The 2012 NFL draft is now behind us and so too is the first rookie camp. There are several roster spots left to be decided, but now is as good of time as any to start projecting what the 53 man roster will look like for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now surprises here as Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch fill out the group of three. Both Leftwich and Batch come with reduced cap hits and the only fear is if Leftwich can make it through preseason healthy. I do not think any of the other quarterbacks on the roster will stick even on the practice squad.
Running Backs (4)
The Steelers normally like to keep three, but by keeping Chris Rainey, they are essentially keeping a player that can serve as a 4th running back, a 6th wide receiver and as a return man. The experience at this position is lacking until Rashard Mendenhall is healthy enough to come off of the PUP list, so they very well could add another veteran change of pace back prior to training camp. It would not be surprising if it ended up being Mewelde Moore either. John Clay still has plenty of practice squad eligibility left, so I have placed him there for now.
Wide Receivers (5)
The top four are set with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. Rookie Toney Clemons will be given every opportunity to make the roster as the 5th receiver and contribute on special teams. As I mentioned above, Rainey could play receiver in a pinch due to his versatility and thus the need to only keep five.
Tight Ends (3)
Heath Miller leads the way and should be backed up by free agent Leonard Pope. Weslye Saunders must miss the first 4 games due to his suspension, so that allows rookie David Paulson to slide onto the 53 man. A dark horse to watch is Will Johnson, who is a very talented h-back. This could easily flip-flop with Paulson being signed to the practice squad and Johnson making the 53 man.
Call David Johnson what you will, but Todd Haley likely sees him more as a fullback than he does a tight end. You can mix and match the tight ends positions a various number of ways and Johnson is by no means a lock to make the roster out of camp. Maybe Will ends up stealing the spot from David just the same.
Offensive Linemen (9)
I have a strong feeling that Max Starks is in the Steelers plans to serve as a swing tackle this season if healthy by week 1. The days are likely numbered for Jonathan Scott as well. Trai Essex has the position flexibility to play all five positions on the line should the need arise. David DeCastro will be a week 1 starter, while Mike Adams will be groomed for a while. Ramon Foster will likely start at the guard position opposite of DeCastro and Doug Legursky will go back to serving as an interior swing man.
Nose Tackles (3)
Hopefully Casey Hampton will be healthy enough to start the season. If not, Steve McLendon will be the week 1 starter. McLendon can also play defensive end in a pinch. Rookie Alameda Taamu will need some time to learn the nuances of the defense as he is groomed to be the heir to the Hampton throne.
Defensive Ends (4)
Corbin Bryant has the inside track to make the 53 man roster as the 4th defensive end. Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel and Cameron Heyward are all obvious locks. This would give the Steelers 7 defensive linemen in total.
Rookie Sean Spence fills the spot that was opened by the release of James Farrior. I have Brandon Lindsey making the practice squad. No real surprises as to how these eight spots fill out.
Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown are all givens. The fifth cornerback spot can go either way and it should be a fun battle to watch in training camp. I am giving it to Terrence Frederick right now as he should have a leg up on the competition due to him playing both inside and outside in college. He is by no means a roster lock though.
The Steelers have kept four in the past and Damon Cromartie-Smith could be the wild card. The Steelers could choose to just keep four in Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy and Will Allen, but you have to remember that Clark will likely sit out the first game in Denver because of his sickle cell trait. Cromartie-Smith has been around long enough now to understand the defense and he can serve as a special teams player in addition. Allen seems to be a Mike Tomlin guy, and thus he sticks one more season.
Long snapper Greg Warren is the only one you can really put in ink here. Grant Ressel is going to have a tough time beating out Shaun Suisham, who is not safe himself if another veteran kicker surfaces on the waiver wire that the Steelers are more comfortable with. Undrafted free agent Drew Butler will battle Jeremy Kapinos for the punting job, but Kapinos was very consistent last season and gets my vote for now.
RESERVE PUP LIST (1)
Mendenhall is certain to start the season on the PUP list which will force him to miss the first six games at the minimum. He will not count against the 53 man roster.
RESERVE/SUSPENDED LIST (1)
Saunders will miss the first four games for testing positive for a banned substance and will not count against the 53 man roster.
PRACTICE SQUAD (8)
A solid camp could earn undrafted free agent Ryan Lee a practice squad spot. For him to make the 53 man roster, he would have to beat out Essex in my opinion. The other 7 positions are just educated guesses and of course could go several different ways.
2012 Steelers 53 Man Roster Prediction
|RESERVE PUP LIST|