While writing the Pittsburgh Steelers Day 4 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Recap for Day 4, you can read it here if you missed it, there was a very strong conversation in the comment section regarding roster “locks”. If that term seems foreign to you, it is referring to players who will make the team, barring some type of arrest or suspension.
Readers of the website went back-and-forth about specific players, and why they should, or shouldn’t, be viewed as locks for the 2017 Steelers 53-man roster. So, I decided a good article would be to not just define a player who is a lock to make the roster, but also to list the players who, in my opinion, are guaranteed to make the team.
First, the criteria of a roster lock:
- Player the team needs to win
- Financially makes more sense to keep them
- Holds down their position regularly
- Draft status
Sure there are some who will want to add this or that, but it essentially boils down to those four factors for me. A player like the starting quarterback, who also happens to be a future Hall of Famer, would be necessary for the team to win. Same could be said about the best running back and wide receiver in the game.
Finances have to play a role in the decision making process. If you invest in a free agent, or are owing a player a lot of money, you keep them as long as you can, unless your name is Cortez Allen or LaMarr Woodley.
Knowing the system and having a role on the team, compared to the alternative, certainly helps your cause when it comes to finding your way onto the final game day roster. Inexperience, or inconsistencies, never catapult you up the depth chart, but rather have you looking up at other players.
Lastly, draft status. If a team drafts a player in the 2nd or 3rd round, even if their draft day was 2-3 years ago, they will be more inclined to keep that individual. Finances play a role in this as well, but so does the overall investment in the player.
Now, here are my roster locks for 2017, with a small blurb why, and as always you can feel free to comment in the comment sections below.
Ben Roethlisberger - The franchise quarterback is the biggest lock of them all, especially when you have Landry Jones and a rookie backing him up.
Le’Veon Bell - While some think James Conner would be just fine, Bell is the best back in the NFL. They didn’t franchise tag him for nothing.
Antonio Brown - New contract, happy player, big results. Brown’s spot on the team is set in stone.
Offensive Line - I could list all 5, but with all of the starting linemen returning, there really isn’t any camp battle among the starters. That battle is ongoing within the depth positions.
Martavis Bryant - Yes, if he messes up again he is done, but it won’t cost the Steelers a dime if that happens. His 2016 suspended year didn’t count towards his rookie contract. In other words, the team has Bryant for cheap, and at no risk financially. He is a lock.
Eli Rogers - The Steelers drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round, but not to replace Rogers. Rather, it was to add to the receiving corps which turned into an empty cupboard last season. Rogers’ game turned on down the stretch in 2016, and he should be even better in 2017. His job is safe.
JuJu Smith-Schuster - You don’t cut a second round pick without him doing something ridiculously stupid off the field. Smith-Schuster is making the team.
James Conner - See explanation of Smith-Schuster, but change the pick to a third round selection.
Jesse James - After Ladarius Green’s release, James’ spot became solidified.
Cameron Heyward - The Steelers’ defensive captain is back, and hopefully better than ever. Heyward is a key cog in the defense, meaning he is a lock.
Javon Hargrave - Second year player started to show flashes last year of just how good he could be last year. 2016 third round pick is the future of the nose tackle position.
Stephon Tuitt - Tuitt is a monster, and the former second round pick is set up for a big pay day soon. Barring a huge drop off in production, accompanied by a rash of injuries, Tuitt should be getting a new deal sooner, rather than later.
Artie Burns - 2016 first round pick and starting cornerback. Enough said.
Ross Cockrell - Despite his future with the team being extremely cloudy, the team will rely on Cockrell to get them through the 2016 season until young players like Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen are ready to step up on the outside.
Ryan Shazier - Quite possibly the most valuable defensive player on the team, and they just picked up his 5th year option. Shazier is a lock, even with his injury history.
Vince Williams - When Pittsburgh let Lawrence Timmons walk in free agency, they now turn to Williams to man the inside of the defense alongside Shazier. His new contract signed last year makes sense. He isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
James Harrison - 39 years old and all...Harrison wants another ring, and he will get every shot at doing so.
T.J. Watt - 2017 first round draft pick. That’s all you need to know.
Cameron Sutton - Third round draft choice at a position of need. Job is safe.
Mike Mitchell - Quite possibly the most underrated member of the Steelers, Mitchell has a home at least for the 2017 season, and most likely 2018. After that is anything but certain, but for now his position is as safe as they come.
Sean Davis - Second year player who started as a rookie. Future so bright he has to wear shades, and his position is safe.
Bud Dupree - Starter and former first round pick. Definition of a lock.
Chris Boswell - The Wizard of Boz is as cool as the other side of the pillow. And the team doesn’t even have any legitimate competition for him.
Jordan Berry - Some speculate the team could bring in another punter to compete with Berry, but they have yet to do so.
If you do the math, those are 28 players who are considered “locks” to me. That leaves only 25 positions to be filled elsewhere for the other 64 players who are trying to make the Steelers 53-man roster.