The final preseason game of the 2012 season is now in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers and that means it is time for my final 53 man roster prediction of what I think the roster will look like after the final cuts are announced Friday evening.
When building my 53 man roster I like to start with the players that I think will be on the week 1 inactive list and work backwards from there. Unfortunately, due to all of the injured players and Ryan Clark being forced to sit out the game in Denver, it makes it a bit easier for me this time around. Joining Clark on the week 1 inactive list according to my calculations will be Rashard Mendenhall, Stevenson Sylvester, Alameda Ta\'amu, Mike Adams, Al Woods and Charlie Batch.
Keep in mind that the Steelers will have to keep David DeCastro on the 53 man roster until late Tuesday. At that point they can move him to the injured reserve list so that he can qualify for the new 8 week IR rule.
The injury to Sean Spence was sickening and I fully expect he will be out until training camp next year and thus placed on injured reserve later today.
Here are my previous roster projections dating back to just before the draft.
Now on to the rest of the 53 man roster that I predict the Steelers will have after the cuts are made.
QB (3) - Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch
- The reason I am keeping Batch is because he deserves to be kept and the Steelers need a 7th man on the inactive list. Would the Steelers just dump him for another player to be on the list in his place? I don\'t think so and it is not like he is taking up a huge hit against the salary cap after signing a qualifying contract. while I do not have Jerrod Johnson going to the practice squad, it is not out of the question.
RB (5) - Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Chris Rainey, Baron Batch
- As stated above, Mendenhall figures to be inactive week for at least the first few weeks of the season. Redman, Dwyer and Rainey are obvious keepers. Batch would be obvious as well, but I think he might have tweaked his groin during the game Thursday night. That being said, Mike Tomlin did not mention him during the post game presser and Batch has been on all of the special teams units throughout the preseason. Don\'t consider him a running back here, consider him a specialist much like Arnaz Battle was last season. If the Batch groin injury cost him his spot, I would look for either Derrick Williams or David Gilreath to get this roster spot.
WR (4) - Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery
- There is no need for a 5th wide receiver because Rainey can always do in a pinch as a slot receiver and Todd Haley just doesn\'t use 4 and 5 wide receiver personnel groupings. The only way a 5th makes the roster, in my opinion, is if Batch doesn\'t because of a groin issue.
TE/FB (4) - Heath Miller, Leonard Pope, David Paulson, Will Johnson
- Johnson of course is the fullback in the offense. Paulson and Pope have been very active on special teams in the preseason and I do believe that I also saw Paulson take some snaps at fullback Thursday night. Paulson can also line up wide if need be. He is on the roster until Weslye Saunders returns from his suspension. Haley likes using two tight ends and a fullback quite a bit, so these numbers and players fit his personnel groupings.
OL (9) - Maurkice Pouncey, Max Starks, Marcus Gilbert, Willie Colon, Ramon Foster, Mike Adams, Doug Legursky, Trai Essex, David DeCastro
- DeCastro will be on the roster until Tuesday and at that time I could see a veteran inside linebacker like James Farrior or a young linebacker like Marshall McFadden or Adrian Robinson signed to the 53 man roster to take his place. I have both Kelvin Beachum and Ryan Lee making the practice squad for depth.
NT (3) - Casey Hampton, Steve McLendon, Alameda Ta\'amu
- Hampton played Thursday night and that was very good to see. I expect Ta\'amu to be on the inactive list for quite a while. Pretty cut and dry here.
DE (4) - Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, Al Woods
- The fourth spot was a dead heat between Woods and Corbin Bryant, who still has practice squad eligibility. The Steelers sure did keep Woods on the roster a long time last year after claiming him off waivers, so it sure makes sense that they would at least want to keep him a little while longer. This call could go either way and I choose Woods merely because Bryant has practice squad eligibility.
LB (8) - Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Stevenson Sylvester, Jason Worilds, Brandon Johnson, Chris Carter
- I have the Steelers keeping just 8 linebackers until Friday, when DeCastro is moved to injured reserve. As much as I would like to keep Robinson here, I can\'t because of his lack of quality special teams play. Both Harrison and Worilds are expected to suit up and play in Denver and Johnson can kick outside if the need arises. As stated earlier, the Steelers might watch the waiver wire for an inside MACK type linebacker or sign back McFadden or Robinson when the DeCastro move is made.
CB (5) - Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Terrence Frederick
- I am keeping 5 cornerbacks due to the uncertainty of the knee injury suffered by Brown Thursday night. Frederick can also play on special teams and worked both inside and outside during the preseason. I realize that he gave up a long touchdown against the Panthers, but Brown also gave up two in week one of the preseason and they aren\'t going to cut him. It was either Frederick or Josh Victorian and I chose to put the latter on the practice squad. If Brown is 100%, you could see a 9th linebacker such as McFadden or Robinson kept instead of a fifth corner. The Steelers could also decide to work the waiver wire for a veteran 5th corner that plays special teams, depending on how serious the injury to Brown is. I wonder if Anthony Madison or Bryant McFadden are still in shape. I am sort of kidding, I think. This is another position that I am uncertain as to how the numbers will work out and it depends mostly on the status of Brown.
S (5) - Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen, Damon Cromartie-Smith
- With Clark sitting out against Denver and Robert Golden hurting his hamstring Thursday night, Cromartie-Smith is the obvious choice here. He also has been very active on special teams throughout the preseason. That is as simple as I can put it with this position.
K (1) - Shaun Suisham
- Cut and dry here and only way it isn\'t Suisham is if a free agent is signed.
P (1) - Drew Butler
- Jeremy Kapinos never made it back from the back injury.
LS (1) - Greg Warren
Did you really think Warren would lose his job?
IR (2) - David Johnson, Sean Spence
- Not much to add here as both would have contributed this season. DeCastro will be moved here on Tuesday more than likely.
SUSP (1) - Weslye Saunders
- When Saunders returns, either Pope is released or Paulson goes to the practice squad.
PS (8) - Kelvin Beachum, Ryan Lee, Corbin Bryant, Robert Golden, Adrian Robinson, David Gilreath, Josh Victorian, Marshall McFadden
- Assuming Golden can recover from his hamstring I think he is a lock along with Robinson. Both Beachum and Lee are deserving as well. If Bryant doesn\'t make the 53, he should clear waivers easily. McFadden is a guess as is Gilreath and either one has an outside shot at making the roster.
The injuries to Batch, Brown and Golden in the final preseason game makes this prediction more challenging than it already usually is. in addition, the battle between Woods and Bryant is too close to call. The injury to Spence makes yet another spot tough to decide. All the above said I am pretty sure about 49 of the 53 spots. We shall see how close I come to 53.
2012 Steelers 53 Man Roster Prediction