FanPost

Final Layman's 53-Man Roster Prediction



With the final preseason game in the books and 22 players looking for work elsewhere within the next 24 hours, I'm going to toss out my last roster projection so that I can be proud when the Steelers prove me right, and blame somebody else in the event that some of them are proven wrong... :) Not an awful lot to change from my last roster, especially seeing as how it was only a few days ago, but still showing by a few of the players on the bubble.

QB - Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch

Charlie got a lot of playing time in Game 4,and proved that he still has what it takes to play in the NFL. The first drive was spectacular, and despite all of the complaints about his age and the fact that he doesn't have the arm strength to make the deep passes, he managed to have a pinpoint pass to Sanders, skillfully placing it where only he could reach it, despite the double coverage, to come up with a 37 yard touchdown. He did all this with calm determination and poise in the face of the massive pass rusher bearing down on him. He had a couple of rough drives, but was still very impressive in his calmly determined stance that allowed him to make the play even when the defense was breaking through. The best was near the end of the 2nd, he was practically within the grip of a defender, with no obvious receivers open for him to get to, but where most quarterbacks would panic and throw the ball away, at best getting an incompletion and at worse being sacked or intercepted. Instead, he got a quick pass to Pope, making the completion, although it turned out to be a very short gain. He had a couple other nice plays, some of them not quite being long enough, but he did manage to get just close enough for Suisham to manage a field goal to take the lead going into the half. Jerrod Johnson had a decent game, again showing his arm strength, but also again showing how he has a tendency to wilt under pressure. The two huge passes he made both looked so horrible in the air, very wobbly, and it seemed like Maze was just lucky to grab that one... and the second one wasn't much better. The announcers commented about how good Charlie's game was, and how now the Steelers would have to worry about cutting him because with a game like that, he could easily be picked up off waivers, even at his age. I have been assuming they would keep him from the start... they always keep 3, they always seem to bring Charlie back no matter what happens, he is a local hero, the Rooneys and Tomlin love him, and he has an amazing record winning during his emergency starts and substitutions. He is who they want if Big Ben and Leftwich go down, and is an asset to have for his expert advice on the sideline. There was some suggestion that with the injuries (and the new IR rule) that they would start the year with just 2 QBs, but now it seems like he could get picked up elswhere, can they really afford to cut him, even temporarily? Johnson, on the other hand, has shown that while he does have the physical ability to play the game, he certainly doesn't have the mental aspect down. He repeated his Game 1 time management debacle, albeit not as poorly this time, but still showed a habit for unnecessary penalties and inability to effectively run out the clock. They did manage to pull off the win, but it was close. Even though it is very odd to carry a Quarterback on the Practice Squad, I still think it could be very possible for them to toss Johnson on there. They need to keep up with his development if they want him to grow into their future #2.

RB - Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch, Chris Rainey, Will Johnson (FB)

I wasn't willing to consider that they may go with 5 Halfbacks and only 4 Wide Receivers, but after tonight's game I think I believe it. Most of the passing game, especially in the beginning of the game when the players most likely to be on the 53 were on the field, they targeted the Running Backs and Tight Ends. I was also not completely sold on them keeping the seldom used Fullback position, especially if keeping it cost Batch (either one actually) or the 5th Wide Receiver their spot, but after today I'm impressed enough to keep it. Mendenhall will be out at least until after the Bye week, but he is a lock and hopefully can return at top form, taking back his spot at starter. Until then, it looks like Redman and Dwyer will be sharing snaps. At the moment Redman is dealing with a mild injury, but as far as I know they expect him to be ready for Week 1. Behind them are two very capable situational backs, not capable of handling the every down duties that Redman and Dwyer will be taking, but great at their respective roles. Batch showed he is capable of making some decent runs and some nice catches, with his already established ability as a blocker. I wouldn't mind seeing him function in place of a Fullback on occasion, and if they only keep the 4 Wide Recievers he may also be called up to line up in the slot from time to time. Rainey really showed that he is the obvious choice to be the primary return man, although returns seem to be far less common this year... its all kicks out of the endzone and downed or fair catch punts... but when he does get it, man can he run. His rushes were far less effective today, but when he breaks out wide and gets it down the field he usually gets some amazing gains. He is also good at lining up in the slot to be an extra receiver, or to make some nice gains on screen passes from the backfield. Lastly, Will Johnson, the only real choice for Fullback since David Johnson was sent to the IR, actually showed today that he can do more than just block. His rushes are less than impressive, Redman being a much better choice for short yardage situations, but he had quite a nice reception today. He won't need to be called upon very often to do more than block, but its nice to see they can count on him to be an extra option for the pass or an unexpected ball carrier. Its not uncommon for the Steelers to keep 6 Running Backs, although it usually comes in the form of 4 Halfbacks, 1 Fullback, and 1 additional Practice Squad Running Back. This year, with Mendenhall out, they will probably just go ahead and keep all 6 of them on the 53-man roster, although it is possible Batch will be an early cut, signed to the Practice Squad, and then resigned on Tuesday after they can assign their man to the 8 Week IR list. DuJuan Harris was signed just to take same late game reps, and while he did actually have a pretty decent game, he had no chance of passing up any of the guys that have been there since the beginning of Training Camp.

WR - Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery

I still really don't like the thought of going into the season with only 4 Wide Receivers on the roster, but down by 1.5 Running Backs, they need the extra man there more than they need an extra receiver, and they all played well enough that it would be hard to justify cutting any of them. The top 4 were never a question, although for a while Wallace was making the exact date of his return questionable... but the 5th Receiver, which they pretty much always have 5 or 6 Wide Receivers on the roster, with another 1 or 2 on the Practice Squad, never really emerged. As I said above, the final Preseason game in which they targeted mainly the Running Backs and Tight Ends indicated that they may very well choose to stick with just 4 Wide Receivers, with usually Rainey but occasionally Batch or one of the Tight Ends filling in as an additional receiver. As I mentioned with Batch, it is possible they will choose to temporarily cut a player only to resign him on Tuesday, thus bringing them back to the expected 5 Wide Receivers, or if they choose to temporarily cut either Batch or Paulson, allowing them to start with their 5th receiver. If they do opt to keep a 5th, or to resign a 5th on Tuesday, then the only real options are Derrick Williams or David Gilraeth. I personally think Williams is the better choice, he had a decent game again today, even though he didn't see many passes thrown his way. He also run coverage on Special Teams, but hasn't had any plays that stand out. Gilraeth, on the other hand, saw very little chance to prove himself as a receiver today, but did work as a returner. He did get a good return on 1, but like everything else, it was called back due to a penalty. He could make the roster simply because they don't really have a #2 returner behind Rainey, but I don't think he did well enough to beat out Williams, and its unlikely that they will start the season with 5 Wide Receivers anyway. I do like Gilraeth for the Practice Squad though. If they only have 4 Wide Recievers, they will most likely have to carry 2 on the Practice Squad, in which case it is really a tossup between Toney Clemons, Tyler Beiler, and Marquis Maze... all three of them had a minimal amount of success, a marginal amount of failure, and no real impressively memorable plays, so its hard to say who really has the edge there.

TE - Heath Miller, Leonard Pope, David Paulson

The Steelers usually keep 3 Tight Ends on the roster and an additional one on the Practice Squad, but at the moment they only have 3 to choose from, so it makes the choice fairly simple. It was never a question that Miller would start, and Pope was brought along with Todd Haley as a veteran of his offense, so he was never really in doubt of making the roster. He has shown he can be a decent blocker, and seems to have been chosen as the backup Fullback, and while he had some unfortunately missed receptions, but he is a giant, so if he can continue to make receptions he becomes a great target, especially in the red zone. The other issue is that Weslye Saunders is suspended for the first 4 games, which means he will not count against the roster until after the Bye, but they lose a very skilled player and obvious primary backup to Miller until then. This leaves Paulson as the next in line behind Pope. He has had some decent plays, but he is more suited as a receiver than as a blocker. After Saunders returns, Paulson will more likely than not end up cut and sent to the Practice Squad. Not to beat a dead horse, but the option is still in the air that they will choose to temporarily cut Paulson until Tuesday so that they can make room to carry a 5th Wide Receiver. In addition, they could simply choose to start the season with just 2 Tight Ends, sending Paulson to the Practice Squad, so that they can have more Wide Receivers. However, as I said already above, Game 4 made it seem much more likely that they will start short on Wide Receivers rather than anywhere else on the roster.

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

The Offensive Line is one place I've been fairly convinced of who will be there since right after the draft. They almost always keep 9 Offensive Linemen on their roster, though 10 is not completely unheard of, and before DeCastro's injury some people suggested they may keep 8. The one interesting thing we learned today is that a new rule was added that allows each team to place 1 player on IR and get them back after Week 8, unlike the normal IR in which they are lost for the entire season. This allows them to clear up roster space, because after DeCastro's surgery today they mentioned that they intended to place him on the 8 Week IR. However, that was before Spence's injury today, so they may choose to give it to him depending on if he is more likely to be ready to play by Week 8, since DeCastro isn't likely to be back until around Thanksgiving. But honestly, Spence's leg bending back like that, and the use of the air cast, made the injury look devastating, he could miss the entire year. Assuming they do choose to use their IR exemption on DeCastro, then he will be on the 53-Man roster initially, but will be placed on IR Tuesday, clearing up space for another player. I would hope they use the extra player to keep a 5th Wide Receiver, preferably Williams, but they could bring on one of the rookies to backup Essex, Legursky, and Adams. With DeCastro injured, and likely on IR, they will need to have 2 more on the Practice Squad (or as a backup on the 53-Man roster if they don't do a 5th Wide Receiver). None of the backups had an astounding preseason, but the most likely candidate is Ryan Lee. Some people suggested keeping him over Essex, so he must be good enough to keep around. Kelvin Beachum is also an interesting option for the Practice Squad. He had some obvious rookie mistakes, and a lot of unnecessary penalties, but he has the most potential of the remaining players, if he can simply manage to learn not to make stupid mistakes, so he could be good on the Practice Squad, but isn't ready to play in the NFL. The other options are Chris Scott and John Malecki, both of whom have had years to prove themselves, yet haven't really stood out, which is why I think the rookies may have a slight edge.

DL - Brett Keisel, Steve McLendon, Ziggy Hood, Casey Hampton, Cameron Heyward, Alameda Ta'Amu, Al Woods

Another one that is pretty much straightforward. The Steelers tend to carry 6 or 7 Defensive Linemen, with another 1 or 2 on the Practice Squad. Keisel currently has a minor injury, but is expected to be ready for Week 1. Hood came into this season ready to prove he deserves to be the new starter, and Heyward tried to keep up, but ultimately has to settle for top backup. McLendon was the most impressive, coming into camp to take over anchoring the line. Hampton finally played today, but not for very long, and it seems like he will still be behind McLendon when the season begins. Though they may very well play a fairly even amount of downs. Ta'Amu looked better today, but is still the clear #3, but with an amazing future ahead of him. With the 3 Nose Tackles a lock to make the roster, it seems very unlikely they would enter the season with only 3 Defensive Ends, so we will assume they need a #4. Woods seems like the better of the two players, so I have him making the roster, but it is really close. Challenging him for the final spot is Corbin Bryant, but one major factor that may give the edge to Woods is that Bryant is still eligible for the Practice Squad, seems like an excellent place for him. Jake Stoller and Ikponmwosa Igbinosun were too far behind that they didn't have a chance.

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

In recent years the Steelers have kept 9 or 10 Defensive Backs, and it has always been 4 Safeties and 5 or 6 Corner Backs, with another 1 Defensive Back on the Practice Squad. However, with Ryan Clark unable to play in Week 1, the current speculation is that this year they will begin the season with 5 Safeties. This leaves them in an awkward position because that means they either end up with only 4 Corner Backs, with only 8 Linebackers (a horrible idea with all the injuries there), or only 6 Defensive Linemen (also an unfortunate choice, as mentioned above...) I'm going to assume there will be 4 Cornerbacks, partly for the same reason I felt there would only be 4 Wide Receivers. Golden, who has had a fairly impressive training camp thus far, especially the last 2 games, has played both Safety and Cornerback, allowing him to step in as not only S #5 but also CB #5 (much the same as Rainey's ability to be HB #4 and WR #5). However, it appears that Golden was injured late in the game, but it is uncertain how bad it was. If it is a bad injury, they may be forced to keep both an extra Safety and an extra Cornerback (much like David Johnson's injury caused them to need to keep both a Fullback and an extra Tight End). The other issue is that Brown was injured in the game as well, also without us knowing the exact nature of his injury. Since we don't know how bad either of these injuries were, I have to assume they will not be serious enough to cause them to miss out on making the 53-Man Roster. The remainder have been set for some time, Taylor and Lewis with Allen at Nickle, and Polamalu and Clark backed up by Mundy. The other Safety spot is still not a definite lock, although Allen played much better today, and had a good showing on Special Teams. I have assumed it was his to lose from the beginning, and they are more likely to keep the veteran than replace him with the only other alternative left on the roster, Da-Mon Cromartie-Smith. He hasn't played too bad, but he has had a couple seasons, mostly on the Pratice Squad, and has yet to unseat Allen, so his time may be done. Assuming Golden and Brown are not too seriously injured and able to remain on the roster, that leaves just two more players left fighting over a Practice Squad spot. Out of Terrence Frederick and Josh Victorian, I think I would have to go with Victorian. Neither of them were bad, but Victorian just seems like he has more potential to eventually become a future star on the Steelers defense. Frederick allowed a huge play for a long touchdown, and then caused a penalty on the very next play when they went for a 2-Point Conversion, not a good sign when you're fighting to stay on the roster.

LB - James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley, Chris Carter, Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester, Brandon Johnson, Adrian Robinson

With all of the injuries to the Linebackers during the Preseason, it seems like it is obvious for them to start the season with 9 Linebackers. They usually keep between 8 or 9, or very rarely 10, and may keep 1 on the Practice Squad, but not always. A HUGE blow to the Steelers defense occurred in Game 4, as Sean Spence suffered what appears to be a massive leg injury (sources suggest ACL and LCL) that will knock him out for the entire season. He was in line to be the primary backup on the inside, and now he will be sorely missed. The other major injuries plaguing the Linebackers were to Harrison and Worilds, who missed the entire Preseason, although it has just recently been suggested that they will both be healthy by Week 1, which is a huge relief. Woodley has been doing great, but needs Harrison in order to really shine, although Carter has been doing really well in his absence. Carter has surpassed Worilds, and he has been good enough that he may remain as the primary backup on the outside. On the inside, Timmons and Foote were locks, although a couple of young players were hoping to push Foote for starting position. That didn't happen, and Sylvester is currently injured and may not be ready in time for Denver. The void left by Spence and the other injuries is filled by Johnson. He isn't as good, but he can play both inside and outside, and today showed some really nice penetration and in earlier games did well in coverage. What is more, he had a really good game in terms of Special Teams play, and this was one of his highlight in the past. He is a veteran with a few years under his belt, something that will really be needed if injuries continue to impact the Linebackers. What I really liked about him today was that with the starters sitting out he really stepped up to assume the leadership role on the defense, which he had experience doing as a Special Teams Captain on the Bengals. He played really well in the game and proved he deserves a spot on the roster. The main beneficiary to Spence's injury is Robinson. He has had some impressive plays, usually doing fairly well getting penetration, but the One Trick Pony struggles in coverage, has trouble finishing his tackles, and wasn't overly impressive on Special Teams. He would have been an ideal candidate for the Practice Squad, but if they need to keep 9 Linebackers, he is the man for the job. However, with the news that Harrison and Worilds will be ready for Week 1, their situation at Linebacker isn't nearly as dismal as it was at the beginning of Training Camp, so they may still choose to send Robinson to the Practice Squad so that they can keep 10 Defensive Backs. In fact, with the 2 new injuries there and the 2 injured Linebackers getting back on track in time for Week 1, they may very well be better off with 5 Corner Backs, 5 Safeties, and 8 Linebackers. The last 2 Linebackers on the roster are unlikely to even make the Practice Squad, although if the do choose to keep Robinson on the 53-Man Roster, Marshall McFadden's play in today's game was enough to get him a shot at making the Practice Squad. Brandon Hicks had virtually no chance going into camp, and that hasn't changed, too many quality players ahead of him.

ST - Shaun Suisham, Drew Butler, Greg Warren

All three of these were uncontested going into Game 4, although Suisham and Warren were pretty much locks the entire Offseason, they both continue to play well. Butler played much better today, but he still struggles with his consistency. He has a great leg, and can get some really good distance on his punts. However, he still struggles with placing the ball where they need it and maximizing hang time so that the Special Teams players can get down field in time to force a fair catch or down the ball to give the defense good field position. Though the Special Teams unit did get better today at bringing down the returner. I would have rather had Jeremy Kapinos remain as the Punter, but he never set foot on the field, so Butler claimed the job by default.

Practice Squad

QB Jerrod Johnson

WR David Gilraeth

WR Toney Clemons, Tyler Beiler, or Marquis Maze

G/C Ryan Lee

T/G Kelvin Beachum

DE Corbin Bryant

CB Josh Victorian

LB Marshall McFadden or CB Terrence Frederick

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The Practice Squad is actually very difficult to determine, as they still have quite a few options left to them. If they do go with a 5th receiver, they won't need 2 on the Practice Squad. However, to do so they would need to place either Baron Batch or David Paulson on the Practice Squad to make room. The defense also has the option of only keeping 8 Linebackers, in which place Adrian Robinson would be placed on the Practice Squad in place of McFadden/Frederick. If this is the case, Frederick is likely to make the roster as the 5th Corner Back.

Captains

As I mentioned in my v2.0 Roster, the Steelers have more often than not designated 4 Captains in the past few years, although 6 isn't out of the question.

Ben Rothlisberger - Offensive/Team Captain

He is technically an Offensive Captain, but when they designate 4, I like to think of Big Ben as the Team Captain, and the remainders as the individual Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams Captains. He has been named Captain in recent years, so he seems like a lock to return again.

Heath Miller - Offensive Captain

He was a Co-Captain a few years ago when Big Ben was suspended, and he has been with the team longer than most of the offense, so he seems like the obvious choice. Jerricho Cotchery may also have a shot, as he has taken over for longtime Captain Hines Ward as the veteran Wide Reciever on the field.

Larry Foote - Defensive Captain

I chose him mostly because he is in the same exact place on the field as previous longtime Captain James Farrior. However, he has also been with the team longer than quite a lot of the defense, and is quite a knowledgeable veteran on the field. If there are two Defensive Co-Captains (meaning they designate 6 overall instead of the usual 4) I imagine it would be James Harrison, as he has in past years served as Special Teams and Defensive Co-Captain. In fact, now that he seems likely to be ready to play in Week 1, he may very well be named Captain if they only go with 1. The other option I like is Troy Polamalu, since he is a veteran on the team, the face of the defense, and is known for his ability to see something in the offense and shift his play to react. Unfortunately, the Steeler's captains have always been Linebackers except for one instance where a Linebacker and Safety were Co-Captains.

Brandon Johnson - Special Teams Captain

It was a tossup between Johnson and Will Allen, but based on what I saw in Game 4 I think Johnson has a natural tendency to assume a leadership role when he is on the field. He looked like he assumed the role with the defense today, and he has previously been Special Teams Captain when he was in Cincinnati. If they go with 6, then Allen is the obvious choice for Co-Captain. He has been with the team for a while now, and he is known for his role on Special Teams more than he is for his ability at Safety, seems like its his time finally.

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