The Steelers beat the Falcons 34-16 Saturday night at Heinz Field in their 3rd preseason game of 2011 and it is now that time again to dissect the roster and project the 53 man roster that will start the season. If you missed versions 1-3 of my 53 man roster prediction, you can view version 1, version 2 and version 3 at each of the links.
The first change this week is at quarterback after Byron Leftwich broke his left arm on a meaningless scramble. It was a nasty injury and Leftwich will miss some considerable time by most reports. We may now never know if the Steelers were truly showcasing Dennis Dixon for a trade Saturday night or if he had already won the No. 3 job over Charlie Batch. Leftwich may be placed on injured reserve, but there are some rumblings that he may be waived/injured so they can bring him back at a later date should the need arise. Regardless, I do not see the Steelers keeping him on the 53 man roster and carrying four quarterbacks as the roster spot is just too valuable. For now I have them placing him on IR, but would not be surprised if he was waived injured.
Next up is the 6th wide receiver spot. I had dropped Arnaz Battle in the last version, but now have brought him back. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians pretty much let the cat out of the bag last week in an interview when he talked about the battle for the 4th, 5th and 6th receiver spots. Arians may have been playing the media, but Battle continues to show up on every first team special teams unit and with Emmanuel Sanders unlikely to be 100% by week 1, it makes too much sense that he will be kept.
On the offensive line I have a change after Trai Essex was re-signed since my last projection. Essex now gets the spot that 6th round pick Keith Williams was holding and I now believe Williams will be headed to the practice squad after a dismal preseason. Williams received no work on the offensive line Saturday against the Falcons and that makes it almost a slam-dunk now. I have Williams taking the spot of Chris Scott on the practice squad as Scott has looked bad in all three games this preseason and I think the Steelers let him walk outright.
I still have John Gilmore as the 3rd tight end, but I do not consider him a lock still. Wesyle Saunders has shown improvement, but I think they have eyes on getting him to the practice squad for now.
On the defense the Steelers still have question marks as far as depth at cornerback position. Keenan Lewis went down with a knee injury against the Falcons, but initial reports say he will be fine in two weeks. Bryant McFadden and rookie Cortez Allen both have yet to hit the field in any of the three preseason games thus far and that clouds up the picture as well. While I did throw out the idea that McFadden could be a surprise roster cut a few weeks ago, I have now moved back from that thought. Mike Tomlin was asked after the Falcons game if McFadden was still a number one cornerback for him and Tomlin replied with a one word answer of yes. I tend to believe him. The question with Allen is does he make the 53 on his draft pick status alone or will the Steelers try to sneak him to the practice squad? There is absolutely no tape thus far on Allen and after missing OTA\'s, mini-camps and most of training camp; you have to wonder why another team would actually have interest in him. Perhaps this was the plan of Tomlin all along after the first week of camp. It is not believed that the hamstring injury of Allen is bad enough to land him on injured reserve, but I still do not rule that out as an ultimate landing spot. For now I am keeping him as the 7th cornerback, but I am still not 100% married to that idea.
Also at corner there are questions about Crezdon Butler and Donovan Warren. Warren as played quite a few snaps in the first 3 preseason games, but it is likely because of all the nicked up corners the Steelers have had in preseason. I think he has done an admirable job, but feel ultimately now that the Steelers might try to get him to the practice squad as the numbers seem to work way against him at this point. Butler played against the Falcons and showed a few glimpses of turning the corner. The 95-yard interception for a touchdown was easy in nature when you re-watch the play, but it is a splash play nonetheless. For now he stays as the 6th corner on the roster.
If the Steelers keep 7 corners, then they likely will only keep 8 linebackers. Mortty Ivy has not done enough to warrant a roster spot as the 9th linebacker in my opinion and I think the Steelers might try to get him or fellow undrafted rookie Mario Harvey to the practice squad. For now I have it as Ivy, but I think Harvey offers much more upside long-term.
The only other question mark on defense is if the spot of Chris Hoke is safe or if Steve McLendon or rookie Corbin Bryant have done enough to warrant taking his spot. I still think the flexibility that Hoke has wins out the spot and feel Bryant will be a practice squad member. With me moving Warren to the practice squad now it meant I had to remove safety Da\'Mon Cromartie-Smith off of it. Warren would not be a lock to clear waivers though if released, so that would certainly help Cromartie-Smith if Allen also makes the 53 or is not placed on injured reserve.
My week 1 inactives include rookies Curtis Brown, Chris Carter, Marcus Gilbert and Allen. Joining them are Jonathan Dwyer, Ramon Foster and Sanders as I feel he might not be ready for week 1.
Check back next week for my final projection of the 53 man roster following the game against the Panthers.
2011 Steelers Final 53 Man Roster Prediction 4.0 Version
|Week 1 Inactives|