Staring for the 2014 season I put out my 53 man roster (projected) four times. This year I will do so prior to each Pre-Season game with one before the roster is chopped from 75 to 53. They started July 27, 2015 with 1.0, continued on August 10, 2015 with 2.0, August 21, 2015 with 3.0, and will push along today with edition 4.0 of 6.0. It should be noted that an unnamed ESPN "Insider" hasn't yet put out an update from his 1.0 edition so let's give Behind the Steel Curtain a try now.
QB (3) Roethlisberger, Gradkowski, and L. Jones
1.0-- Burning Question: Do the Steelers carry three quarterbacks if they don't see growth from Jones in a bubble year? With roster spots at a premium and the general lack of need for a third QB in the Haley offense, which protects the starter from injury prone situations--hits, Jones is the only third QB who can crack the 53. If Boyd wins that job it will be from the practice squad. I wouldn't rule out Jones landing there if he were to take a step or two back in the "friendly" games played assuming he cleared waivers.
2.0-- After first game: Jones played the entire Hall of Fame Game at "QB" and showed he can get the ball out of his hands quickly and make correct reads. He has never played, entering his third season, with any of the first team so actual statistics are much less important than the facts above. Jones showed he has improved and understands our system. He will keep his spot on the 53 man as our backup if he continues to show he understands his role as QB2/3 is not to win games but rather not lose them if put in a situation to see on-field action.
3.0-- It is official Landry Jones is on the 53 man roster and the Steelers couldn't be happier; release of Boyd proves this.
4.0-- Jones has a solid grasp on a roster spot and has made all of the progressions he could have been expected to make by his third camp. There is still a chance that Jones jumps Gradkowski for QB2 this season. Gradkowski injury minor.
RB (4) Bell, D. Williams, Harris, and Archer
1.0-- With Bell missing two games as it stands now the Steelers will be afforded the luxury of an extra Running Back to start the season if they chose to carry only three down the stretch. While a rookie could seem to be a logical favorite to make the team in the short term; while Bell is gone--Harris still likely wins that job because of what he did in Latrobe last camp and because Archer is still a wildcard running the football--don't get me wrong dynamic with the ball but not a runner without open field in front of him. A lot of being able to carry only three backs this year has to do with Archers continued development so that should be monitored closely in camp as it has some impact on the WR/TE spots available on the 53. It is a tall task to gain size, patience running with the ball in your hand, and pass protection in the same off-season but unless Archer becomes better at all three he is nothing more than a WR/return man lining up in the backfield.
2.0-- After the first game it is clear Archer still couldn't be asked to run in typical run first situations and Stingily didn't overwhelm, something he will need to do if he is to win the last spot, number 54, on the 53.
3.0-- Stingily has been waived injured and settled so his days in the Steelers organization are done, forever. Since the last update it is clear Harris--if healthy makes the team without being the extra player kept with the Bell exemption. The Steelers will carry four RBs and it is possible that Harris jumps Archer on the depth chart before long. He is another player the Steelers really like.
4.0-- I am not sure the extent of Josh Harris' injury but it isn't going out on a limb to say, if healthy, he makes the 53. If he doesn't play in BUF and the other running backs; behind Bell and Williams, don't play well enough to stand out this could come down to waivers after cut downs are complete.
FB (1) W. Johnson
1.0 and 2.0-- Johnson keeps his spot and job because he is not only a serviceable blocker but in a pinch he is an adequate short yardage back.
3.0-- The above is even more important as the Steelers will be keeping an extra ST player with spot 54 that they receive for two weeks with Bell suspended.
4.0-- Even more so if Harris injury is lasting and waivers/roster provides no additional depth.
TE (3) Miller, Spaeth, and James (R)
1.0-- My hunch is that Steelers wind up carrying 24 offensive and 26 defensive players on 53. I think only eight offensive lineman and play of players mentioned above determines if four at this position are possible. Miller and Spaeth are both in twilight of careers and I will stop just short of calling James and Blanchflower a "poor man's" Miller and Spaeth.
2.0-- I know James had as bad a first game wearing black and gold as any player in recent memory but he is a lock for the 53.
3.0 and 4.0-- It became clear before Blanchflower was waived injured that the Steelers would only be able to carry three tight ends. The play of a player like Tyler Murphy and need to carry extra ST WR, so Coats can be red-shirted with need to carry both three quarterbacks and four running backs makes this a certainty. The team will also need to trim down at LB from ten to nine to balance the offense and defense; 25 on each side of ball is likely.
WR (6) Brown, Bryant, Wheaton, Heyward-Bey, Nelson*, Coates (R), and Murphy (R)
1.0-- Heyward-Bey is on the bubble here. He isn't a WR by anything more than his number and position designation for the Steelers. Heyward-Bey makes his money on special teams in a way similar to Sean Morey a decade ago. The only real reason I see him earning a spot in the 53 is the Steelers depth among non WR receivers. The Steelers have Miller and three half-backs who are very strong in the "can catch the ball" department.
2.0-- No changes
3.0-- While it now looks like the Steelers will carry six receivers so they can sit Coates early like they did Bryant in 2014. They are showing they want Heyward-Bey to get more chances at WR and that they like Murphy as an offensive "weapon" so while given the roster exemption for Bell weeks one and two I expect them to keep Nelson; a true special teamer. This will change if his shoulder is serious and could then allow the team to carry a ninth offensive lineman, seventh defensive lineman, or tenth linebacker on the 53--at least for a couple of weeks. At times injuries have a way of working this kind of thing out past two weeks when Bell is back active.
4.0-- We really need to know: the extent of Nelson injury, how much they favor Heyward-Bey as a short term WR4 over Coates, and if Murphy has done enough to take a roster spot away from someone else. I think he has.
Note: If Nelson is healthy and on 53 week one I would not be the least surprised if both Coates and Murphy are inactive barring a QB or WR injury.
OT (3) Beachum, Gilbert, Villanueva, and Adams (PUP)
1.0 and 2.0-- If it ain't broke don't fix it--nothing more to say unless Adams starts the regular season on PUP or R-IR. If that is the case one can be made for Villanueva to make the 53.
3.0-- Adams has past the time where he can be active and ready for week one. I am now projecting him to start the year on PUP and possibly be transferred to R-IR if the team thinks he can help but won't be ready until past third of season.
4.0-- With recallable IR likely needed for Pouncey I don't see anything except PUP and IR as options for Adams.
OG (3) Foster, DeCastro, and Hubbard
OC (2) Wallace, Finney (R), and Pouncey (r-IR)
1.0 and 2.0-- Whimpey is listed as a tackle but projects as a guard and really is just my favorite of the group vying for the final spot on the offensive line. His upside is huge; at least until his actual potential is realized. Nothing has changed here after the HOF Game...except Finney looks good. I haven't seen enough of the others to gauge how that effects my 53.
3.0-- Finney is now a lock to make the 53 as the fifth interior offensive lineman. He is mostly considered a backup center. For this reason I list Wallace as a guard but really can lump the guards and centers together as I kind of did with my notes. Make no mistake all five are a lock to make the final roster barring injury.
4.0-- With Pouncey going to r-IR or IR both B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard make the 53 as interior backups.
DE (4) Heyward, Tuitt, C. Thomas, Kruger, and Geathers (IR-season ending)
NT (2) McLendon and McCullers
1.0-- The Steelers most interesting position battles must be on the down-line where depth isn't exactly plentiful but versatility is. This is my best guess at our defensive line before contact drills. I have McCullers winning the starting job at NT allowing McLendon to serve as fourth DL-man and the others keeping roster spots warm. Thomas, Geathers, and Thornton are all on bubble but not much behind them to speak of.
2.0-- After the HOF Game I look at the defensive scheme much more differently. The front three are going to be less stressed by the zone coverages and substituting or revolving fresh bodies in at both the second and third level of our defense takes priority so we only carry six on down line to be afforded ability to carry ten linebackers and ten defensive backs. It is also less important that McCullers wins NT job over McLendon if we continue to use zones so much on defense.
3.0-- Given the way the Steelers are using Thomas as backup NT I will say confidently that McLendon is the NT with Heyward and Tuitt at the ends. Thomas will serve as the fourth lineman playing backup to all three positions allowing McCullers to be used sparingly, at least early on, and Kruger to make the cut.
4.0-- Unless the injury to Tuitt is serious nothing changes. If it is serious nothing has been shown to this point that suggests we would have another serious contender in camp for the 53 but Cam Thomas probably would be tabbed to start.
OLB (4) J. Jones, Harrison, Moats, and Dupree (R)
MLB (5) Timmons, Shazier, V. Williams, Spence, and Garvin
1.0-- The Steelers have 14 Linebackers at camp and no way to keep more than nine or ten of them. While I like H. Jones and Zumwalt for what they showed last year at camp Garvin is my bubble LB here and he makes the team if only six are kept on the down-line barring injury. A combination of high draft picks, production, and guaranteed money make this group easy to project.
2.0-- Lemon released and some clarity on down line tells me ten are kept; no major changes.
3.0-- Boy was I wrong. This group has not been easy to project. Some things are now known. Based on how the offense is being built the defense will not have 26 spots but 25. While only six down lineman are kept only nine linebackers are kept so that the secondary settles at ten. Release of injured Zumwalt settles the middle because behind Timmons and Shazier Williams and Garvin have made remarkable improvements. Without question middle linebacker is our deepest position. Dupree isn't going to be asked to do much this year so is better to settle into a rotation of Jones, Harrison, and Moats early and often, especially early on.
4.0-- Dupree will have his moments; good and bad this season but I stick to earlier opinion that the veterans get lions share of snaps this season, all three of them.
CB (5) Gay, Boykin, C. Allen, Blake, Grant (R), and Golson (R)(IR)
1.0-- As long as Blake can build on 2014 and C. Allen can forget about it, the loss of Taylor and McCain shouldn't be felt. Team didn't bring many true corners to camp because I think they know what they have and barring injury it is about making sure they jell early in the season rather than later in it. Webb is on the bubble but team would have to value him above both Heyward-Bey and Golden to make the team as a special teamer.
2.0-- Once Steelers traded for Boykin it removed a lot of pressure from both C. Allen and Blake who now slot in behind Gay and Boykin. The Boykin trade also lessens blow of having Golson land PUP and soon to be season-ending IR so early into his first camp.
3.0 I like Kevin Fogg quite a bit and now know completely that Webb doesn't make the 53 or the PS. That spot will go to Fogg in what most certainly is a numbers game. It is now him who is competing with a healthy David Nelson or Robert Golden for one of the final spots reserved for special teams players.
4.0-- Once Golson had surgery any chance of him playing in 2015 were squashed. Once Pouncey got hurt and r-IR became a non-option so did an extended stay on PUP. Expect Golson to be placed on IR at cut down to 53 or prior to first game at NE.
Safety (5) Mitchell, S. Thomas, W. Allen, Holliman (R), and Golden
1.0-- Mitchell and S. Thomas have such a similar skill set that the Steelers are likely forced to keep Holliman since of all the safeties in camp not named W. Allen he is most likely to project as a true CF safety. The vast majority of safeties at camp are the "in the box" variety.
2.0-- Holliman is getting a lot of reps in camp which has to be a positive. I am less worried about the lack of true deep (CF) safeties in the zone schemes. If the field was cut in half vertically a mirror image may not be a bad thing. If any part of our defense will be different it will be the secondary that most looks like a version of the "Tampa2" finally.
3.0-- We will know early on in the regular season if Mitchell and Thomas will work or not. If they don't it will become Mitchell and Allen like toward the end of last season. Holliman is a lock to make the 53 and Golden is as well barring an issue at a different position just not allowing it. Holliman is above Golden on the depth chart.
4.0-- I think Holliman and Golden are both locks to make the 53 but some would surely like the likes of Dangerfield or Darby instead. Holliman has highest ceiling and Golden is a ST ACE; end of discussion.
Base ST (3)
K-Suisham (IR-season ending)
1.0-- I'm not convinced Wing is our punter since the easiest way to help a defense is by having a solid punter.
2.0-- Only change here after one game is that we likely have no kicker or punter in camp who makes the 53. It is likely that waivers acquire both when final cuts are made.
3.0-- Hartley could very well make the 53 but if a better option becomes available the team has no allegiances to him. Wing has shown he will likely average toward the bottom of the league in punter efficiency so still I believe we go waivers to get our punter within a week of our first game. Sepulveda is still in Pittsburgh area and from my understanding in game shape. I know he couldn't stay healthy but is likely a nice option the team would never entertain.
4.0-- I am of the opinion that Hartley has shown enough and that kicking at Heinz Field may have gotten a bit easier for the future. I am also of the opinion that Jordan Berry has stolen the punting job out from under Brad Wing. This is the first edition that reflects this.
1. Chickillo (LB)
2. Walton (DE)
3. Dangerfield (S)
4. Fogg (CB)
5. Nix (FB)
6. Whimpley (OG)
7. Wild (S/LB)
8. Thornton (NT)
9. Green (LB)
10. Phillips (WR)
Adjusted for 3.0 this is the group of players I would want to make up our PS. I don't think half of them clear waivers and understand other players around the league who are cut could wind up as better options for us when the dust settles. This is my best crack at building a PS with players on our roster as of 8/24.