy Kapinos

    He has been inconsistent with his punts in practice.

     

    Swazye Waters

    He has missed some kicks in practice so Heinz Field will be a test.

Shaky Ground

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    Weslye Saunders

    Though Saunders has a ton of potential, the Steelers may want to go with three tight ends and stick with a veteran instead.

     

    John Gilmore

    If the Steelers want to only keep three tight ends, they may instead want to go with the high upside of Saunders, who they would most certainly lose if they tried to put him on the practice squad.

     

    William Gay

    It is not expected that he will get cut, but if enough of the young players step up their game, it may be at the expense of Gay.

     

    Keenan Lewis

    Solid camp may not be enough to maintain roster spot. The Steelers have a lot of young cornerbacks and keeping seven is stretching it. Lewis will have to prove his worth in game situations.

     

    Crezdon Butler

    As I just mentioned, seven cornerbacks is a lot and Butler did not shine in his opportunities in camp. If he can play safety as well that will enhance his chances.

Last Five out

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    Dennis Dixon

    Great mobility but Dixon has not shown anything as a passer this camp, with poor passes even in position drills.

     

    Anthony Gray

    Gray has flashed some potential but could probably be kept on the practice squad.

     

    Tyler Grisham

    Grisham has made some nice plays, even with the first team offense, but isn’t overly fast and only has average hands. He could make the roster over Sweed if the Steelers keep six receivers.

     

    Steven McLendon

    Has NFL experience and could sneak on as an extra defensive lineman.

     

    Limas Sweed

    Sweed has had a solid, but unspectacular camp. His injured shoulder is not helping and he will have to show a lot in preseason games.

     

     

     

Camp Observations

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    Roster moves can immediately change the picture for a number of the players on the bubble, so stay tuned.

    Review my Pittsburgh Steelers training thoughts and observations from the past week and a half.

    Position Battles to Watch 

    First Public Practice Observations

    What We Learned from the First Weekend of Steelers Camp

    Observations from Thursday’s Practice

     

    Follow me on Twitter @ChrisG_FC