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Projecting the Steelers 53 man roster after their first preseason game

There are some tough cuts coming at the bottom of the Steelers' roster, particularly on defense.

Alex Trautwig
Offense (24)

Quarterback (3) - Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones

After the first game, fans can only hope for health. Gradkowski's passes were all over the place, and Jones looked indecisive in the face of pressure. Jones' throw to Martavis Bryant - the one he caught and proceeded to fumble - was a nice one, and Gradkowski's toss to Markus Wheaton on third down was as well. But the team can't be thrilled with how the back-up quarterbacks played.

Running backs (5) - Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer, Will Johnson, To Be Determined

I fully expect the Steelers to scan the waiver wire hard for a back-up to LeBackfield, because it does not appear that player is on the roster currently. This comes down to how the Steelers want to define their increasing amount of dual-role players (Johnson can be seen as a tight end as well as a fullback, Archer is a running back and a receiver), but with a fullback, odds are they'd want another full-time running back.

Offensive tackles (3) - Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams

Offensive guards (3) - Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Guy Whimper

Centers (2) - Maurkice Pouncey, Cody Wallace

Rookie fifth round pick Wesley Johnson played center against the Giants and did not perform overly well at tackle during training camp. If they had to decide today, these eight would be the ones they keep. Johnson, a zone-blocking tackle in college, should be considered a project, and could still sneak on the roster.

Tight ends (3) - Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Michael Palmer

Palmer was inactive Saturday, which isn't a good sign, but his experience on special teams make him a shade more valuable than the blocking-adverse David Paulson and the seventh round pick Rob Blanchflower. This one is far from over, though. Paulson's athleticism give him an advantage over Palmer, and Blanchflower has the potential to be molded into a quality tight end in a traditional sense.

Wide receivers (5) - Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant

Fans of Derek Moye gnash their teeth, particularly after Moye led the Steelers in receptions against the Giants, and Bryant couldn't possibly have played worse. Simple fact is Bryant has upside no one among the Steelers' receivers has. They're going to work him and work him hard throughout the season. An excellent performance from Wheaton puts him in cement as the Steelers' split end, and Bryant's awkward and nervous appearance as a punt returner put him into questionable territory as to whether he'll even suit up on game days.

Defense (26)

Nose tackles (2) - Steve McLendon, Dan McCullers

Defensive ends (5) - Cameron Heyward, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt, Josh Mauro, Nick Williams

Like the running backs/wide receivers/tight ends situation, the Steelers' defensive linemen are rife with position flexibility. Don't take the positions these players are listed at here literally. Thomas will play nose and end, Williams and McCullers can be worked in both ways as well. Loni Fangupo is an extremely difficult cut here, but the Steelers have a treasure trove of young and talented defensive linemen. Thomas's versatility makes Fangupo expendable, but he'd probably be the last player cut.

Inside linebackers (5) - Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams Terence Garvin

Outside linebackers (4) - Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Vic So'oto

What a great problem to have. Two years ago, the Steelers kept athletic undrafted free agent OLB Adrian Robinson based on his potential and ability to play special teams. UDFA Howard Jones is more athletic and he's bigger, giving rise to the belief he, too, could grab a late spot just for special teams and to protect him from scavengers looking for a longshot from another team's practice squad. Jones can't crack this roster, unfortunately, but he has loads of potential. He'd be their primary target to sign to the practice squad.

It's a farewell to Carter, who becomes this team's Stevenson Sylvester - likely to be re-signed after an injury somewhere. So'oto's athleticism makes him more appealing but his rough injury history makes him tough to keep. Write this one in pencil.

Cornerbacks (5) - Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, Brice McCain

Safeties (5) - Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield

Toughest battle in terms of depth right now. Dangerfield knocked Giants fullback Jon Conner into La La Land. Do you realize that? I can find a spot for that kind of a hitter on my team, even if it essentially means the team has to cut a fifth-round cornerback for the second year, as well as meaning the team swung and missed on its last three fifth-round picks (Terry Hawthorne in 2013 and Richardson and Johnson in 2014).

They could possibly cut Golden, the team's ace special teams gunner last season, considering how heavy they are with strong safeties, but Thomas was drafted to contribute to both positions, and should be considered the top back-up to both Polamalu and Mitchell. McCain could also go here if the team elects to keep another linebacker or lineman (read: Jones or Fangupo). Keeping 10 defensive backs is probably a bit optimistic considering what they have on the defensive line but regardless, a good reserve player is going to get cut from this team.

Specialists (3)

Kicker (1) - Shaun Suisham

Punter (1) - Brad Wing

Long snapper (1) - Greg Warren

Our thoughts and prayers are with Steelers P Adam Podlesh, who's missed all of training camp while being with his wife during what's said to be a difficult pregnancy. The Steelers hope everything is well on the family front with Podlesh but they really hope they can find someone to compete with Wing, who was erratic against New York. He had some nice kicks, and one particularly bad one.

Suisham and Warren are unchallenged.