Trying to predict a 53 man roster is a fun process as there are so many things to think about while doing so. A big part of the process when trying to do this is figuring out which players can contribute better on special teams than others in addition to the money that each player is scheduled to earn.
Ever since the Pittsburgh Steelers signed free agent running back LaRod Stephens-Howling and drafted running back Le\’Veon Bell, I have been firm in my belief that running backs Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer will be battling for one spot on the 53 man roster. While the real battle between the two of them will come down to which one can contribute more to the offense than the other, their special teams play and salary could wind up being the tie breaker if that battle is deemed close.
I fully expect the Steelers to only keep four running backs on the 53 man roster this year and with Stephens-Howling being roster lock in my eyes at this point, that theoretically leaves Redman, Dwyer and Baron Batch battling for the two other spots.
The reason that I believe Batch has an easier path to the 53 man roster is because his special teams play is far superior to that of both Redman and Dwyer. In addition, he brings a different skill set to the table and is $843,000 cheaper. Cap space and salary are both very important factors when building a roster, especially in the case of the Steelers, as they will need to free up money being as I expect one or two extensions could be forthcoming during training camp. Do you really think that they want to keep two backup running backs that each earns $1.323 million on the roster this season? Sure, one of them might begin the season as the starter, but sooner or later it will be Bell\’s job.
Could the Steelers keep five running backs? Sure, anything is possible, but one would likely be a game day inactive should that indeed happen and if Batch is deemed as big of a contributor on special teams as I think he will be; it won\’t be him.
When you consider that the Steelers won\’t likely want many if any of their 22 starters to play on special teams, unless they can help it, the 53 man roster at that point has been trimmed to 25 spots needing to be filled when you add in the three specialist and two backup quarterbacks.
You can then trim down open spots even further from that number based upon the numbers needed at a particular position. At the very least, I expect five additional linebackers, two additional safeties, three additional cornerbacks, three additional offensive linemen, two additional tight ends and two additional defensive linemen to make the final 53 man roster outside of the starters, and those minimums eat up another 17 of those 25 open roster spots.
If you were to add in Stephens-Howling, Batch, Jerricho Cotchery and Markus Wheaton as roster locks, you are now down four spots up for grabs. One of those spots will go to a fifth wide receiver, so that really leaves just three spots up for grabs based only on the minimums per position that I listed above. Any additions over those minimums that I listed, which is surely to happen at a couple of them, will eat up another few roster spots.
The final cut down date is still a long way off, but don\’t think that special teams play and money won\’t be a huge determining factor in the battle between Dwyer and Redman.