Preseason battles upcoming.

This is my take on the 53 man roster.

I always try to look at roles on the team and look at who is fighting for that role. Roles overlap in positions, so one player can fight for multiple spots, and "role flexibility" can create luxury spots on the roster, just like lack of flexibility ends with you taking guys that are liabilities if they are forced to play multiple roles.

Let's dig in.

#2 QB: Last year with the new rules we kept two QB's. Jerrod Johnson can make the PS and be a third, Leftwich and Batch won't be picked up and can be your FA #3. I think we keep two this year again. I lean towards JJ to the PS and Lefty getting cut. Good fight though.

#2 runner (no Mendy): You need two guys you trust carrying the ball, but being a reserve they have to bring other value as well. Dwyer Batch and Rainey are the dogs in this fight, and I think we could see Dwyer out if the Coaches trust both Batch and Rainey running with the ball. We don't keep four RB's and a FB, that's too many spots. Someone has to go. Dwyer really only brings his running game, Batch does everything and Rainey is staying on the roster, he's just in too many of these fights to lose them all.

5th WR (4th no Wallace): There are plenty of WR fights going on, Sanders and Cotchery for snaps is a good one to watch, but the top four of Brown, Wallace, Cotchery and Sanders are going to make it. (unless Wallace loses his spot) The next spot is a great battle. Maze looks great but is tiny and doesn't bring much that isn't already on the team, he needs a big Preseason to make the 53. Clemons has height and big play ability but he has to show he's more Nate Washington than Limas Sweed. Derrick Williams is getting another shot to show he can contribute in the NFL, and he's looking good in camp, it will be interesting to see how this turns out. The wild card here is if Dwyer is super impressive at RB but we still need Batch for 3rd down and Rainey shows he can play WR as well we could see 5 backs and 4 receivers. A small chance, but a possibility.

** Rainey affects the WR fight in a serious way. Normally the #5 receiver is your kick returner, but if Rainey wins that and is a receiving threat he changes the game. I think if we see him getting snaps as a WR Clemons chances go way up, the Maze/Williams/Rainey skill set isn't much different, but then a 5 WR set with Wallace, Brown, Sanders Maze and Rainey would be so much speed, it would be ridiculous.

#2 TE, FB (#3TE?)(no Saunders): This is an interesting situation. We have an actual FB position on this roster now, but the two guys up for the job are 6'2" and can play TE. How well may mean a lot. If Paulson is a receiving weapon but a blocking liability, and WJ is our best FB but ends up stinking at TE you don't take both, you need a 2nd TE that can block while Saunders is out. Once Saunders is back I think it is an easy choice, but until then we need options, and the fight between Paulson, McCoy, and Pope could be affected by the Johnson battle for FB. Or both FB's could be fine as a third TE and McCoy or Pope could block and catch passes and make this an easy choice for the Coaches.

#2 Center: With Tackle and starting lineman position stability being off season focuses, we have 6 spots tied up with little reserve power. Adams, Starks, Gilbert, DeCastro, Colon, Pouncey all make this roster. That leaves two spots for back-ups for the interior spots and likely RT as well (although I'm sure Max could handle it if they want him to) Center snaps after Pouncey will tell us a lot in the preseason about Legursky's chances. If others are getting a lot of chances to take that job Legs is likely on the way out. If he still is the clear #2 Center then he's not going anywhere. You don't mess around with guys who handle the ball that much. Essex should make it because he plays everywhere good enough. Beachum has a shot to make it if he or Essex can take Center from Legs. Otherwise this should be the most boring preseason for OL positions ever. (Please)

4th DE: Keisel, Hood and Heyward are locks. They will rotate a lot and I think you will see a 3-man rotation at DE for most of the snaps. A third starter at DE replaces 2 backups. Before Snack is ready one of the other ends will get a hat, that fight alone should be worth watching. After he comes back what the Steelers do could be interesting. If Ta'amu gets DE snaps we could be looking at 3DE's and 3NT's for our 6 DL, if he gets a lot of NT snaps and does really well and Woods (or other guy) warrants a roster spot with a big preseason we could have a big decision on whether to even keep Snack. Think about it, if Ta'amu and McClendon are fine at NT, and we get a fourth DE playing well who do you cut for Snack, and if you want him can you justify three deep for NT? That's two roster spots for guys who won't play much at all. That's why I think DE snaps for Ta'amu are key to our DL.

OLB: Robinson vs. Worilds should be a fight to watch, Robinson has impressed so far, his camp is exactly what you want for a LB in our system. If he keeps it going in Pre-season he could win a hat. Worilds has never been as good as he needs to be, and he's hurt a bunch. Worilds is still the favorite, but Robinson is a valid Darkhorse to win a spot on 53 and a hat on gameday. His ST play will be big as well, as LB depth is so valuable on ST.

ILB: Spence vs. the Steelers defense: Can a rookie win the starting job? I think Spence has the best chance of anyone since Bell to do it. Rookies don't start in LeBeau's defense because it's tough to be ready to start, not because we won't do it. If Spence can keep showing his knack to find the ball quick and read plays accurately and Timmons can handle playing the Buck role Foote could be out. The fact that we are talking about the evolution of the ILB Roles is due to Spence. LeBeau caters his defense to the players he has, and this year our top two ILB's may not include a true Buck LB. No problem for the Steelers, we have LB coach Butler, Dad, and Tomlin, that's three men with impressive defensive minds to figure out the solution.

CB pecking order: I think our top 5 are kind of locked in. Taylor, Lewis, Allen, Brown, Frederick seem set to make the team, just because there isn't any real competition for their jobs. The order among the five is up for grabs still, but even that looks to be sorting out in the order I listed them. Preseason action might tell a different story than training camp, but like the OL CB might be a boring preseason this year.

Safety: Three are set, CLark Mundy and Troy. DCS, Rolle and Allen have one spot to fight for, maybe two for week one. I think DCS makes it as Tomlin's era is seeing athletes winning more than not.

Returner: we have three return specialists on this team, Rainey, Maze, and Williams. The fight here effects the other fights, as I've already gone into. Maze and Williams are going to get hats for returning kicks, and they know it. With them splitting returns and their NFL future riding on results, expect some aggressiveness in preseason returns. If nothing else it should be exciting to watch.

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