We take another look at who we think will make the Steelers squad in 2008. Though we only have several weeks of OTAs to base any changes of opinion on, there have been enough practice sessions and columns to perhaps merit a few changes from the first time we did this exercise. Let's take a look:
Quarterbacks (2): Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch
Running Backs (5): Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Gary Russel, Mewelde Moore, Carey Davis
Wide Receivers(5): Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, Nate Washington Micah Rucker
Tight Ends (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jonathan Dekker
Offensive Linemen (10): Max Starks, Willie Colon, Sean Mahan, Kendall Simmons, Justin Hartwig, Jason Capizzi, Chris Kemoeatu, Marvel Smith, Darnell Stapleton, Tony Hills
Defensive Linemen (7): Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith, Anthony Booger McFarland, Travis Kirschke, Chris Hoke, Ryan McBean
Linebackers (9): James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, James Harrison, Mike Humpal, Arnold Harrison, Keyaron Fox, Bruce Davis
Defensive Backs (9): Ike Taylor, Bryan McFadden, DeShea Townsend, William Gay, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Anthony Smith, Mike Lorello, Ryan Mundy
Specialists (3): Greg Warren, Jeff Reed, Daniel Sepulveda
Say Hello To:
Micah Rucker - I'm buying datruth4life's argument about Rucker. What convinced me he has a chance to make this team is the fact that he has a major chip on his shoulder having not been drafted. All great athletes trick themselves into believing that it's them against the world. I'm not saying Rucker's great just yet, but that fuel may give him the upper hand over some of his competitors trying to make the squad. For now, he overtakes Willie Reid on my projected 53-man roster
Tony Hills - Honestly, not sure why I didn't include him in the first place. Perhaps it was because I thought we might stash him away on the PUP or practice squad, but after our interview with Mr. Jim Wexell I now know that the Steelers don't typically 'stash' players away. Hills may not dress, but he'll make the roster.
Jason Capizzi - Positive reports from the team's OTAs have me believing that perhaps Capizzi breaks through this year and makes the team. It's either that or get cut, as there's little to no chance he gets put on the practice squad again this year.
Anthony McFarland - Perhaps a bit premature here, as Booger has not yet had that private work that is scheduled for tomorrow. Assuming he passes any physical tests and seems physically ready to go, expect the Steelers to be in the bidding for his services. We won't be the only ones interested of course, so this is far from a done deal.
Mike Lorello - Lorello's no stranger to the team and what DC Dick LeBeau expects out of his secondary, so I'll say that he makes the team this year, but likely won't see the field much if any, particularly if Ryan Clark returns to form.
Say Goodbye To:
Willie Reid - It shouldn't take return guys 3 years to break through. It hasn't happened yet and likely won't ever happen with this team. That's too bad since he was a fan favorite for many of us.
Kyle Clement - Clement could still make this team if Booger McFarland can't make it back physically or is procured by another organization. For now though, I'm going to say he spends a year learning some technique and how to maximize that impressive strength and bulk of his.
Tyrone Carter - This is somewhat bitter-sweet. Carter's been a solid contributor and loyal member of the team for many years now, and was with us and contributing during our SB run. He also missed a critical assignment in last year's playoffs. I don't want to hear too much critique of Carter though. For what he is - a reserve safety in his early 30s, he's good at what he does. Despite the ceiling on his potential and game, he was a big part of our #1 ranked pass defense last year.
Trai Essex - If Capizzi can have a good camp and make this team, and if Hills is healthy enough to not be on the PUP list, I can't imagine Essex being kept around. 11 linemen is too many to keep, and there's not anybody else on that list who is likely to be cut, save perhaps Sean Mahan. I like Essex just fine as a player, particularly if we do in fact continue our trend of becoming a more pass-oriented offense.
Grant Mason - If we're going to carry 10 offensive linemen, we'd have to get rid of a roster spot somewhere else. The most likely choice in my mind would be the 10th and final DB, which in this instance would be Mr. Mason.
The one main question mark I have with this revised list of mine is 'who returns kicks?' With Willie Reid off the roster and me not ready to believe that we'll use a spot on Jeremy Bloom or Kevin Marion just yet, there's a question as to who will return kicks among this crop. Mewelde Moore? I'd be ok with that I suppose. What about Rashard Mendenhall? Would we dare put our highly paid 1st round pick back there and risk injury? I sure as hell hope we'd consider it, as his touches are going to be fairly limited anyway given how many carries Willie Parker will get, and how often we should be throwing the ball. Any of the reserve DBs capable?