I, like many of you, was unable to attend camp this year at St.Vincent's. I have relied heavily on BTSC, and other reputable news outlets, to stay up to date on who's winning and losing the position battles, who's healthy and who's missing time, and which young unknown is set to become the next Steeler household name. If you've been listening to the players', coaches', and media's comments on this year's squad, you've probably come to many of the same conclusions I have. We have 4 weeks of preseason left to go; a lot can happen. Guys will get injured. Some guys will step up; others will fizzle out. Of course, the chance of this list being 100% accurate, are probably zero; because the coaches always see the things we don't, when they watch the film. I will try to briefly explain my reasoning at each position, for who and how many I kept; but if you're looking for an earth-shattering breakdown of Ben Roethlisberger, and why he should be the QB of the Steelers, you're reading the wrong article. I will keep a running tab at each positional line, for those of you following along at home; if you're still reading at this point.
KEY: Active, (Inactive), [PracticeSquad]
I began this offseason believing Charlie was only brought in this year, to help the younger players transition into the new offense. According to reports, Charlie has been consistent as always, especially picking apart underneath routes. His real value comes to light on gameday. I have no doubt, even when he retires, he will be brought in as an offensive coach, if he wants to pursue that avenue. Reports have been good about Johnson, as well. He's a big boy, and has shown some promise throughout camp. If the coaches decide they need the PracticeSquad slot back, Batch could be cut, moving Johnson to his inactive roster spot; but I think Johnson would be better served on the squad, because he would have a year to learn the offense, and could take Leftwich, or Batch's spot, next season.
I never thought I would see the day the Pittsburgh Steelers kept 5 running backs on the roster, let alone 4 actives; and that's not counting fullbacks. The consensus on Mendenhall is that he will be PUP'ed for the first 6 weeks; but with the quality depth on this team, I don't think it is necessary. He continues to push himself to be ready for week 1, but I think the coaches want him to take his time, and would start Redman anyway, at least until the bye. However, 6 weeks is a long time, if injury takes down Sir Redman. Considering 7 guys have to be inactive every single week anyways, why not simply deactivate him, instead of juggling around other players at other positions. When Mendy returns to full health, one of the other 4 backs will take his spot on the sideline. Rainey will stay active for special teams and receiving duties. If Batch makes the roster, it will most likely be on third down, with opportunity for additional spot work, a la Mwelde Moore. I think the player to deactivate will be whoever is least effective between Dwyer and Redman, most likely Dwyer. Clay is a horse and deserves to at least hit the Practice Squad, although he may be gone next year, if the FO gives Mendy a new deal, and Redman signs his tender.
FB: Will Johnson = 7(2)
David Johnson is the incumbent "fullback", although he has left most of us missing Dan Kreider. Per the reports, David has had more off, than good days; although he drew coach's praise one particular day. David has the experience, but he's got competition. Will Johnson has been blowing people up everyday. Rarely, is he charged with losing a battle, at worst he draws. I think the influx of the new offense provides the perfect opportunity to try something different at fullback.
I really get the feeling that Saunders' suspension is the only thing preventing him from being the 2nd TE on the depth chart this season. I had high hopes for Pope when he was signed in the offseason, but reports say he looks slow, and has not exactly impressed. I still think he was a good addition, but unless he turns it around, he will probably be deactivated upon Saunders' return. Jamie McCoy has had some good reports, but I just don't think he is going to stick. I think he should be competing at fullback, but what do I know. He couldn't beat out David Johnson last season, and I don't see him beating out Miller or Saunders. The best McCoy could hope for is Pope's eventual inactive spot. Either Haley will shy away from 3 TE sets, or the "strictly" fullback would fill the role of 3rd TE. David Johnson could also have a shot at taking Pope's place, but as long as they keep calling him a fullback, I'll keep calling him gone.
Mike Wallace will be here at some point. Emmanuel Sanders is here, and will play regularly, at some point. Antonio Brown is here, and is running out of expectations to try and live up to. Jericho Cotchery is here, and is who we thought he was; a veteran wide receiver. I'm not big on Derrick Williams, but he does have special teams experience; Arnaz Battle made a career that way. Derrick Williams, IMO, is a much better receiver than was Battle, even though he doesn't have the stats to show it. I want to see Clemons make this roster, but there are conflicting reports that he, and Limas Sweed, are surgically conjoined at the hands. I think he will land on the PS, and could move up as far as Cotchery's spot next season, if Jericho becomes a cap casualty. Maze has worked his tail off, and it is paying off. He is finding roles on special teams, and has shown some potential at wideout. His size is a concern, but I think some guys outplay their bodies; Maze is one of those guys. If/When Wallace is gone, Cotchery is gone, and Brown and Sanders are your top 2 guys, Maze could find himself as the slot receiver.
LT: Mike Adams, Max Starks
LG: Willie Colon
We've had our offensive linemen talked to death over the offseason, for it is a much improved unit. DeCastro and Adams have their good days, but they also have their rookie days. With Starks still healing, Adams main competition at LT is Trai Essex. Essex was never really going to start, he was more to provide an example for Adams. Essex will be needed on the bench with the departure of Ramon Foster. I like Ramon, but he is the least versatile, and sometimes least effective, lineman on the roster. He would be the fifth tackle, and 7th guard, at best; bye dude, its been real. Beachum has been exactly who the coaches hoped he would be, and definitely becomes the PS O-lineman, due to his flexibility. He has played tackle and guard in camp already, and should be the next Essex. I put Legs behind Pouncey, although I think he would be called on again at LG, if injury occurs. Essex will handle RG, RT backup.
The retirement of Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke, and the PUP'ness of Big Snack, we were down to 4 D-lineman. I love the addition of Ta'amu, and think he will be the next snack, 4 years from now; but because of his youth, he won't be asked to do anything but NT, and only when he has to. If Al Woods is kept on the active, it will be to allow Hood to rotate in at NT. If this happens, I would expect to see Keisel occasionally rotate to the left side, bringing Heyward in at RE; a great setup on passing downs. When/If Hampton ever returns to health, he will be the starter again, but he is the most likely to be PUP'ed at the beginning of the season, and there is a chance he may end up IR'ed. For the purposes of this exercise, I still gave him an inactive roster spot, meaning whoever gets on the roster while he's pup'ed, will at best be an inactive, before landing on the PS. Al Woods would be the one to lose a game hat to Hampton, but Woods would not be released in case Hampton goes down again. Bryant will have Woods spot next season.
ROLB: James Harrison, Chris Carter
Hello, Sean Spence; Goodbye Mack and Buck Linebackers. Larry Foote is playing his last season in Pittsburgh apparently, as all of Steeler Nation can feel the onset of a Timmons/Spence dynamic duo at inside linebacker. Sylvester, while not living up to the starter he anticipated being before camp opened, has solidified his spot on the active roster through consistent special teams performance. Brandon Johnson was brought in because the coaches weren't confident in their two reserve OLB's. Instead, Carter showed up a beast this camp, and Johnson has only made everyone miss Worilds that much more. Worilds, while not impressive so far, is a veteran player comfortable in LeBeau's system. This gets him one more ride on the wagon, despite his absence and injury. Robinson has been one of the UDFA stars of camp, and I expect to see him on the PS, filling the absence created by Harrison's departure next year. I hate the thoughts of not keeping Mortty Ivy, but there are only so many spots.
I don't like the reports that Taylor will most likely be released after this season, despite his occasional bad games. Lewis sounds like he is plenty up to the task of being the other starter. Allen has proven the coaches right, that he is the teams nickel back. According to the reports I've read, Brown has gotten snaps all over the backfield, but has gotten burned a few times. He will most likely be the dimeback, although I think he will eventually live up to his potential, and he will need to if Taylor is cut next season. I haven't heard a lot about T-Fred so far, but I think the injury to Terry Carter gives Frederick the inactive spot. Carter was the only other DB I had heard good things about, but we will have to wait till next year's camp to find out what he's got.
Troy's health and Clark's inability to play in Denver led me to keep 5 safeties. I know, I know...won't happen. I think it will. I think D.C-S played well enough on special teams, to get a chance to make the roster after exhausting his PS eligibility (I think, don't quote me on that) Rolle, the least athletic of the 5, is still a cerebral assassin of sorts, and would be a fine guy to keep as insurance, in case one of the other 4 can't go.
I'm not hearing much on special teams, and I know everyone wants a new kicker for Christmas; so call me the Grinch. I hear Suisham has been accurate, although his range is only 48. I am guessing he'll keep his job this year, because of his experience, but I think this really finally is his last year, no matter how well he does. A lot of people have been on the Drew Butler bandwagon, and he has been reported to have a cannon for a leg; but he has also been shanking some. Kapinos has been steady in Sepulveda's absence, and I think he will continue to punt for us this season. Like Suisham, he could be gone next year. Warren.......if it ain't broke, don't fix it.