Offensive lineman Tony Hills has thrown a wrench into where I am at with my 53 man roster projection. I released version 2.0 on Sunday and feel I am pretty close as far as nailing it down once again. It is not uncommon to be a few players off after just one preseason game and I feel that is exactly where I am at right now. The 50th, 51st, 52nd and 53rd players are the toughest ones to figure out right now and baring another signing or unexpected injury, I feel 49 of the 53 roster spots are pretty much sewn up at this point.
I firmly believe after the Monday & Tuesday practice this week that there are currently 7 players battling for 4 roster spots. Here are those 7 players and my train of thought on the 4 remaining spots.
50th, 51st & 52nd Spot - Foster/Williams/Scott/Hills - I believe all three of these spots go to offensive linemen with four players in the running. Before Hills decided he wanted to make his annual preseason showing and Chris Scott fell on his face last Friday, this was a pretty easy call in my eyes. Now it looks a little cloudy with Hills back in the picture. Ramon Foster would seem to be the safest of the four to grab one spot as he has done nothing in my eyes to risk being cut. If he were, he would be snatched up off of the waiver wire quickly. I say he stays. That leaves Hills, Scott and the rookie Keith Williams to battle for two more spots. Williams is a draft pick and is doing alright for the limited time he has had since being drafted. In addition he is really the only true long term left guard of this whole bunch in my opinion and I do not think the Steelers will try to slide him to the practice squad. I think he is safe for one of the last two spots. If Foster and Williams are indeed safe, that leaves Hills and Scott to battle for the last lineman spot as I feel they will only keep 9 one again. Hills had the better game by far against the Redskins and his start against the Eagles Thursday night at right guard should tell us what we need to know. If he performs well, it could mean that Scott is the odd man out and the Steelers might try to slip him to the practice squad as I think he is still eligible for it.
53rd Spot - Battle/Grisham/Sauders - After Jerricho Cotchery was signed, I am now convinced that the Steelers will not keep 6 receivers again like last year as I think they will choose to keep 4 tight end/h-back types instead. This spot must be a special teams contributor in my opinion and must be worthy to wear a helmet every week. As much as I like Tyler Grisham, I just do not think the coaches see him as anything more than an extra receiver. Battle is not as good of a receiver as he is a special teams player so he has the advantage over Grisham there. Next comes the question of Battle versus undrafted tight end Wesyle Saunders. I am getting the feeling the Steelers really want to keep Saunders instead of Battle and go with the 4 tight ends instead of 6 receivers. The thing that needs to happen is for rookie Curtis Brown to prove he can play the role of Battle over the next 3 weeks on special teams. Brown should be ready to play Thursday night and he should get plenty of looks on the punt coverage team. If that happens, Brown kills two birds with one stone as a reserve corner and special teams player. Saunders can be brought along slowly and contribute as a pass receiving tight end in certain packages until his blocking and h-back skills improve. He can also help out on special teams as veteran John Gilmore likely will not be asked to do that. In the end I think Saunders offers more upside than Battle.
These few changes will be reflected in my next 53 man roster projection following the Eagles game. We will have a good look at Hills and Scott again and see if Brown can indeed make Battle expendable.