The Pittsburgh Steelers second preseason game is now in the books and once again it is time to take another stab at a 53 man roster prediction.
Before you just jump straight to the comments, make sure to read my reasoning so you know where am I coming from on this prediction.
Two things that have really shaken things up this time around is the removal of running back Rashard Mendenhall from the PUP list and the knee injury suffered by Stevenson Sylvester. When you add both of those instances to the fact that we still do not know for sure what the status of linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds will ultimately be come the final cut down, it makes this exercise already harder than it normally is.
Another troubling aspect is the fact that safety Ryan Clark will not play in the opener. The Steelers must 7 players listed on the inactive list in Denver, so you really have to try to work this roster backwards from there and add in a ton of speculation.
Below is my explanation of the numbers.
QB (3) - While Jerrod Johnson shows promise, I believe they will still keep Charlie Batch and sign Johnson to develop on the practice squad. Batch will be one of the inactive players in Denver.
RB (5) - Mendenhall will not be ready by the opener and thus will be inactive for that game. Baron Batch has shown enough in all areas of his game to make the roster and he can become a situational back much like Chris Rainey.
WR (4) - Todd Haley very rarely uses four wide receiver sets and Rainey gives the ability to serve as a receiver should injuries strike in a game. Batch can too for that matter. David Gilreath seems to be the best of the young group right now and I have him making the practice squad and of course that could still change with two more preseason games yet to go.
FB (1) -Will Johnson is the starting fullback, and because of the numbers crunch, I do not think they will carry two right now. If they do, it would likely be Jamie McCoy.
TE (2) - I really struggle here with the tight ends. The Steelers could keep two until Weslye Saunders comes back from his suspension or perhaps they keep a guy like David Paulson or Justin Peelle as a third. I am still arguing with myself on this position and getting clarity on both Harrison and Worilds will better help in this final decision.
OL (8) - Neither Trai Essex nor rookie Kelvin Beachum have earned a spot on the 53 man roster. Due to the need to carry an extra linebacker and perhaps an extra safety, I have the Steelers starting the season with 8 offensive linemen. They can do this because of the position flexibility that both Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster give them. Essex can wait by the phone and Beachum can be stashed on the practice squad along with undrafted free agent Ryan Lee. The Steelers normally only dress 7 offensive linemen for a game and neither Essex or Beachum are worth keeping just to put on the inactive list for the opener.
NT (3) - This should be self explanatory with Steve McLendon, Casey Hampton and rookie Alameda Ta\'amu all making the 53. If Hampton is healthy for the opener, Ta\'amu will be inactive.
DE (4) - The only thing I need to figure out here is if the 4th defensive lineman will be Al Woods or Corbin Bryant. Right now I am sticking with Woods and I have Bryant making the practice squad.
ILB (5) - This is where I will upset several as I feel due to the injury to Sylvester that Brandon Johnson will make the 53. He can play both inside spots as well as outside and also contributes on special teams. Sylvester being down really helps Johnson, and like it or not, Sean Spence still has some development to do and is not ready to start.
OLB (5) - This will upset several more but I currently see the 5th outside linebacker being Mortty Ivy as he too can play both inside and outside and has been in the system for a while. In two preseason games he has received reps at both outside linebacker spots. I am not down on undrafted rookie Adrian Robinson by any means, but his lack of experience and failure to stick out thus far on special teams is what is hurting him most. The Steelers will try to get him to the practice squad, and personally I think he makes it there. Both Harrison and Worilds will not be up to full speed should they dress for the opener, so the position must have experienced depth to fall back on.
CB (5) - I just can\'t see the Steelers going into the Denver game with just 4 cornerbacks so rookie Terrence Frederick makes the roster as the 5th corner. He has been used on special teams and has played almost entirely in the preseason as the backup to Cortez Allen at the nickel spot.
S (5) - Due to Clark sitting out the opener I have Damon Cromartie-Smith making the roster still as the 5th safety. Like Robinson, I am not down on Robert Golden, but just feel that the Steelers would much rather go with Cromartie-Smith because of the time he has in the system. He can also help out on special teams in addition.
K (1) - As well as undrafted free agent kicker Danny Hrapmann has kicked thus far, I still have Shaun Suisham holding him off. Hrapmann should be available if they need him and releasing Suisham comes with dead money charges in both 2012 and 2013.
P (1) - Drew Butler is winning this battle by default as Jeremy Kapinos remains sidelined after back surgery. The Steelers will be running a huge risk of carrying Kapinos into the season and he should still be available as a free agent should the rookie struggle.
LS (1) - There is no reason to think Greg Warren will be beat out by Matt Katula for the long snapper spot.
IR (1) - David Johnson and hopefully that is it.
SUSP (1) - Saunders and hopefully that is it.
PS (8) - This week it is Beachum, Lee, Robinson, Golden, Johnson, Bryant, Paulson and Gilreath, but this is subject to change weekly.
In conclusion, I am still unsure the most about the numbers at both the linebacker and tight end spots as well as safety. I feel good about the Steelers keeping five running backs, 8 offensive linemen and 4 wide receivers to start the season. As soon as we get more clarity on the availability of both Harrison and Worilds for the opener, it could shift a few things on my future 53 man roster predictions. My next update will be after the next game and after the Steelers trim the roster down to 80.
2012 Steelers Post Preseason Game 2 Edition 53 Man Roster Prediction