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Agree or Disagree? Analyzing NFL Network’s 2019 Steelers roster prediction

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Taking a look at an offseason starting roster projection, and looking for flaws.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

‘Tis the season for everyone to try and look into their crystal ball and see who will be players, and pretenders, when it comes to any NFL team’s roster. The 2019 NFL Draft is over, and while teams are still rounding out their roster’s after minicamp and Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the starter projections should be safe, barring injury.

Recently, NFL.com’s writer Gregg Rosenthal took a stab at predicting every NFL team’s starting roster, and gave some reasoning behind his decisions below the roster. What I planned to do is to look at the roster, as well as his summation, and say whether I agree, or disagree, with his sentiments.

First, let’s take a look at the roster:

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Offense

QB: Ben Roethlisberger

RB: James Conner

WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster

WR: Donte Moncrief

WR: Diontae Johnson

TE: Vance McDonald

LT: Alejandro Villanueva

LG: Ramon Foster

C: Maurkice Pouncey

RG: David DeCastro

RT: Matt Feiler

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • I just don’t see Diontae Johnson as the Day 1 starter opposite Smith-Schuster or Moncrief. I’ll go with James Washington in that spot.
  • While Feiler is the leader in the clubhouse for the RT position, I wouldn’t rule out Chukwuma Okorafor. The second year tackle could be in for big things this offseason.

Defense

DE: Cam Heyward

DE: Stephon Tuitt

OLB: T.J. Watt

ILB: Devin Bush

ILB: Vince Williams

OLB: Bud Dupree

CB: Joe Haden

CB: Steven Nelson

CB: Mike Hilton

S: Sean Davis

S: Terrell Edmunds

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • I actually agree with this defensive prediction. I like Bush starting from Week 1 on, and I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory.

» The wide receiver depth chart will not shake out until training camp. I’m giving Moncrief the slight early edge over second-year pro James Washington as the second starting receiver on the outside. The Steelers have a great track record developing wideouts, so a Year 2 leap from Washington wouldn’t surprise anyone, but Moncrief is getting paid $5 million this season.

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • I agree that Moncrief will get every opportunity to come in and start, but I foresee a big change in Washington in Year 2. A big enough change that the Steelers’ top WRs will be Smith-Schuster, Moncrief and Washington for the vast majority of the season.

» It’d make sense for third-round pick Diontae Johnson to get snaps in the slot. The Steelers still have Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers on the roster, so the post-Antonio Brown depth chart isn’t that thin.

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • I agree the depth chart isn’t as thing as many make you believe, but at the same time we shouldn’t pigeon hole Johnson as nothing more than a slot receiver. Like Brown, he is capable of playing both positions.

» Early chatter from GM Kevin Colbert indicates the Steelers don’t want James Conner to carry as heavy a load this year as he did in 2018. They invested a fourth-round pick in Benny Snell Jr., who will battle Jaylen Samuels for the backup job.

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • While the thought of Conner getting some rest sounds great, I’ve seen this movie too often to think otherwise. Conner will be the feature back, and just like Le’Veon Bell before him, don’t expect him to leave the field much. Even when DeAngelo Williams was with the team, Bell hardly ever left the field when healthy. I expect more of the same for Conner this year.

» The departure of offensive line coach Mike Munchak cannot be overlooked, but one of the league’s best units returns intact. Feiler quietly started 10 games last year and held his own, although he is the only one here without his starting job guaranteed.

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • As stated earlier, I think this job is Feiler’s to lose, and less of an open competition, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance someone unseats Feiler for the only spot on the offensive line.

» The Steelers didn’t trade up for Devin Bush at No. 10 to not have him starting Week 1. Vince Williams and free-agent pickup Mark Barron figure to compete for snaps next to Bush, possibly getting taken off the field on passing downs.

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • Agree 100% on this, and feel it will be Williams, not Barron, who will lose snaps in the Steelers’ sub-package heavy defensive system.

» I listed excellent slot cornerback Mike Hilton over excellent nose tackle Javon Hargrave as the 11th starter, because the slot corner position should get more snaps.

AGREE/DISAGREE:

  • While in theory this is true, if 2018 is any indication of the trajectory with both players, Hargrave should be seeing more time. His 6.5 sacks were a huge surprise, while Hilton was essentially replaced by the end of the season with Cameron Sutton as the slot cornerback. I expect a bounce back season from Hilton this year, and don’t be shocked if Hargrave finds his niche even in subpackages to improve upon his sack total in 2019.

Rosenthal sums up the Steelers’ roster well in the below paragraph:

Biggest change from a year ago: Performing this exercise, it’s striking how the Steelers have enviable continuity, Antonio Brown aside, from a roster that went toe to toe with the Patriots and Saints (beating the former) in late December. This is not a franchise in retreat.

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What do you think of his predictions? Do you agree with my assessment? Let us know in the comment section below!