Probably going to keep bumping these so you guys don't have to suffer through one of my 4,000 word extravaganzas. Thanks, MotownSteeler, 'preciate the help! - nc
Ok. So I'm a little bored and thought I would throw out my thoughts (or predictions) for the roster this year. I've added a brief comment/analysis with each player, and included some notes that introduce other possibilities. Please feel free to share your differences of opinion and other comments.
- Ben Roethlisberger (1) This is a no-brainer, as Ben is a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. I'm quite anxious to see how he adjusts to Haley's offense, and my hope is that Haley can do what BA couldn't--make Roethlisberger a better overall quarterback, perhaps even top 2.
- Byron Leftwich (2) While not the most mobile of quarterbacks, Leftwich has a very strong arm and is fairly accurate. Hopefully the reformed line can keep him upright if he ever has to play. Better yet, hopefully he never has to play.
- Charlie Batch (3) More a caretaker than a quarterback who can win a game by himself. Smart, hard-working, team-player--just the type of guy a team needs to play third string quarterback. I trust you, Charlie.
- Isaac Redman (4) Powerful, hard-charging runner who lacks speed and shiftiness. Has good hands and runs solid routes and can stay on the field all three downs, but won't make too many explosive plays. Good for a thousand grind-it-out yards and 10-15 touchdowns. He's a throw back and defines Steelers backs.
- **Rashard Mendenhall (5) Pre-injury, was the most explosive back, with some shiftiness and plenty of speed. Needs to learn to lower the shoulder more often and take what the defense gives rather than dancing and spinning. Inconsistent, but with a better line, can be a top 5 back if he can recover fully from the torn ACL. A super-hard worker who may surprise people and be ready for opening day. Good hands and a solid route runner and one of the best blocking backs on the team, which is strange since he doesn't always run with authority.
- FB David Johnson (6) Not absolutely certain he'll make the roster. Will Johnson is more athletic and has much better speed (timed at 4.9 in the 40 yard dash) and put up 30 reps on the 225 bench press at his pro day workout, and he is a former tight end who has good hands. But David Johnson is proven and Tomlin appears to like him, so it will be difficult for Will Johnson to take his spot. However, if Will proves he can black and learn the offense, he may turn out to be a better choice for Haley's offense.
- Jonathan Dwyer (7) He says he is going to report to camp in the best shape of his life. He says he is working out with Lawrence Timmons and Antonio Brown and Jone-Drew in Miami. He says he has learned his lesson. We'll see. If he has, there is no doubt he is a talented runner with good size and speed, and possibly the best vision among the running backs on the roster. But does he have the drive? Can we trust him? I say he grows up and becomes a solid, if not great, big back.
- Barron Batch (8) We've heard a lot about him, but we haven't seen him in game action. He can block, catch and run (at least pre-ACL tear), but can he return from the injury in top form? Nice guy, too, and intelligent. A fan favorite, but can he help us win a Super Bowl. I say he makes it. Third down back.
- RB/WR/RS Chris Rainey (9) Personally, I'm not a fan of short, small backs, regardless of how fast they are. Yes, they can prove to be a solid change of pace and add an extra dimension to your offense, but so few of them actually make it and make a difference; in fact, I can only think of Warrick Dunn and Sproles. Still, I'd like to see him in action and let him show me what he has. And see if Ben will actually dump a pass off to him rather than waiting forever for a deep pass to open up.
- Mike Wallace (10) Speed. Speed. Speed. But can he continue to improve his route running? Can he make the difficult catch in traffic? Still, he opens the offense for the others, and he's still good for 70-80 receptions for 1200 yards. Not sold on the fact he's as good as Fitz or either of the Johnsons, but he compliments the other receivers well and Ben likes to throw to him. And he appears to be a solid teammate. Sign him, but don't over pay.
- Antonio Brown (11) I like him better. More acrobatic and better body control. Can make the difficult catch in traffic and get open on shorter routes much easier. Still, see him better working out of the slot to use his shiftiness, speed, and run-after-the-catch ability more effectively. Despite his reputation coming out of college, has proven himself to be a hard worker and a team player. Becoming one of my favorites. I think he learned a lot from Ward.
- Emmanuel Sanders (12) I liked him better than Brown coming out of college. Has better speed (at least according to combine times), is a better route runner and has, possibly, the best hands on the team. But can he stay healthy? I think he does this year.
- Jericho Cotchery (13) Smart, quick though not fast, with good hands. Hard worker and team player. Hungry. Leader. I like Jericho and believe he's the perfect fit to replace Ward as the elder spokesman and leader of the receivers.
- Toney Clemons (14) He'll finally get some good coaching, something he said he didn't have in college. He'll finally be in a stable environment as well. Will this help him to become a good, if not great, receiver. He has the ability to make the acrobatic catch in traffic, even making the highlight reel one-handed grab on occasion. He has size (6'2 210") and speed (reportedly a 4.36 at his pro day). I'm actually excited about the potential here.
- RT Marcus Gilbert (15) Good feet, solid size and power, but might be best suited for the right side, as speed rushers can give him some trouble. Became a much harder worker as the year progressed last season. Solid player, perhaps Pro-Bowl potential.
- RG David DeCastro (16) Hopefully, as good as advertised. We won't know until the pads come out and the games begin, but I think he is what we think he is. A beast at right guard.
- C Maurkice Pouncey (17) Potentially, the best center in the NFL. Athletic, powerful, quick and intelligent. Can he remain injury free? A genuine take-charge leader who is essential to the Steelers success.
- LG Willie Colon (18) Can he make the transition to left guard? Athletic and powerful enough to be an All-Pro here if he holds up. Perhaps this is the best thing for him and the team, and may help to keep him injury free.
- LT Mike Adams (19) A rookie starting at left tackle? I think so. If he has his head on straight when camp rolls around. He's a Steelers fan. He's always wanted to play here. Now is his chance. Prove it, Mike.
- T/G/C Trai Essex (20) Never have liked him much, but can play all three positions. This is necessary, so he stays.
- T/G Kelvin Beachum (21) Another highly intelligent lineman. We might have the smartest line in the league. Hopefully, he can play. Sliding in to guard from tackle, but since he should be able to play at least two positions, he has the flexibility Tomlin craves. He stays.
- C/G Doug Legursky (22) Position flexibility. Hard worker. Team guy. Not the most powerful, but can be a solid backup. Center might be his best position, but we already have one of those.
- T Jonathan Scott (23) Anyone remember the show "The Weakest Link"?
- Heath Miller (24) Heeeeaaatttthhhh! Enough said.
- Leonard Pope (25) Well, he's tall. But what's he done? Haley likes him for some reason. We'll trust him.
- *** Weslye Saunders (26) Might have the most athletic potential of any tight end on the roster. He reminds me of Eric Green. Remember him. Waste of talent. Hopefully not the same here. Come on, Wes, get it together. He has good hands, enough speed to split the seams, is a good blocker, and is athletic. The rookie Paulsen takes his place for four games, then goes on the practice squad.
- E Brett Keisel (27) He's not going anywhere. He keeps the line together and eats up running backs. Possibly the best pass rusher among d-lineman. Besides, we need the beard.
- NT Steve McLendon (28) Bulked up. And with muscle, not fat. A beast. He's opening day starter. Besides, the d-line coach speaks highly of him. That's enough for me.
- E Ziggy Hood (29) Better than given credit, he'll turn it on this year. Has tons of pass rush potential; needs to do a better job of maintaining gap responsibility and defending the run. I believe he's hungrier than ever this year and will prove it.
- E Cameron Hayward (30) I like Cameron. I believe he can be special. He can play the run and get after the passer. He backs up both sides this year.
- NT Alameda Ta’amu (31) Patience. He'll get there. Third team; second until Hampton returns. Doesn't always play to his strength. Not as powerful consistently as he can be. Takes some plays off. Can dominate at times. Is a hard worker and disciplined.
- **NT Casey Hampton (32) We'll wait for you. Come back strong.
- OLB James Harrison (33) He got his eye smashed up by an offensive lineman, and then he gets suspended for knocking out a quarterback. He comes back as angry as ever. Look out.
- ILB Larry Foote (34) Hmmmm. I don't even think he's as fast as Farrior, so why do we want him in coverage? Plus, he's never been as strong against the run as Farrior. But he's a leader, and hopefully he will prove he belongs.
- ILB Lawrence Timmons (35) Is this the year? Has as much if not more athletic ability than any middle linebacker in the league. Not the most instinctive, but hopefully, he sees the field much better this year and his instincts have improved. A potential All-Pro if his brain and instincts catch up to his athletic skill. I believe this is, truly, his breakout year.
- OLB LaMarr Woodley (36) He's a beast. Great against again the run (possibly the best outside linebacker in the game holding up the edge) and an outstanding, relentless pass rusher. Can he be All-Pro this year?
- OLB Jason Worilds (37) Might have more potential pass rush ability than anyone on the team. Has plenty of moves, but out thinks himself and doesn't always play with instinct. Can over pursue. Hopefully, he starts playing and stops over thinking the game.
- ILB Stevenson Sylvester (38) Speed, athleticism, diligent and dedicated worker, excellent special teams player. What's taking him so long to put it together on the field? Hopefully he breaks out this year.
- ILB Sean Spence (39) Also has speed and athleticism. Watched game tape and didn't see him as the hardest hitter, though many scouts and experts say is. Actually saw him make too many tackles down field. Appears on the film I saw as more of a drag down tackler rather than one who'll throw the knockout punch. Of course, I haven't seen all his film. Hopefully, his size doesn't limit him.
- OLB Chris Carter (40) I thought he would be the steal of last years draft, but no off season workouts and then injuries held him back. Still, I thought he showed some potential, especially as a pass rusher, when he did get some playing time. I believe with a full off season and a second year in the system, he'll progress rapidly.
- OLB Brandon Johnson (41) Well, the Bengals didn't want him. Do they really have that good of linebackers over there? Are we missing something? I thought linebacker was one of their weakest positions. Honestly, I don't know much about him, but he can play special teams and play inside and outside on defense, and we'll always take those as backup linebackers.
- CB Ike Taylor (42) Forget about Denver last year, Ike. Focus on Denver this year and redeem yourself. Not a true shutdown corner, as he doesn't always consistently shut down opponents receivers without safety help. Does his best work against some of the games best, though, so the question isn't about talent, but consistent focus.
- SS Troy Polamalu (43) Clone him. Best safety in the NFL. Might be one of the top human beings in the world. Leader. Dedicated. Hard working. Better at pass defense than most give him credit for. A terror against the run. I would want him as a role model for my children (if I had any).
- FS Ryan Clark (44) Underrated. Does miss some tackles and can over pursue. Better at pass defense than given credit. Team leader.
- CB Keenan Lewis (45) Says he's going to make the Pro Bowl. I'd settle for just keeping your man out of the end zone and short of the first down marker. Has always had the skill--size, speed, strength--but not always the mentality. Hopefully he has matured.
- CB Cortez Allen (46) Could be the steal of last years draft (along with Christ Carter). Quick, fast, strong and tall. May potentially turn into a true shutdown corner and the best Steelers corner since Rod Woodson.
- CB Curtis Brown (47) Don't rule him out. Unbelievable athleticism, perhaps tops on the team. Fast, quick and agile, Coach dad said he was the best man cover corner in the draft last year. Could surprise a lot of people and win the starting job opposite Ike. Valuable special teams performer, and likes it.
- S Ryan Mundy (48) Better than most give him credit for. He was blamed for the last touchdown in the playoff upset last year, but wasn't he doing what he was told? We dared them to pass. They did. A fluke game. Anyway, Mundy can hit. He can play both the pass and run and I think he'll take Clark's place down the line. Best backup safety on the roster.
- CB Terry Carter (49) Coaches are high on him after OTA's. That's enough for me. Still, we have to wait to see how he does in the preseason. Athletic, fast enough, good ball skills.
- S Myron Rolle (50) Tough call. Not noted for his athleticism coming out of Florida State. Stiff hips. Doesn't transition well in coverage. Intelligent, though, which might be more important in our defense. I think it comes down to him and Cromartie-Smith.
- K Shaun Suisham (51) Maybe the rookie will remember how to kick before training camp. Word is, he was pretty good in 2010. That way we don't have to hold our collective breaths when Suisham lines up.
- P Jeremy Kapinos (52) Nothing special, but gets the job done. Good chance Butler gives him a run for his money.
- LS Greg Warren (53) Great long snapper, but has had injuries in the past. Please stay healthy.
Possible surprise cuts:
1. Keenan Lewis: If Brown and Allen show they can perform, and the two rookies, Frederick and Carter show tremendous potential, and Lewis doesn't keep his together on the field, he could be on the outside looking in. Unlikely, yes, but not beyond the realm of possibility. Besides, he's an UFA after this year.
2. Chris Rainey/Barron Batch: Similar styles as specialist or third down backs. Do we need two of these? One may be gone by the end of camp. The only reason both might stay is that Rainey is more of specialist who can be split wide and can return kicks, while Batch is more of a third down back who can pick up the blitz.
3. Weslye Saunders: Some scouting reports considered Paulson the fastest tight end in the draft and he is noted for his receiving skills. But he's not the most physical or best blocker. If he proves he can block, Saunders may be gone.
4. Leonard Pope: Highly unlikely, since Haley seems to like him, but if the younger tight ends show more upside, he Pope may have a very short stay in Pittsburgh.
5. Jonathan Dwyer: Tons of ability and potential, but lacking heart and mentality. He better show up, and show up in shape.
6. Sean Spence: Yes, it's rare that a third round pick gets cut their rookie year. But he has to show he can play. Can he overcome his lack of size with his instincts and heart?
7. David Johnson: Will Johnson might be the more athletic and have better upside, but can he block? If he can, David Johnson might be looking for work.
Possible surprises making team:
** Begins season on PUP
*** Begins season on league imposed suspension
[i] I’m not certain the Steelers will keep 6 Running Backs. If they only keep five (4 Running backs and a fullback) then I believe the competition will boil down to Barron Batch and Chris Rainey as the final running back. Since neither are considered every down backs, it’s unlikely the Steelers will keep 2 specialist style backs on the roster. With Mendenhall likely beginning the season on PUP, Jonathan Dwyer will make the team as the backup every down back.
[ii] It is possible that the Steelers keep only 5 receivers and keep Chris Rainey as an all-purpose specialist. In the event they decide to keep a 6th receiver, it could well be Derrick Williams, a reclamation project from Detroit who does have some potential. In this case, either Chris Rainey or Barron Batch is likely gone.
[iii] Pittsburgh could keep Chris Scott here rather than Jonathan Scott if Chris has a good training camp. Ramon Foster likely loses his spot to the rookie Beachum, who has the versatility to play tackle, guard, and possibly center with his intelligence.
[iv] I believe David Paulson begins the season on the active roster in place of Saunders, but when Saunders returns, Paulson is released and placed on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
[v] We usually keep four ends, but since McClendon can play both NT and E, I feel we keep the lineup as is. The only other possibly would be that Al Woods makes the squad as the last end and we lose another player from another position.
[vi] I believe Myron Rolle beats out Will Allen due to youth. While not the most physically gifted safety, I believe Rolle can use his intelligence to succeed on the field. From what I’ve read, the coaches are high on undrafted free agent corner Terry Carter, so I believe he beats out seventh round draft pick Terrence Carter.