You know what they say about opinions: they're like...well, you know.
Of course, I've got mine too, so here are my projected 53 once Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and company finish swinging the axe. One round of cuts has come and gone; 22 more heads still need to roll. Figuratively speaking.
Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones - Nothing to see here. There is no longer any question who will be number three after the release of John Parker WIlson. Expect Landry to see at least a half, though; Gradkowski is a known commodity and just needs a quarter or so of tuning up.
Runningback (5): Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer, LaRod Stephens-Howlings, Felix Jones, Will Johnson - I was a big fan of Baron Batch. Maybe too much, because he seems like the kind of guy you would have over to watch the game. Sadly, it looks like someone will do just that, as he has been released. I'm betting Isaac Redman follows, because while he has been out due to injury, Jonathan Dwyer has been showing signs that he could still be that high-round draft pick he was once supposed to be. With two big backs in Bell and Dwyer, Redman again proves to be the odd man out, because the team may want to have another speed guy available to fill in for Stephens-Howlings if needed.
Wide Receiver (6): Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton, Jerricho Cotchery, Derek Moye, Reggie Dunn - Moye was less than impressive, then pretty solid, through two games. Then, in game three, he channeled some odd cobination of Plaxico Burress's size and Antonio Brown's elusiveness and became a bit of a monster. That performance probably bumped him above Justin Brown, who has been solid but not spectacular. The cuts of J.D. Woods, Tyler Shaw and David Gilreath -- who was never able to rekindle the magic he found last year -- make this a three-horse race for one and maybe two spots. I'm counting on two, because the only other player who makes my 53 with any real ability as a returner is also the team's number-one receiver. Mike Tomlin won't take that risk, and so Isaac Redman becomes my sacrificial lamb in order to get Reggie "I Have To Get On the Field On Offense Before I Can Get a Target" Dunn on the roster. Dunn is electrifying, and likely would have broken one against the Chiefs if he hadn't been so fast that he outran his wall.
Tight End (3 + Heath Miller PUP): David Johnson, David Paulson, Jamie McCoy - Miller starts on PUP, making Johnson the top dog for a while. Paulson is going to be a lot of fun in two-tight sets on the left side, and McCoy makes it over Michael Palmer because of familiarity with the team. Neither have stood out much, at least not by my eyes.
Offensive Line (8): Mike Adams (T), Kelvin Beachum (T/G), Marcus Gilbert (T), David DeCastro (G), Ramon Foster (G/T), John Malecki (G/C), Markice Pouncey (C), Joe Madsen (C) - Lack of a kick returner who can truly break one without Reggie Dunn is sort of half of why the team is carrying just eight offensive linemen. The other reason is the versatility of Kelvin Beachum and John Malecki, who have surprised this pre-season. Beachum, originally a guard last year, has shown his true worth at tackle and has taken first-team reps on both sides, despite being a mere seventh-round pick. His flexibility, though, means the team can keep the best remaining lineman available rather than picking someone at a specific position just to ensure depth. Who that will be is anyone's guess, but being somewhat thin at center makes me lean toward Joe Madsen.
Defensive Line (7): Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward, Al Woods, Brian Arnfelt, Alameda Ta'amu - The starting defensive line is set -- for now. But if Al Woods continues his ascension, he could find himself taking over if Ziggy Hood continues to underwhelm. Heyward showed signs of life as the number-one backup on the right side against the Chiefs, with one prominent site giving him the highest grade -- on the team. Expect to see every one of these guys see significant time on the field this year, too, for two reasons: 1) behind McLendon, Kiesel and -- to a lesser extent -- Hood, there is a very muddled bench with a lot of talent; and 2) these are the defense's "big uglies" and they all need their beauty rest.
Linebacker (9 + Sean Spence PUP): LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, Alan Baxter, Marshall McFadden, Vince Williams, Brian Rolle - Spence, miraculously, will start the season on the PUP list. I doubt he so much as dresses this year, but it's a psychological boost for a guy who probably could use one. But signs look good that he will return in 2014 at the latest, so Larry Foote is back for another year. Jarvis Jones has been all a first-round OLB rookie can be for the Steelers, and then some, possibly unseating Jason Worilds as the starter come week one. Unreal. And speaking of unreal, that's how I would describe the intensity of the battle between McFadden, Rolle and Williams. Kion Wilson is the odd one out. Stevenson Sylvester, once thought to be the heir-apparent to James Farrior before his retirement, was cut on Sunday.
Note: In a fit of insanity (actually, a mere oversight, but "insanity" was more fun) I left Jason Worilds off and rounded out the list with Chris Carter. That has been remedied. Oops!
Cornerback (5): Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Curtis Brown, Terry Hawthorne - It's fun to watch the Steelers' secondary right now, because there is a ton of talent here. Curtis Brown is good enough to make it, and Terry Hawthorne is a guy a lot of people are hoping will blossom. Taylor and Allen are unchallenged as starters, and William Gay is likely to be the nickel back -- for a little while, at least. Expect to see...
Safety (4): Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden - ...Shamarko "Sharknado" Thomas slip in as the fifth or possibly sixth defensive back with some regularity this year. The kid is like a .50-caliber bullet on the field and has already made some impact plays. Quite literally. And Robert Golden? We may be looking at Troy Polamalu's eventual replacement. He has a nose for the ball and would have had a pick-six this pre-season. If only he could catch. If only.
Special Teams (3): Shaun Suisham, Drew Butler, Greg Warren - Butler is getting a good push from Brian Moorman, but Moorman is on the downside of his career and has no upside. Butler may have a bit of a shank now and then, but he has room for growth and has already looked better than he did in 2012. The rest of the guys who play on special teams have a lot of work to do, given two blocked kicks and a return TD surrendered in just three games. God forbid this carries over to the regular season.
But if the offense and defense live up to the levels of talent available, a few special-teams gaffes might be acceptable.