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Predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 53-man roster: Pre-Training Camp

With 2021 training camp around the corner, it’s time to make our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Minicamp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The kickoff to the 2021 NFL preseason is only two weeks away. With players reporting to training camp, it’s time to give our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster to begin the 2021 season. Until we see players in action during preseason games, it’s difficult to project who the bottom of the roster players will be. Regardless, BTSC editor Dave Scofield and senior editor Jeff Hartman will give their input onto their thoughts of who will make the roster come August 31. Any changes from their first roster prediction in May will be noted.

Just like in 2020, it is still a 53-man roster. While last year some believed the roster was actually increased to 55 players, it was the possible elevation of two practice squad players who were eligible to move up to the roster each week without displacing any other players which had caused some confusion. Not that we’ve had a year to get used to it, hopefully there is no need to explain why it is a 53-man roster.

As always, we welcome you to join the conversation in our comment section below this article. Let your voice be heard and join in the black-and-gold conversation!

Offense


Quarterback (3)

Dave: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs

Changes: None

Analysis: I’m still not moving on from Dobbs until I see what Dwayne Haskins can do in black and gold. If he truly is a “low risk, high reward” guy, it will have to be evident in the preseason.

Jeff: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers might have taken a flier on Haskins, but he also could represent the future of the position. No one thinks Dobbs is the future of the position for the Steelers, in fact, it really comes down to Rudolph and Haskins for that role, who are currently on the roster. Therefore, I see Dobbs as nothing but an insurance policy for training camp/preseason play in case Haskins stinks up the joint.


Running Back (4)

Dave: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels

Changes: None

Analysis: Much like Dwayne Haskins, it will take Kalen Ballage showing what he can do with the Steelers in some game action before I put him ahead of players who were on the roster in 2020.

Jeff: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels

Changes: None

Analysis: Does anyone think Ballage will actually make the team? I don’t.


Fullback (1)

Dave: Derek Watt

Changes: None

Analysis: Move along… still nothing to see here.

Jeff: Derek Watt

Changes: None

Analysis: What he said...


Wide Receiver (5)

Dave: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud

Changes: None

Analysis: The only thing is if they keep and extra receiver this year. If not, the other players are fighting for two or three spots on the practice squad.

Jeff: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud

Changes: None

Analysis: Barring an injury, this is their crew in 2021.


Tight End (3)

Dave: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

Changes: Kevin Rader out, Zach Gentry in

Analysis: Although I like Rader’s special teams contributions more, I think Gentry may get the spot to start the year. If that is the case, I won’t be shocked in Rader is pulled up from the practice squad at some point.

Jeff: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

Changes: None

Analysis: Gentry missed the vast majority of last season with a knee injury, but he was a drafted player. For that reason, and that reason alone, I give him the nod over Rader.


Offensive Line (9)

Dave: Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Trai Turner, B.J. Finney, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr., Rashaad Coward

Changes: David DeCastro out, Trai Turner in

Analysis: The change was obvious as the roster move was made. The biggest questions come at the bottom of the list and if the Steelers want to have more pure guards than have an extra center. I think Coward has the chance to show more of what he can do than Hassenauer.

Jeff: Trai Turner, Zach Banner, Chuks Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, B.J. Finney, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore, J.C. Hassenauer

Changes: David DeCastro out, Trai Turner in

Analysis: The drafting of Green gives the Steelers some depth on the interior of the offensive line, and I just don’t see Rashaad Coward sticking around.

Total Offense: 25


Defense


Defensive Line (6)

Dave: Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiahh Loudermilk

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers may try to find a way to keep more guys here, but it will be tough. I look for Mondeaux to land on the practice squad if he can get there much like last season. Buggs is a tough one to judge as well. Training camp will be big for both of them.

Jeff: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiahh Loudermilk

Changes: None

Analysis: I agree with Dave here, but I think they find a way to keep Buggs, I just haven’t figured out where I would create that roster spot this early in the game.


Outside Linebacker (5)

Dave: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Quincy Roche, Cassius Marsh

Changes: Add Melvin Ingram

Analysis: I think the Steelers try to carry an extra guy on the edge with the addition of Ingram. Marsh brings a lot to special teams and and it’s too early to give up on Roche.

Jeff: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Quincy Roche, Cassius Marsh

Changes: Add Melvin Ingram

Analysis: I don’t necessarily see the Steelers adding Ingram meaning they don’t keep all of their outside linebackers. Marsh, for what he lacks as a edge setting linebacker, is one heck of a special teams player. There is value there.


Inside Linebacker (4)

Dave: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III

Changes: Vince Williams out (retired)

Analysis: If the Steelers keep 5 outside linebackers, then they probably only keep four on the inside. With players like Miles Killebrew who could fill in from the safety position if needed (or listing him here and have him fill in at safety if needed), it’s the most reasonable way to work the numbers at this time. And with Williams’ retirement, there is not an obvious choice to go here at the moment.

Jeff: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III

Changes: Vince Williams out

Analysis: Barring the Steelers bringing in someone like Avery Williams, players like Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert II and Marcus Allen just got a big boost from Vince Williams’ retirement. I don’t have Allen listed as a linebacker, but he’ll be vying for the linebacker/safety role the Steelers like to utilize on their roster.


Cornerback (5)

Dave: Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet

Changes: Shakur Brown out, Arthur Maulet in

Analysis: Until we see them on the field, I have to think they guy with NFL game experience is ahead of the UDFA. But things could change early and often.

Jeff: Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet

Changes: Shakur Brown out, Arthur Maulet in

Analysis: As much as I like Brown as a prospect, I could see him on the practice squad as the Steelers brought in Maulet to help the secondary.


Safety (5)

Dave: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Antoine Brooks Jr., Tre Norwood

Changes: Lamont Wade out, Tre Norwood in

Analysis: I put Killebrew here where I believe he belongs, and I switched Norwood for Wade because the Steelers coaches seem to be high on him. I still don’t like predicting that every draft pick makes the roster.

Jeff: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Antoine Brooks, Tre Norwood

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers value their draft picks, almost to a fault. Norwood is a versatile player, who can also play cornerback, and this will equate to a spot on the roster. Mike Tomlin loves players who are versatile.

Total Defense: 25


Special Teams


Specialists (3)

Dave: Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Kameron Canaday

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers have never drafted a player who was strictly a punter and did not have him punt every game his rookie season.

Jeff: Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Kameron Canaday

Changes: None

Analysis: As much as I want to get excited about Jordan Berry not being on this list, I also realize the Steelers started the 2020 season without Berry, and he found his way back onto the roster. I won’t be happy until Pressley Harvin boots Berry out of a job permanently.


Total Team: 53