Projecting the Steelers 53-man roster following loss to Giants in first week of preseason

Justin K. Aller

Tracking the standings of players involved in positional battles after playing one preseason game. Some players gained ground, others gave it up. Some have none left to give.

The Pittsburgh Steelers only lost one preseason game Saturday night against the New York Giants, but a few players may have also lost their jobs.

Based on performances, here is a quick glance at where players stand in their roster battles based on the view of the entire roster.  This is not a prediction as injuries could change the landscape at any moment, simply a seeding of the competitors.

Offense - 25 players

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones

Jones will continue to be the third as long as John Parker Wilson continues to exhibit similar patheticism.  For every good moment - like Wilson starting the final offensive drive 4 for 4 with 35 yards - there is another to negate it, like Jones's first snap as a quarterback in the NFL which resulted in a safety.  Jones has the draft pick adding weight to his side of the scale, and Wilson may not be able to anything more than just balance the equation.

RB: Le'Veon Bell, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Jonathan Dwyer

The world will have to wait another week to see Bell in action, but his roster spot is not in question.  Stephens-Howling was the best rusher of the night, proving a perfect compliment to the outside zone blocking scheme.  Redman only got two carries, but his limitation could be a sign of Dwyer having more to prove than Redman.  Baron Batch looks like he's nearing the exit, especially with roster spots needed elsewhere for health reasons.  His part in the safety surely doesn't help his cause.

FB: Will Johnson  TE: (Heath Miller), David Paulson, Jaime McCoy, Michael Palmer

Johnson drew two targets early in the game and converted both for first downs.  Paulson showed signs of growth, but he still needs to work on his blocking to reach Miller's status.  Speaking of Miller's status, he's still on PUP but improving every day.  Chances are the Steelers will leave him on PUP until Week 6 of the regular season, or IR him with designation for return which allows him to return in Week 8.  The roster exemption from either will make room for Palmer in his absence.  Palmer gets the nod because he is the only other TE on the roster with real NFL experience.

WR: Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Reggie Dunn

Wheaton will push for the third spot by the end of the preseason.  He is still learning the offense, but once he has it under wraps, he be able to just play.  With Plaxico Burress out, Justin Brown is looking to fill the 'big' receiver role.  He gets the nod for his three catches on Saturday.  Dunn will wind up winning the hearts of the Steelers organization by the start of the season, and he will be the specialist (see Chris Rainey).  He pulled in a sliding catch against the Giants, as he tries to prove he can be an offensive asset as well.

OT: Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, Joe Long
OG: Ramon Foster, David DeCastro
C: Maurkice Pouncey, John Malecki

Malecki was far from perfect at center on Saturday, but he can work on his problems with shotgun snaps through the rest of the preseason.  Joe Madsen is the only other center on the roster, and he has lofted a few snaps of his own.  Malecki holds his spot through his NFL experience.  Beachum will be backing up all five positions.  Long represents the reserve tackle the Steelers need in case they lose one to injury.  Whimper and Batiste are not impressing anyone, and Mike Golic Jr. is now a guard.

Defense - 25 players

LE: Ziggy Hood, Al Woods
RE: Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward
NT: Steve McLendon, Hebron Fangupo

Fangupo continues to look like an upgrade over Alameda Ta'amu at nose tackle.  Nicholas Williams is in the hunt for a roster spot as well, but missing game one to injury limits his chances to impress.

LOLB: LaMarr Woodley, Adrian Robinson
ROLB: Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones
ILB:Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote
ILB: Marshall McFadden, Vince Williams, Stevenson Sylvester

Just as most had begun to write off Robinson, he scored the Steelers only TD of the game by falling on a loose ball.  Tomlin is looking for opportunistic players.  Robinson may get out of the coach's doghouse yet.  Sylvester's ankle injury isn't expected to be serious, and his experience combined with positional flexibility will help him against Brian Rolle; but if Sylvester can't stay healthy, Rolle will be first in line for his spot.  V. Williams is probably a gameday inactive like Robinson was in 2012.

CB: Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Curtis Brown, Terry Hawthorne

The Steelers have a tough decision to make in this department, one made even more difficult with Brown, Hawthorne and DeMarcus Van Dyke still out with injury.  Isaiah Green and Josh Victorian are still trying to settle who is better, but their performance can't be compared to half of their competitors.  The Steelers could consider using their IR return designation on Hawthorne if he will continue to miss practice time.  If so, then Victorian probably holds the edge over Green for the roster spot, because Victorian has experience in the system and Green is still practice squad eligible.

FS: Ryan Clark, Robert Golden
SS: Troy Polamalu, Shamarko Thomas, Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith

Cromartie-Smith missed his blocking assignment on the Drew Butler punt which was blocked, but he took the lion's share of the snaps after Polamalu sat for the night.  Thomas spent his time playing the slot defensive back in nickel packages.  Golden almost snatched an interception, but Cromartie-Smith's experience may become necessary, even if he is inactive on gamedays to keep him off the punt protection unit.

K: Shaun Suisham
P: Brian Moorman
LS: Greg Warren

Moorman has been getting better hang time, and Drew Butler already has a block on his preseason record.  This battle will go down to the wire, and Butler may wind up the victor; but for now Moorman takes the lead.

(GAMEDAY INACTIVES: QB-Jones, RB-Dwyer, WR-J.Brown, OT-Long, ILB-Williams, CB Hawthorne, SS-Cromartie-Smith)

Practice Squad - 8 players
  1. RB Alvester Alexander - The only back on the roster with practice squad eligibility.
  2. WR Derek Moye - Grabbed two passes Saturday night. Big and Tall WR project.
  3. WR J.D. Woods - Made a great catch as offense made last drive for win.
  4. OG Mike Golic Jr. - Student of the game who needs a year of NFL strength training.
  5. OT Mike Farrell - No worse than Whimper and Batiste. Could also use NFL strength.
  6. DE Nicholas Williams - Williams must beat out Brian Arnfelt for squad spot.
  7. LB Alan Baxter - Another player needing NFL bulk, but showing explosiveness.
  8. DB Isaiah Green - The best defensive back with squad eligibility left.

These rankings are subject to change with each passing practice and three remaining preseason games.  Injuries will continue to affect roster decisions, and more transactions are on the way.

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