OK, I know that there is a lockout, and there are no guarantees that there will even be NFL games this season. Also, the rookies haven't practiced, so it is impossible to gauge them at this point. However, I needed something football-related to fill the void, so I came up with a very early 53-man roster for the Steelers this season. I have included my thoughts and explanations below. Please let me know what you think:
QB (3): Ben, Leftwich, Dixon (left out = C. Batch)
RB (4): Mendy, Redman, Dwyer, B. Batch (out = M. Moore)
WR (5): Hines, Wallace, Brown, Sanders, Battle (out = Sweed, Randle El, Grisham)
TE (3): Miller, Spaeth, Johnson
O-Line (9): Starks, Kemo, Pouncey, Foster, Adams, J. Scott, Legursky, Gilbert, Essex (out = Colon, Hills, C. Scott, K. Williams)
D-Line (7): Hampton, Smith, Keisel, Hood, Heyward, Hoke, Eason (out = S. Harris, S. McLendon)
LB (9): Harrison, Woodley, Timmons, Farrior, Worilds, Sylvester, Carter, Foote, Fox
CB (6): Ike, McFadden, Brown, Gay, Lewis, Butler (out = C. Allen)
S (4): Troy, Clark, Mundy, W. Allen (out = Madison, Cromartie-Smith)
P (1): Sepulveda
K (1): Suisham
Long-Snapper (1): Warren
The first difficult part of this task was figuring out how the 53 players would be broken down by position. I started by looking at the 2010 roster breakdown. The first difference between the 2010 roster and my 2011 roster is the number of D-Linemen. In 2010, the Steelers started with 6 D-Linemen on the roster. I think they will go with 7 at the start of the 2011 season.
It was recently reported in the Post Gazette that the Steelers would use rookie DE Cam Heyward much like they used Ziggy Hood in his rookie season. They plan to dress Heyward and give him a few snaps each game, but bring him along slowly. They also reported that, if there are injuries to other defensive ends, the Steelers would rely upon Eason as a backup over Heyward (assuming they re-sign Eason, who is an unrestricted free agent). Including Eason as a 5th defensive end would mean that the Steelers would have 7 D-Linemen on their 53-man roster. With the addition of Heyward, there is no room for Sonny Harris on the roster.
Keeping 7 defensive linemen would mean cutting 1 roster spot elsewhere. They would have to go with 5 WR's instead of 6, or 8 LB's instead of 9. I predict that they will go with only 5 WR's.
At QB, I see them re-signing Dixon, who is a restricted free agent. This would leave Charlie Batch as the odd-man out.
At RB, they will have to choose between M. Moore and rookie B. Batch as the #4 RB/3rd down RB. This is a tough call, because we have no idea what we might get out of the rookie. However, they have been using Mendy more on 3rd downs, and Moore was barely used this past year. Moore is expendable, and would probably cost more than he is worth to the team. They will let Moore sign elsewhere, and take their chances with the rookie Batch.
At WR, the top 4 slots are pretty much set. If they go with only 5 WR's as I predict, Battle and Sweed would likely fight for the 5th WR spot. I don't love Battle, and would love for Sweed to step it up and give us the productive big WR that this team needs. However, at this time, I will give the edge to Battle due to his special teams contributions and Sweed's lack of effectiveness to date.
On the O-Line, Colon may become an unrestricted free agent, depending upon whether a new CBA is signed and the terms of that CBA. I predict that the 2 sides will eventually get a new CBA done, that Colon will become an unrestricted free agent, and that Colon will sign elsewhere. This will leave F. Adams to hold down the RT position for at least 1 more year. I predict that either Foster or Legursky will win the starting right guard job, but both will likely make the roster. Rookie Gilbert will make the team as a reserve tackle and guard, and may even be given a chance to compete for the starting right guard position. The addition of Gilbert means that there is only room on the roster for 1 backup at LT. I see J. Scott beating out T. Hills for a roster spot. Essex is an unrestricted free agent, but it probably won't cost much to bring him back as a reserve guard/tackle. There does not appear to be room on the roster for 6th round draft choice G K. Williams; maybe we can get him on the practice squad.
The big question at LB is how many they wind up keeping. If they keep 9, Fox likely makes the team. If they only go with 8, Fox is the odd-man-out.
At CB, I see them re-signing Ike Taylor, although it will probably be costly. McFadden is the likely #2 CB for now. I see rookie Brown winning the nickle CB job. I also see K. Lewis making the roster, if for no other reason than he can probably play some safety. That will leave 3 players, Gay, Butler and rookie C. Allen, to battle for the last 2 CB spots. C. Allen has not played much football and is a raw project. I am rooting for Allen, but see him getting beat out by Gay and Butler.
At Safety, Will Allen will battle A. Madison for the last spot (is Madison even considered a safety, a CB, or both?).
Sepulveda beats out Kapinos for the punter gig, if for no other reason than they traded up in the 4th round to take Sepulveda, and will give him every chance to get his job back if he is healthy. Suisham will be the kicker.