With Steve McLendon now signed on a new three year deal what little cap space the Steelers had is that much smaller and you would have to expect the team to have only around $250,000 or less in cap space right now.
I have been trying to work out who currently on the roster will realistically be in the final 53 and therefore what roster spots are still open. With no money to fill these spots via free agency it seems the upcoming draft is the only way left to complete the squad. In years past it has often seemed like there were limited spaces for rookies to be able to get on the final 53 man roster. This year there appears to be more rosters spots available than ever before.
This is not about the players I hope the Steelers will draft but more the positions the Steelers may feel they have to draft to be able to fill a complete roster with viable players. It is a theory on how the front office may chose to deal with the lack of cap space and the need to put together a credible group of 53.
Guarantees in bold, Players on the cusp in italics, unlikely/fringe players in (brackets)
QB - Keep 2 or 3
Roethlisberger, Gradkowski,Wilson. With a healthy back up it it possible that they only keep 2 on the active roster and tuck the third on the practice squad. Is it worth spending a pick on a QB that may not even get beyond the practice squad.
RB- Keep 5
Dwyer, Redman, W.Johnson, Batch. Clearly needs a player so space for a draft pick.
WR - Keep 5, possibly 6
Brown, Sanders, Cotchery, Burress,(Gilreath). Burress is likely to make the 53 although is not guarantee if a draft pick or possible two were brought in that excelled in camp and they chose to keep 5 WR's. Gilreath an outside shot but unlikely. Would need a big camp. Again clearly a space for a draft pick although I doubt more than one.
TE - Keep 3
Miller Inj*, Spaeth, Paulson, D.Johnson. With Johnson likely to be cut when Heath comes off the PUP list. No space for a pick.
OL - Keep 9, possibly 8
Adams, Gilbert, DeCastro, Foster, Pouncey, Beachum,(Joe Long, Justin Cheadle, John Malecki). Malecki probably best outsider with a shot of making final 53. There looks to be 2 or 3 spaces still very much up for grabs to provide any credible depth.
DL - Keep 6 or 7
Hood, Keisel, Heyward, McLendon, Ta'amu, Woods, (Fangupo). Needs at least one more body, another position where a rookie could find a roster spot.
LB - Keep 8
Woodley, Worilds, Timmons, Foote, Sylvester, Spence Inj*, McFadden, Rolle, Robinson, Carter. If fit Spence is in but could also be on PUP or IR to start the year. With plenty of questions among the backups could easily be a space for a draft pick or two on the final roster. McFadden, Rolle and Robinson have all been spoken about in positive terms by the coaching staff and a good chance one or two makes the 53. Space for at least one, maybe two rookies.
DB - Keep 9
Polamalu, Clark, Golden, Taylor, Allen, Gay, Brown,(Victorian, Van Dyke, King, Cromartie-Smith) A Cornerback is not really needed to complete the group, one of the group on the roster already should be able to take the 5th slot. A minimum of one body at Safety is needed, preferably two.
ST - Keep 3
Suisham, Butler, Warren. No space here for a draft pick
So what does all this mean. If the Steelers have their pre camp depth chart up right now despite what I and some other have mocked recently they are in need of a number bodies still across the Oline and Dline. An area I haven't seen mocked that much in drafts. Oline needs at least two bodies, DLine at least one
Quarterback would seem to be a waste of a pick right now as would Cornerback and Tight End in terms of filling out the spaces on the roster.
Running Back and Wide Receiver look like they both need at least one more body each.
Safety needs a least one more body, ideally two.
Spence's health would make a difference to linebacking drafting and if the Steelers have a good feeling about him being able to play then maybe inside linebacker is set for this year and they look to find another body at OLB although in terms of numbers if they like their younger inexperienced players that position could go without too. The number of pre draft visit linebackers cries out that they are drafting at least one though so clearly not all the youngsters inspire them.
Personally I think I need to re-evaluate my mock to take some of these facts into account, especially at Oline which despite the heavy drafting at the position has little to no depth right now. Not even enough to put together a credible group of 8 or 9 right now.
I am now thinking the draft could look something like this. Not in draft order.
1) S 2) RB 3) OL 4) OL 5) DL 6) WR 7) LB 8) S (Although could have one wild pick at CB, QB or extra LB, RB or WR)
If the Steelers were to deviate much from these positions they would still have a lot of spots to fill and be forced to keep a very inexperienced developmental project on the active 53 man roster that probably should be on the practice squad instead. I don't see where the cap space would come from to fill them via free agency. The Steelers may almost be forced to acquire extra picks to enable them to acquire enough extra viable bodies for a complete roster.
What fringe players do you think actually have a real shot of making the final 53 ? Any players highlighted as guarantees you feel might not make the final 53 ?