2011 NFL Predictions: Projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers' 53-Man Roster
There have been a lot of roster projections for every team in the NFL by now.
However, I have purposely held off my first one until after the third preseason game because, in reality, anything earlier than now would have been based solely on practices and reputation.
As such, here is my 53-man roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers as things stand.
This selection needs no explanation. There is more chance of Mike Tomlin ringing me up and asking me to be the team's starting quarterback than there is of Roethlisberger not making the roster.
The injury to Byron Leftwich looks season-ending.
That, coupled with the fragility of Charlie Batch, helps Dennis Dixon go from being trade bait to backup quarterback. Dixon hasn't had many chances to show anything in preseason, but it should be fair to evaluate him in the final preseason game with the second-string offense.
Everyone knows what to expect from Batch. The only thing preventing him from being a starting quarterback is his durability. His veteran presence is massive for the roster as a whole.
Running Backs (4)
At this stage in his career, Mendenhall should be entering his prime. As one of the few feature backs still left in the league, he will once again play a huge role in the Steelers' offense season.
Once again, ball security will be the only question mark over his head. He was excellent last season except for the very end of the year, so watching whether that carries over into this year will be notable.
Last season, Redman showed a lot of flashes, but would never have been worthy of filling in for Mendenhall on a full-time basis.
This season—should Mendenhall go down—Redman looks like he could easily carry the load. He hasn't lost his bulk, but is in much better shape, which makes him more of an all-around back.
The re-signing of Moore all but guaranteed him of his roster spot. He has been the model of consistency since signing for the Steelers a few years ago.
Even though the upstart Baron Batch looked like he could have made an impression before tearing his ACL, he would have had to have a huge preseason to supplant Moore from his third-down role.
Cut Down Day Addition
Neither Jonathan Dwyer nor John Clay have done enough to earn a spot on this roster.
Dwyer doesn't hit the line hard despite being a tough running fullback in college. His shuffling in the backfield and attempts to make defenders miss are futile, while he should be just putting his head down and plowing ahead for forward momentum. Knowing your role with the team is very important.
Clay knows his role, but appears to be too tall, giving defenders a huge target to hit. His fumble against the Falcons was worrying because the ball wasn't really forced from him.
There are many rosters with too much depth at running back to keep. The Steelers should in particular keep an eye on Houston, where Steve Slaton and Chris Ogbonnaya are fighting for the final roster spot.
Wide Receivers (6)
He may not be the best receiver on the team anymore,—in fact, as far as physical talent goes, he's probably fourth or fifth—but Ward remains Roethlisberger's go-to guy in clutch situations.
There is no chance Mike Wallace cracks 2,000 yards this year. It's been obvious even in the preseason that the Steelers will be looking for the best matchups with their receivers rather than forcing it to anyone in particular.
Wallace is the team's most talented receiver and will sit atop the depth chart for good reason.
Despite the impressive performances of Antonio Brown, there is no doubt in my mind that Emmanuel Sanders remains the team's third choice receiver when healthy.
Sanders is abundantly talented and will cause serious matchup difficulties for opposing defenses. His height and wingspan, to go along with his speed and agility, will mean very few third choice corners or safeties will be able to contain him this year.
Last season, Brown showed he could be a great special teams player and runner in open space.
This preseason he has shown he can run routes and catch the ball in traffic. The Steelers will be spreading the field an awful lot this season, and that is thanks to their depth at receiver.
Cotchery is talented enough to be a third, and even second, choice receiver on many teams.
With the Steelers though, he's just clinging on to a roster spot. There is no question he is a better player than Wes Lyons or Tyler Grisham. The Steelers receivers are effectively set in stone already.
Battle isn't making this team because of his abilities as a receiver. The likelihood is the Steelers wouldn't bother keeping a sixth receiver, but Battle's performances on special teams are vital for Al Everest.
Battle won't be noticed by the casual fan, but with Keyaron Fox gone, Battle's ability as a gunner on kickoff and punt teams will earn him a roster spot. Don't be surprised if he is named a special teams captain.
Tight Ends (3)
Miller may see more time as a blocker this season with the emergence of all the receivers in Pittsburgh, but that won't bother a player who has excelled in both facets of the team's offense.
Miller has been one of Roethlisberger's favorite targets over the years, and he will always be looked to in clutch situations, as well as in the red zone.
Johnson, for my money, should have been the second tight end last year. He is a better blocker than the departed Matt Spaeth and is a reliable receiver, even though he won't be looked to to catch the ball in this offense.
Saunders massively benefits from Johnson's claiming of the second tight end spot. John Gilmore isn't needed since Doug Legursky can still fill in as a fullback when needed in the three-tight end sets.
Saunders is a young player who has reportedly impressed early on. He only went undrafted because he was ruled ineligible in college.
Offensive Linemen (9)
You may appreciate Jonathan Scott more after Marcus Gilbert's performance against the Falcons last night. Scott isn't a star, but he is a reliable starter who is more than worthy of protecting Roethlisberger's blind side.
Kemoeatu definitely isn't one of the better guards throughout the league, but his value to the Steelers in the running game assures him of his starting place with the team. The Steelers don't have enough depth to challenge the veteran.
Providing his ankle injury isn't serious—and even if it is—Pouncey will be on the roster for the season. The only way he isn't is if he lands on IR.
Tony Hills had another impressive performance in the trenches against the Falcons. His highlight came when he cleared out the running lane for Rashard Mendenhall's touchdown.
Hills looks like he will be the team's starting right guard on opening day.
The return of Willie Colon should be a breath of fresh air to the Steelers' offensive line.
Colon is a vast improvement over Flozell Adams because of his better all-around game. The former Hofstra product was signed to a big deal off a serious injury, so you know you're important to the team when that happens.
Foster is a reliable lineman with good versatility. He is very valuable to the team as a backup considering he has proven himself capable as a starter the past two seasons or so.
Essex was re-signed last week for good reason. Pittsburgh would not have brought him back as a camp body. His versatility and the fact that he is now in shape will make him worthy of playing for the team this year.
As a second-round pick, Gilbert is basically guaranteed his roster spot provided he doesn't do anything rash. His commitment was in question when he turned up to camp out of shape, but he is a long-term player rather than an instant impact rookie.
Legursky could be starting for the Steelers at center on opening day. After starting the Super Bowl last year and being effective throughout the whole season, he should be fine handling Terrence Cody of the Ravens should he be asked to.
Defensive Line (6)
Smith won't play every down for the coming season, but he should see as many snaps at starter as both Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood.
Hampton has been crucial to the team for a very long time, and that won't change this year.
The Steelers' three starting defensive linemen would only not be on the roster for injury reasons. Keisel is just as important as the other two.
Ziggy won't have any issues finding his way onto the team. He proved last season he could be more than just a starter, as he excelled in Smith's spot.
The arrival of Cameron Heyward gives the team more depth, but it won't affect Hood's snap count for the coming season.
Not many rookies make an impact for the Steelers, but Heyward has shown a lot in the past few weeks. He likely still won't get much time on the field, but he could force his way on to the team in passing situations later in the year.
Steve McLendon has been impressive, while Anthony Garay was also in the mix.
However, there is no competition with Chris Hoke being Casey Hampton's backup.
Any talk of Harrison being cut in the offseason after his controversial interview was just that—talk.
Timmons is a rising star, but is already playing at an All-Pro level. The Steelers understand that and proved it by rewarding him with his huge contract in the offseason.
Farrior may be moving on up in age, but he still has one good season left in him.
Much like Timmons, Woodley's new contract reflects his play on the field, which ultimately makes him one of the best outside linebackers in the league.
Worilds is keeping his roster spot on talent alone, as he has not taken the steps forward you would have expected at this point in his career.
Luckily for him, his talent is incredible.
Sylvester is talked about a lot as the next big thing at middle linebacker, but for the moment, it is his special teams play that is most impressive. He could see some time in passing situations, but he is not yet the team's first-choice backup despite the hype surrounding him.
Foote will be the first man off the bench should any of the Steelers' linebackers go down. Timmons' versatility to move to the outside allows them to put their best quartet available on the field at any time.
As a rookie, Chris Carter won't be looked to as a contributor, but he gets the final spot for the Steelers' linebacker group based on potential.
Taylor was re-signed in the offseason and will once again be the team's best corner for the coming season.
As a veteran leader of the team, Clark will once again partner with Troy Polamalu at the back end of what figures to be one of the best defenses in the league.
Do I seriously have to write anything?
Presuming his knee injury isn't serious enough to ruin his season, I see Lewis being a starter for the Steelers this year. He appears to have finally matured into an NFL player rather than a prospect.
There has been some talk about McFadden possibly not making the team, but I can't see that happening. He is the team's best corner outside of Taylor and will likely only lose out to Lewis because of his physical advantages.
Gay may draw the ire of most Steelers fans, but he can be an effective nickelback and will remain on the roster after being re-signed.
Brown makes the team after not doing much in the preseason. As a third-round pick, he will be given more leeway to develop.
Mundy has established himself as the best backup at both safety positions. The Steelers would have no problem trusting him on the field, even though it obviously wouldn't be ideal to have either Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu sidelined.
Allen's special teams play and consistency will give him a spot ahead of DaMon Cromartie-Smith, but Ryan Mundy will remain the backup to both positions.
Donovan Warren benefits from being the most talented player left over after the Steelers filled out their roster and only arrived at 52 players.
Special Teams (3)
Both Sepulveda and Kapinos have been impressive, but Sepulveda—when healthy—is arguably the best punter in the league. His monstrous boot hasn't been hampered by his injury struggles in recent years, and he is still built like a linebacker.
Staying healthy is the only concern with Sepulveda.
Swayze Waters hasn't had a bad preseason, but the Steelers will probably stick to the familiar face and keep the continuity from last season.
Warren is set at long-snapper for good reason. You'd be surprised how often No. 60 makes plays downfield.
Practice Squad (8)
Dwyer has talent, but he needs to be coached to play to his strengths. I can't see another team picking him up on the waiver wire because there will be much more talented and proven players ahead of him.
Cromartie-Smith needed to show more during the preseason in order to solidify a roster spot. Another year of development could see him make the team next year.
Grisham was unlucky not to make the team after the addition of Jerricho Cotchery. He looks to be a solid slot receiver who just needs an opportunity to prove he can be more.
Allen was drafted as a developmental project. He needs to learn at this level and should find his way to the team's practice squad.
Williams has shown flashes in camp, but not enough to make the team.
Whether Scott makes the practice squad or not will be determined by if another team is willing to pick him up. A team like the Bills could look to Scott as a tackle despite spending some time at guard.
McLendon will be one of the more likely players to be picked up by another roster, but if the Steelers can, they will try to retain him.
Despite already keeping McLendon, another potential nose tackle successor to Casey Hampton won't be a problem.