Steelers 53-Man Roster Projection After First Round of Cuts

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23: Quarterbacks Charlie Batch #16, Byron Leftwich, and Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talk with offensive co-ordinator Bruce Arians (C) during their game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

Disclaimer: I'm a dunce and didn't realize that Saunders' suspension includes a roster exemption for him through the first four weeks. I'll rectify that in the final edition later this week. - barnerburner -

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I started with what I'd put together for my previous iteration (click here for it) and have made a few adjustments, including an experiment with the notion that we might go with only Ben and Lefty as our QBs to start the season (which Neal broached here).

This is how I'm projecting our 53-man roster right now, right this minute (though it's subject to change at any time) and presuming that neither James Harrison nor Jason Worilds stays on the PUP list into the regular season.

Offense (24):

QB (2) - Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich

I know that going into the season with only two QBs on the roster is becoming popular around the league these days, but I'm not entirely comfortable with it seeing how we've actually needed our third QB to play in a few games recently.

Nonetheless, I want to experiment with the idea since we actually have a pretty solid list of players that already project to be Week 1 inactives (my guesses are included further down), and as such we need to work our personnel to maintain depth at those less healthy positions.

RB (4) - Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey, Rashard Mendenhall

Did you see that 33-yard catch that Dwyer made along the sideline on 3rd down to kickstart the successful 2-minute drill before halftime against Buffalo? I remember Dwyer coming out of a triple-option at Georgia Tech and had no idea he could actually pull in passes like that.

I still like Baron Batch. I still think he'd be an asset to the team. But I also still think he is clearly 5th on the depth chart and don't think that anything short of a serious injury to someone ahead of him is going to change that.

FB/HB (1) - David Paulson

In the mix - Will Johnson

This seemed like a four-way battle in last week's look (at least it did to me on paper), but it's now much simpler since Jamie McCoy and Justin Peelle were part of the first round of cuts.

My reasoning for keeping Paulson over Johnson ties into our TE situation, so I'll expound on it more below.

TE (3) - Heath Miller, Leonard Pope, Weslye Saunders

I still like Saunders' potential long-term upside and think that we keep him through his four-game suspension.

In light of that, we're keeping Pope - at least through the first quarter of the season. I'm also not too keen on the idea of only having Miller and Pope through the first quarter of the season, so I'd prefer to have Paulson as a flexible option to be a third-TE/HB.

Once Saunders has sat enough to satisfy his suspension, perhaps there will be some roster shuffling in reaction to how Pope and Paulson have played. Maybe the coaching staff will want a harder-nosed FB to pave the way and bring Will Johnson back in, at Paulson's expense. Maybe they'll want Johnson in, but will also feel like Paulson has outplayed Pope, and dump Todd Haley's personal import. Maybe they'll be content with what they have and elect not to do anything at all.

That's too far out to properly project though. For now, I like keeping Paulson over Johnson.

WR (5) - Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, David Gilreath

In the mix - Toney Clemons, Tyler Beiler, Marquis Maze, Derrick Williams

Gilreath seems to have the inside track for our fifth receiver spot, but this battle will be decided on Thursday on the field against the Panthers.

OL (9) - Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert; Mike Adams, Trai Essex, Doug Legursky, David DeCastro

Last time I said:

Barring injury, I think the O-line is pretty cut and dry.

And... injury did happen. (If you think I might've jinxed it, hate-mail goes in the comments below.)

DeCastro's knee moves Foster back up to the starting RG spot, but what will actually happen to DeCastro is an interesting question. Since he wasn't on the PUP list to start training camp, he can't be put on the PUP list to start the season. That leaves two options: (1) he goes on injured reserve, or (2) we have him on the 53 and store him as an inactive week in and week out and hope his rehab goes well enough that he's ready to play before the end of the season (kind of like when Aaron Smith went down midseason in 2010, just replace the veteran war horse with the superstud rookie).

We know that DeCastro is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday, and also that Mark Kaboly of the Tribune-Review tweeted that "DeCastro is not going on IR." I don't know if there was some tacit timeframe to go with the tweet like "not going on IR today/tomorrow/before he has surgery on Wednesday and we know exactly what we're looking at." For now, I think we just have to assume that he's still in the mix until we definitively know otherwise.

But if DeCastro is shutdown and put on IR, that'll open the door for someone like Chris Scott or Ryan Lee or John Malecki to sneak in as the last lineman.


Defense (26):

DL (7) - Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, Brett Keisel; Casey Hampton, Cameron Heyward, Alameda Ta'amu, Al Woods

It'll be an unusual year carrying three NTs, but Hampton, McLendon, and Ta'amu are all locks.

There's a need for a fourth DE to rotate behind Ziggy, Keisel, and Heyward. Between Al Woods and Corbin Bryant, I'm picking the one that has more in-game regular season experience.

LB (10) - LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, James Harrison; Jason Worilds, Chris Carter, Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester, Brandon Johnson, Adrian Robinson

You know who actually ended up directly benefiting from this two-QB experiment?

Adrian Robinson.

I still don't like keeping him at the expense of Brandon Johnson when there's already four OLBs on the roster, because depending on how Stevenson Sylvester's knee rehab goes, cutting Johnson could leave us with just one healthy body - rookie 3rd rounder Sean Spence - backing up both Timmons and Foote at ILB in Week 1 (and perhaps even into Weeks 2 and 3).

That being said, and reiterating that I'm still working on the assumption that neither Harrison nor Worilds will be PUPed into the regular season, are they both going to be full strength come Sunday Night Football on September 9?

I dunno.

I'm not properly worrying yet, but I don't have complete confidence either. For now, I'll be surprised if Harrison is out, but my gut thinks that Worilds will sit. If that's the case, Robinson could be needed to rotate in along with Chris Carter.

DB (9) - Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Keenan Lewis; Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen, Robert Golden

In the mix: Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, Josh Victorian

I still like Robert Golden as our final DB. It was certainly bolstered when he picked off Vince Young in the 4th quarter against the Bills and ran it back to set up a 1st-and-goal.

And we do need an extra safety in Week 1.

Don't forget that Ryan Clark is out against the Broncos in Denver - he's not playing; he's not dressing; he is going to be inactive.

(My guess for the inactives against the Broncos is the following: Mendenhall, Saunders, Adams, DeCastro, Worilds, Sylvester, Clark)

So we'll need a fourth safety (to go along with Polamalu, Mundy, and Will Allen), and Golden is listed as such. But as a bonus, he also had experience as a corner while he was at Arizona, so he can be a very flexible developmental backup - perfect for our roster's final DB.

I do have Will Allen making it - some of you might be pulling for Cromartie-Smith in place of him, but I don't see it. My money is on Allen and I'm also betting he'll be our special teams captain this year. Arnaz Battle was the captain last year but he's gone, and I don't see anyone else on the roster that might fit the bill (I might've thrown a longshot wager on Sylvester before his knee injury, but certainly not after).


Specialists (3):

K - Shaun Suisham, P - Jeremy Kapinos, LS - Greg Warren


Practice Squad (8):

QB - Jerrod Johnson

RB - Baron Batch

FB - Will Johnson

WR - Toney Clemons

OL - Kelvin Beachum

OL - Ryan Lee

DL - Corbin Bryant

CB - Terrence Frederick

Only keeping two QBs on the active roster would seem to necessitate keeping one on the pants squad, if for no other reason than to have another arm in practices. The rest of the list is offensive heavy, perhaps too much actually. We could go with a LB in lieu of keeping both Beachum and Lee, but I don't feel really strongly about either Brandon Hicks or Marshall McFadden, and am definitely not going to try to guess who will get cast off from another team that we'll then bring in.

Finally, this is neither here nor there, but do you want to know why that picture is attached to this piece?

It's the only one we have access to that has Ben, Byron, and Charlie in it. Though Charlie's not on the roster in this projection, I wanted to try to keep him in the picture somehow (excuse the pun). Just pretend that guy in the middle isn't actually there.

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