With the preseason officially over, a majority of the roster spots for the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers are spoken for. Back in April during the 2019 Draft in Nashville, there was tons of excitement and anticipation regarding the nine, newly-minted Steelers. After a month of training camp and four exhibition games, the fate of the nine is soon to be decided. BTSC has ranked those players and where they are trending.
Let’s take a look...
1) Devin Bush
Bush continues to hold firm as the gem of the 2019 draft class. He already is showing signs as a leader on defense and could be well on his way to Steeler super stardom. While he still has learning to do on the professional level, the Michigan Wolverine is as advertised so far with 17 tackles in parts of three contests. At this point, he probably can’t trend any higher in this particular category and stands firm in the No. 1 position.
2) Ulysses Gilbert III
Guys like Gilbert are why you go to camp. After being drafted in the sixth round, he was projected as a Practice Squad guy by most. Somebody forgot to tell No. 54. While he’s still not a lock to make the team, Gilbert became a darling of Steeler Nation with 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks and a blocked extra point against Carolina. It depends upon how well the numbers shake out, but Gilbert has a good chance of making the 53.
3) Diontae Johnson
Nobody is expecting Johnson to be Antonio Brown, however he has shown some signs of brilliance in that one game against KC. He started off his career with a muffed punt that he luckily got back, but then exploded with four catches for 58 yards and a TD. Another was called back on a questionable offensive PI penalty. Johnson doesn’t need to have a blockbuster freshman season in the NFL, just a promising one.
4) Isaiah Buggs
The leading sacker from the juggernaut Crimson Tide has nine tackles and a half-of-a-sack in the Preseason. He was one of the few bright lights against Carolina and adds youth and promise to a fine and graying defensive line.
5) Justin Layne
Layne has played a bunch this season, which is a good thing. He hasn’t lit the world on fire, which is disconcerting. However, the Steelers played the Michigan State Spartan, a press corner, off the ball a lot against Tampa. That wasn’t the case when he was burned badly for a score in Carolina though. Reports say he was injured right before that play. Layne is going to have growing pains, but he’s in the good position of not having to be pressed into action as a starter. If Steeler Nation is patient, that virtue will could very well pay off.
6) Sutton Smith
There was a lot of ballyhoo and hype surrounding the selection of Smith, who had 30 sacks in three years of college. Smith spent most of the preseason injured and was mostly anonymous in the one game that he played matched up opposite Taylor Lewan in Tennessee. He had a half-of-a-sack and two more tackles against Carolina and showed signs of life though. The Steelers experimented with Smith at fullback as well, but his lack of opportunities to prove himself make it hard to keep him over a guy like Tuzar Skipper. If they could stash Smith on the PS and continue this experiment later, Sutton could find redemption.
7) Zach Gentry
Gentry has great size and had a tremendous TD grab in Week 1 of the exhibition season at home vs. Tampa Bay. But overall, he has been just okay with five catches on eight targets for 33 yards and two first downs. No. 81 has been labeled a project since his being drafted in Round 5 out of Michigan, but with an overwhelming lack of depth at TE...this project needs to be suitable to be fast tracked.
8) Benny Snell Jr.
Benny Snell Jr. came in with great excitement and potential to be the next big thing in Pittsburgh. That was mostly due to a blockbuster college career at Kentucky. Jaylen Samuel has been lights out in the exhibition contests and is clearly the RB2, while BSJ hasn’t found his footing in the Steel City with an average of 1.9 ypc. Special Teams brilliance and draft status will save him now, but If Snell could get in better football shape...there still the potential of a bright future for Benny Snell Football. However, the production has yet to match the hype.
9) Derwin Gray
Gray hasn’t really done anything of notice in the preseason, except for allowing a couple of sacks. The Steelers would do well to keep him on the PS though and see what transpires.
Note: Gray has already been notified of his release.
Will all nine be linked to the Pittsburgh franchise in some shape or form come Saturday? It’s possible, but not all will land on the 53MR. The fortunes of the above-listed players will be much clearer on Saturday at four. Stay with BTSC for all roster-related news.