Looking At The Steelers 2012 Offense Roster Locks & The Spots Up For Grabs

The 2012 NFL draft is almost here and every year about this time I like to go back through the Pittsburgh Steelers roster and identify the stone cold locks for the 53 man roster on both sides of the ball. This gives clarity to obvious draft needs as well as upcoming roster battles to start looking forward to. First up is the offense and below is the breakdown of the players I would bet my house on to make the 53 man roster baring some sort of injury or suspension. While you could make arguments for several others I do not have listed, I think you would have a hard time selling me that they are indeed roster locks.

Quarterbacks: (1) Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has publicly stated that it is possible that both Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch could be back next year, but as of early April both remain unsigned. The Steelers signed Troy Smith and Jerrod Johnson presumably to be OTA and camp arms, but neither are locks to make it to Latrobe, much less make the roster. Head coach Mike Tomlin had a very public dinner with Kirk Cousins the night before the Michigan State pro day, so it is not totally out of the question the Steelers could draft a young arm later this month. For now Roethlisberger is the only quarterback you can guarantee will be on the 53 man roster.

Wide Receivers: (3) Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders

The Steelers without a doubt want to bring back Jerricho Cotchery, but that has yet to take place. Although April 20th is still a couple of weeks away, Wallace looks certain to be retained with his first round tender and I would bet my house on it. Outside of the Young Money Crew the Steelers could use two or even three more receivers depending on how the numbers shake out. I could easily see them drafting at least one receiver later this month and two would not totally shock me. If Cotchery is not re-signed, I see another veteran free agent serving as the 4th receiver. Could Plaxico Burress be that guy? It is unlikely, but we can\’t rule it out.

Running Backs: (2) Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman

Mendenhall deserves an asterisk here as it is very likely he starts the season on the PUP list and will not be on the 53 man roster as a result. Redman is a lock, but behind him there figures to be training camp battles between Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Baron Batch, Chad Spann and a draft pick. Will Todd Haley also use a fullback this year? We don\’t know for certain. Realistically we should expect four ruining backs on the 53 man roster and if Mendenhall does indeed start the season on PUP as I suspect he will, the Steelers have 3 roster spots behind Redman up for grabs. I am fairly certain one running back will be drafted later this month.

Tight Ends: (1) Heath Miller

Outside of Miller there are no roster locks in my opinion. Weslye Saunders will be on the suspended list to start the season and David Johnson is in no way considered a lock with Haley now running the show. Newly signed Will Johnson shows promise as a h-back, as does Jamie McCoy, but I would not be willing to say that anyone outside of Miller is a roster lock. Could we see a tight end drafted later this month at some point? I think the chances are good of that happening.

Centers: (1) Maurkice Pouncey

This is pretty cut and dry here with Pouncey and Doug Legursky will serve once again as his backup. There will likely be a few battles for a practice squad spot with John Malecki likely being the incumbent to land there once again as he tries to become the second coming of Legursky.

Guards: (2) Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster

Both Legursky and Foster are locks in my opinion to return on their one year tenders. Outside of them the Steelers will draft one guard for sure and they could decide to bring back Trai Essex for additional depth. I am willing to bet a guard is drafted in the first three rounds later this month. Chris Scott also could be an option, but judging by what we saw last preseason, it would take one hell of turnaround for him to make it.

Tackles: (2) Marcus Gilbert, Willie Colon

Gilbert and Colon are no-brainers, but outside of that it is wide open. Even though Jonathan Scott will likely be on the roster come draft day, he is in no way considered a roster lock right now. I suspect a tackle will be drafted later this month and perhaps a low profile free agent signed as well. Trevis Turner has a chance to compete for a spot this year, but it will not just be given to him. Depending on how fast he recovers from knee surgery, Max Starks has to be considered an option for depth purposes, but I would say that week 1 might be cutting it close.

As you see from above there are only 11 true roster locks on offense as we sit here in early April with Mendenhall serving as the 12th depending on his injury status. That leaves question marks for 12-14 offensive roster spots moving forward and that is a big number. I suspect they will carry 9 offensive lineman coming out of training camp, so 4 line spots are up for grabs. 3 more spots at running back, 2 at tight end, 2 at wide receiver and 2 at quarterback. A good chunk of these should be settled on draft day with a few more being filled as a result of a few re-signings. By the time camp rolls around I suspect the open roster spots on offense will be cut in half.

Next up I will do the same exercise for the defense.

  • Derick

    good write up, the roster is getting younger by the day. not sure if that is the best thing or not…

  • Intropy

    I don’t think Mendenhall is a lock. They’ll sit on him for now, but if the injury looks like it’ll last the season the only reason to keep him on would be for the compensatory pick eligibility. Heck, whether the’s enough value for a half season if he’d have to go on pup is debatable too.

  • Sam

    Too many holes to fill in one year. They will make the playoffs but this doesn’t look like a banner year. BPA should be their draft day philosophy

  • Joe D

    You would bet your house on Mendenhall….
    I’ll take that bet… what do I have to put up… nothing!!!
    I only say this because Wallace is an unknown… they may need more CAP space and if they don’t see him playing this year… why not cut him. He is a free agent next year.

  • Steelerfanmatt1933

    Thanks, Dave.

    While I fully believe that Wallace will get a long term deal with Pittsburgh, I think it’s a little hasty to call him a lock at this point. Until April 20, he is still a question mark.

  • SteelersDepot

    I don’t.

  • Joe D

    I agree…. Wallace is a lock…
    the only question is at what price for 2012 year…

  • Broderick Wallace

    Mendenhall takes excellent care of his body and will return after his PUP ride is over. He will not be 100%, but he doesn’t need to be. Redman and whomever emerges behind him will carry the bulk of the load into the playoffs, assuming we make it.

  • Bleebo77

    Seeing things laid out this way puts a tiny bit on panic in me. We are thin in a lot of areas. I assume a write-up on the defensive roster is coming, but this post makes a persuasive case to make this an offensive-heavy draft. No place is of more concern than on the offensive line. At tackle, there’s Gilbert – a second year player at a new position – and Colon, who’s health has been a problem. At guard, there are 2 UDFAs. We can’t forget the terrible line performance last year before Starks came back. The Ravens and Texans had their way. Great offensive weapons are not worth much if the line can run block or protect Ben.

  • Bleebo77

    Last line: I meant “…if the line CAN’T run block or protect Ben.”

  • Bigsteelerfan86

    was never a mendenhall fan. he hits the hole whether clogged or not and keeps spinning his whells for little or no gain. redman is much more creative, makes quicker cuts and runs to daylight… witness the playoff game against against a good broncos defense. don’t worry about mendenhall. ike can carry the load at rb and there is plenty of potential for batch, dwyer and clay to back him up…don’t waste a high draft pick on a rb.

  • Cols714

    BPA is their draft day philosophy every year. BPA with need factored in. It’s been that way for just about ever.

    The only time they seemed to stray from this was the Troy Edwards pick.

  • Derick

    a lot will change after the draft and before training camp.

  • Cols714

    Fans seem to be really down on this Steelers team. I’m not sure why. They lost some old players who didn’t have a big role on the 12-4 team from 2011.

    The offense in general should be better next year because the OL that has Gilbert and Colon at the tackles is much better than the one that started 2011 with Scott and Gilbert as the tackles. Wallace, Brown, Sanders (health) should be better. The RB position will probably be about the same or slightly worse with Mendenhall being down for at least some of the year.

    On defense, the defense was pretty good last year without getting their normal number of turnovers. The hope is that having a healthy Woodley and Harrison give them their pass rush back.

    The young corners are still young and talented, and despite Taylor and LeBeau’s awful day vs the Broncos, I expect they’ll be back to being really good next year.

    The DL may not be as awesome as the past because Hampton is old and injured. But hopefully the LBs not being old and injured make up for it.

    All in all, this team will contend for a Super Bowl next year.

  • Jprankster2005

    2.75 million and if don’t resign by next yr. I see him walking……

  • Mmlotus2001

    Mendenhall will be “on the shelf” until week #8. How well Redman “hits the holes” created by the new Offensive Line, will determine how long Mendenhall sits on the bench thereafter. I like Redmans chances of being the Starter for the Season, as he runs better than Mendenhall. He hits the hole and takes a four yard gain, rather than “picking” along the line looking for the twenty yard run like Mendenhall. He has no fear of contact, and is a decisive runner when approaching the line of scrimmage!