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Marczi – Steelers 2013 Final 53 Man Roster Prediction


By Matthew Marczi

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their preseason schedule last night with a 25-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but they survived the four games seemingly without any major injuries, based on the way rookie running back Le’Veon Bell seems to be recovering from a mid-foot sprain. I am not entirely sure how many answers were provided last night, but now that the games are over, it is time to put an end to the questions. The Steelers have until tomorrow night to get the roster from 75 players to 53, and here is my take on how it might happen (though I reserve the right to be very wrong):

Offense: (25)

Quarterback: (3) Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones

This position was made a no-brainer last week when the Steelers released John Parker Wilson. Gradkowski has done a lot of positive things this preseason and looks to be the solid game manager type that he has always been, which makes a good backup quarterback. Landry Jones still has a long way to go after throwing three interceptions last night (the last one not entirely his fault), but he did have some bright spots every now and then, throwing two touchdowns and squeezing in a nice pass to Derek Moye that went for a big gain. He should see no action this season, but will hopefully come in better prepared in 2014.

Fullback: (1) Will Johnson

No question here, either. Will Johnson had a good rookie season and has looked even better in the preseason. He suffered a hamstring injury last night, but should hopefully be fine. If not, David Johnson can play the role until Will is healthy.

Running back: (4) Isaac Redman, Le’Veon Bell, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Felix Jones

Perhaps the most controversial move, Jonathan Dwyer does not make the 53-man roster this year. He put the ball on the ground twice this preseason on somewhat innocuous plays and frequently took poor angles and generally made bad decisions that either prevented him from getting the most out of the play or caused the play to go for a loss.

Conversely, Felix Jones looked very good last night, displaying second efforts to get more yardage than he should have. He also made himself available to his quarterback as a release valve a couple of times in the passing game, and offers the Steelers another option as a returner. Dwyer has never made much of an impact on special teams. One factor in the Steelers keeping four backs instead of five despite injuries to Bell (and possibly to LSH again after last night) is the fact that Alvester Alexander has looked fairly decent at times and can be easily stashed away on the practice squad.

Wide Receiver: (5) Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton, Jerricho Cotchery, Derek Moye

Derek Moye has simply played too well to lose out to Justin Brown for a roster spot, even if the latter was a draft pick. Moye is taller and has better hands, is more familiar with the system, and has been highly productive this preseason. He has displayed surprising elusiveness, and at 6’5”, is the tallest target Roethlisberger has had since Plaxico Burress, which may allow him to steal a few snaps on offense as the fifth receiver. In fact, if he does make the roster, I absolutely expect him to be used every once in a while in red zone opportunities, if he can earn a helmet on game day, because he does not play on special teams. Otherwise he will be an inactive barring injury. Brown will be on the practice squad. Return specialist Reggie Dunn only had a couple of brief flashes during this preseason, but even if he did not bobble multiple punts and get tackled for a safety, he still would not have done enough to earn a roster spot.

Tight End: (3)* Heath Miller, David Johnson, David Paulson [- Matt Spaeth]

I fully expect Heath Miller to be activated from the Physically Unable to Perform List very soon, meaning he will be on the roster to start the season. Matt Spaeth makes the initial 53-man roster, but he should soon thereafter find himself on the Reserve/Injured-Designated to Return List, which will open up a roster spot elsewhere that could be used on an extra wide receiver, running back, linebacker, or just about anywhere but quarterback. David Johnson has moved ahead of David Paulson, though, to my knowledge, he was not targeted in the receiving game yet. Johnson will also provide depth at fullback. Outside of one drop, Paulson looked capable as a receiving option, including a touchdown last night, though his blocking still needs improvement. Michael Palmer did nothing to lose a roster spot, and even started to get into the passing offense in the last two games, but the Steelers like Johnson and Paulson. Given the need for bodies at tight end, Nathan Overbay could find himself on the practice squad.

Offensive Line: (9)* Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, John Malecki, Guy Whimper [+ Joe Long]

The pieces along the starting offensive line have been in place since the Steelers released Willie Colon and failed to offer Max Starks a contract. Kelvin Beachum is currently not a threat to start, to my mind, but he could be starting at a moment’s notice at any position with an injury, because he has now played every position along the line. He may even earn a meritorious ‘start’ at tight end from time to time, especially if Heath Miller is slow to return to action. John Malecki has done a nice job, particularly at center but also at guard, throughout this preseason, and looks stronger than he has ever been. He may turn out to be a superior, and cheaper, Doug Legursky.

The Steelers worked Guy Whimper a lot at guard in the last three games, trying to give him position flexibility, but I believe that Joe Long has earned the eighth lineman spot. He got a lot of work at left tackle last night after being limited to right tackle in the previous two games, and were I the one making the decisions, I would carry him as a game day inactive over Whimper. I do not make the decisions, however. Therefore, I see the Steelers carrying Whimper due to Long’s practice squad eligibility, and when they place Spaeth on IR, I believe it will be Long who is called up, because I seriously question their ability to find a decent lineman on waivers this year. Chris Hubbard should be carried on the practice squad, as he has consistently run as the second-team left guard.

Defense: (25)

Defensive Line: (6) Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward, Al Woods, Alameda Ta’amu

There is a serious question as to whether or not the Steelers even carry six defensive linemen because Al Woods gives them such flexibility. Brian Arnfelt is a very promising and interesting defensive end prospect, but he will not see the field this year behind the top four, and he should be able to be stowed away on the practice squad. He could very well be important next year, however, with Hood, Keisel, and Woods all in the final year of their contracts.

Alameda Ta’amu is the draft pick, but Hebron Fangupo has seen earlier playing time recently, and there are reports that the coaching staff also believes the older Fangupo is the better player. Still, I have too hard a time of seeing the Steelers give up on him already, especially given the growth he has shown both on and off the field. Fangupo’s age also plays against him, as well as the near certainty that the loser will not be carried on the practice squad as the fourth nose tackle, because Ta’amu clearly has more long-term potential.

Outside Linebacker: (4) Jason Worilds, LaMarr Woodley, Jarvis Jones, Chris Carter

The top three positions are a given, and all three will see a lot of playing time this year barring injury. After a quiet first three preseason game, Chris Carter had a strong finale, netting three tackles and two sacks with a forced fumble. He generated no pressure in the first three preseason games. The only reason Alan Baxter loses the battle after being the team’s most productive pass rusher is because he has practice squad eligibility and the Steelers have too many inside linebackers this year not to keep five. Baxter should make the roster next year, however, especially if Worilds leaves in free agency.

Inside Linebacker: (5) Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Marshall McFadden, Brian Rolle, Vince Williams

Brian Rolle may not be a great special teams player by reputation, but he played on a lot of special teams units last night and in past weeks, including first-team kick return and covering punts, from memory. Maybe the Steelers have a higher opinion of his capabilities on special teams than many realize. He has played as the second-team inside linebacker next to Marshall McFadden for nearly all of the preseason, and that fact cannot be ignored. He forced a fumble last night, which is a very valuable asset given the team’s troubles forcing turnovers the last two years.

Kion Wilson may have played on every special teams unit, but he only managed one special teams tackle the entire preseason. Wide receiver J.D. Woods had two special teams tackles and he was cut in the first wave. Baron Batch and Stevenson Sylvester were both key special teams contributors and both of them were cut as well. The Steelers really like Vince Williams, so much that they promoted him to second-team on the depth chart despite the fact that Rolle has been playing ahead of him. He has looked good in about every facet of his game, including in pass coverage, and there is no reason that he could not develop into a strong special teams player. Wilson can go on the practice squad; however, I think they go with Terence Garvin’s upside and versatility instead.

Cornerback: (5) Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Curtis Brown, Terry Hawthorne

Curtis Brown may have been victimized again on defense in the preseason, but he is too valuable on special teams to not make the roster, and there is realistically nothing impressive behind him on the depth chart. Josh Victorian will still likely find himself on the practice squad if he does not make the roster, but that whiff on special teams that allowed a touchdown is too glaring, and he did nothing worth noting on defense. Still, he is likely ahead of Isaiah Green. Terry Hawthorne missed most of the offseason, but got in some work in the last few preseason games on defense and special teams, with fairly nondescript play in both areas, but he easily has the most potential of the three, and it helps that he was a draft pick. Still, I could see Hawthorne and Victorian easily swapping spots.

Safety (5) Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, DaMon Cromartie-Smith

The first four are locks—no-brainers. Carrying DaMon Cromartie-Smith after allowing a punt block in the first preseason game may raise some eyebrows, but the reality is that he has otherwise done fine on special teams, and plays on a lot of special teams units. Ross Ventrone made a play or two on special teams, but he also drew a penalty and missed a tackle. Cromartie-Smith offers things that Ventrone, and even the other backup safeties, do not: multiple years of experience in Dick LeBeau’s defensive scheme and height. This roster spot could very well be used elsewhere, but it makes sense to use it here. The fact that he is out of practice squad eligibility is a factor here as well.

Special Teams: (3)

Long Snapper: (1) Greg Warren

The veteran quickly disposed of his latest challenger, Luke Ingram, who was released before the preseason started.

Kicker: (1) Shaun Suisham

No competition. Suisham has done well since he’s been here aside from a stretch or two in 2011. He will never be known for making 55+ yard field goals, but he is about as good as anybody in the league since he has been with the Steelers from within 49 yards. I believe he has the highest field goal percentage in team history as it currently stands. He even has the leg to get his fair share of touchbacks.

Punter: (1) Drew Butler

The only question mark, the race goes to the younger leg. Drew Butler put a few punts within the 20 last night, which was good to see. Brian Moorman has struggled with distance. Butler could stand to have better hang-time and to be more consistent in general, but there is no compelling reason to go away from the incumbent in this case.

Practice Squad: (8) Alvester Alexander, Justin Brown, Chris Hubbard, Josh Victorian, Brian Arnfelt, Terence Garvin, Alan Baxter, Nathan Overbay

Almost Made It:

The following players are well within play to make the roster, and certainly may very well make the roster. However, they did not make it on my list, and I will explain why below.

Jonathan Dwyer: It was different when Dwyer’s competition was Baron Batch, a small back who could not run the ball with success. With Felix Jones in a Steelers uniform now—and looking formidable with limited experience—the Steelers now have four backs that can presumably carry a full load, but only one of those two that is not listed as a co-starter in this offense is scheduled to make $1.323 million this season. Dwyer fumbled twice in the preseason, and there are serious question marks about his decision-making and hesitation, especially when it comes to running the outside zone. Last year was supposed to be the year that Dwyer became a year-round professional, but he still allowed his weight to balloon mid-season, and twice this offseason. Between the Yo-Yo Diet and his desire to come to the sidelines for a breather more frequently than his coaches like—and the fact that Alvester Alexander can be a fifth back on the practice squad—it may very well be time to say goodbye for Dwyer. The Steelers may look to trade him as an option.

Jamie McCoy: Depending on Miller’s recovery, Jamie McCoy may be the player brought in to replace Spaeth on the active roster when he is placed on IR to give the Steelers three healthy tight ends, but otherwise he is clearly no better than fifth on the depth chart. Ditto on Michael Palmer.

Kion Wilson: Wilson plays on all the special teams units. Mike Tomlin said that special teams will be the deciding factor for the bottom of the roster. I am calling Tomlin a liar. Actually, I think his special teams abilities have been exaggerated, as have Brian Rolle’s supposed struggles in this area. Wilson would be on the practice squad, but I get the feeling that the Steelers are intrigued by Terence Garvin, which is why they have been playing him at outside linebacker as well.

Hebron Fangupo: Fangupo may supposedly be the better player now, but the Steelers have no ties to him, and he is already older, coming into the game late after serving as a missionary. Alameda Ta’amu has taken big strides on and off the field in the past year, and with the sixth lineman slated not to dress anyway, they may as well go for the long-term potential rather than the marginally better player now.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    Like Bryans list, I agree with most of this.. especially the Spaeth on IR with designation move which would allow for another player elsewhere once the season starts, if Will Johnson is good to go week 1 im not sure I’d stash Overbay on the PS as we could always call McCoy or maybe Palmer if we need another TE early on

    One things for sure, if Wheaton and Moye are our #4 and #5 I sure like the look of our WR core this year

  • 2443scott

    list seems pretty close to what it will be are few guys i think should be left go only because they are on border line but i know steelers will not let them go because they know system over some one who dont …i will be watching the running back cut here will they carry 2 backs at over a million or use one those to pay 2 others .

  • Marcus

    A lot of solid depth on our defensive front 7, and lacking everywhere else. I for one hope we carry 10 LB’s and make Carter game day inactive. I just think Baxter has gotten to much attention, and has to much potential to risk him signing with another team. I don’t see the need to carry 5 safeties.

  • Matt

    I like this list Bryan. I agree with the line backers you listed to make the cut. Williams, foote, rolle, Timmons, McFadden all keepers. The prior teams that Wilson played on he couldn’t seem to keep an active roster spot. It appear to me this guy do just good enough in preseason to make it on PS than get hurt a couple games after the season begin. I’m going to say no as well with this one. I see some potential in Garvin. Even starting him at PS and working his way up would be fine. Let’s hope good decisions are made with the cut. We pick the right guys and aren’t sending the wrong ones home.

  • Jason

    I would gladly cut Carter to keep a 5th safety with the injury history of Troy and Clark being a concussion waiting to happen. If it comes down to Baxter or Carter I pray they give Baxter a shot because Carter had his and blew it despite a decent game last night.

  • Russ Ruffing

    I think the Steelers will trade Dwyer, perhaps to the Giants now that Brown has a broken leg, and hopefully get a passable OLineman back in return. Personnally, I think it is not a sure thing that Arnfelt or some of the young LB’s make it to the practice squad because they are likely to be snatched up by some lower tier teams looking for help. So that has to be taken into consideration with these moves. A guy like Carter has maxed out by now. Don’t waste a spot on him when you got hungry young bucks waiting in the wings. The NFL is about stacking talent commodities on your roster; don’t let talent walk out the door or get away just because somebody else was drafted, etc. And at NT, take the best player period. If that is Fangupo, so be it.

  • Matthew Stanko

    What about cutting Landry, he will not get signed off waivers and sign him to the PS. opens up a spot on the 53. if Ben and Gradkowski go down, give Charlie a call.

  • JohnnyV1

    Very nicely done! I do question the use of the IR w/ designation to return for Spaeth, We just don’t know who might get injured in the early part of the season that we really will need later. A backup, blocking TE is not as critical as some other positions might be (i.e. Ike Taylor, Pouncey, Woodley, etc).

    I like Arnfelt, and think if we try to put him in the practice squad, he will be taken, same w/ Baxter, which is why I like the fact that the above list carries Baxter on the 53-man roster. Arnfelt should be there also, particularly given the comment noted above re: next year.

    Curtis Brown sucks as a CB, maybe they find someone at cutdown day who plays solid special teams, but can also play CB.

  • walter mason

    Our special teams this year may be hurting.

  • Marcus

    I say drop Redman and Dwyer, then sign Michael Turner.
    That will obviously never happen, but I don’t know why. Dwyer unreliable, and Redman was hard to watch last year.

    If we loose Sanders and Coth next year, I am pretty excited about the possibility of bringing Moye and Brown into the fold, and having a lot more size at WR.

  • Marcus

    Payton Hillis is about to be released as well, and has played well this preseason. Wishful thinking I know.

  • Matthew Marczi

    What exactly do Michael Turner and Peyton Hillis, in this stage of their careers, do you think they offer over Dwyer and Redman, and at what cost?

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think it’s too much of a risk to try to move him. Quarterbacks work on a different value scale. I have a feeling some team wouldn’t mind burying him on their 53-man roster. Plus the Steelers already said they would carry 3 quarterbacks.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I honestly don’t see the Steelers having *that* much trouble getting Baxter and Arnfelt to the practice squad. I think they’ll be fine there, but I certainly wouldn’t mind if one or both do make it onto the roster, depending on who they bump off to replace them.

    Regarding Curtis Brown, if they find another CB who is better on defense but can also play special teams, I think they might find someone other than Brown to cut, because he’s basically their best special teamer, and with Shamarko Thomas, I don’t expect the fourth CB to play much at all this year anyway.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s more a practice/scout team move than anything, but I wouldn’t mind if they go a different way if they feel they can get by in practice without him. Plus once Miller is healthy, I could easily see them cutting him and signing somebody else to the squad.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, I can’t really see Baxter being active over Carter, as the latter is the better special teams player anyway. If they do carry a fifth safety, he is likely to be active for special teams too. The fifth safety is one of my picks I’m least confident about anyway.

  • Jack Hambert

    Good analysis, assuming they pick no one up off of waivers. A good article would be on seeing who they could pick up from other teams that are likely camp cuts.

    I like the idea of dropping Landry Jones and picking him back up on the PS. I cant see someone making a roster spot for a 3rd string QB.

  • patrick Mayfield

    Carter vs Baxter

    Carter has only played in 8 games each in 2 years and so still has a year of PS eligibility. If you think Baxter is the better player week 1 then I don’t see why the team would chose Carter over him.

    The plus to Carter is that he has the familiarity with the system. He’s a good guy by all indications and you know what you get. His execution leaves something to be desired but in the past the Steelers have gone with the guy who knows the system.

    Baxter has higher upside and if you think he’s a more productive rusher, they should keep him. The evaluation as I see it is whether Baxter has significant liabilities as a defender. Don’t forget that you still have Timmons as the backup of last resort at the outside.

  • steeltown

    True

  • JohnnyV1

    we shall see pretty soon.

    Subject: Re: New comment posted on Marczi – Steelers 2013 Final 53 Man Roster Prediction

  • Guest

    So why can’t Landry Jones hit the practice squad? He’s done terrible enough that I don’t think somebody would pilfer him.

    This would let the team keep someone at another position and I think we would be alright with 2 quarterbacks.

  • Kevin SFIC

    The Steelers could be worried that some other team, like the Bills for example, might pick him up.

  • Joey

    Maybe we drop carter, and pick Adrian Robinson back up again? I think Robinson has a bigger upside than Carter does.

  • Marcus

    Talent

  • Matthew Marczi

    Hillis: 85 carries, 309 yards for 3.6 YPC, 2 fumbles last year.

    Turner: 244 carries, 928 yards, 3.8 YPC, 3 fumbles last year.

    And the Falcons were a better run-blocking team than the Steelers last year. They might not come cheap either. At best it’s a lateral move.

  • Matthew Marczi

    For a drafted player on his original team, you lose practice squad eligibility once you earn an “accrued season”, which is being active for 6 games, so Carter does not have practice squad eligibility. The fact that Timmons can play outside and the fact that the ILBs are better special teams players than Baxter is why I have him going to the practice squad; however, I can see the Steelers using 10 spots on LBs this year, in which casee Baxter would make it. Wouldn’t surprise me at all really. I wouldn’t be shocked if they let Carter go either, but he did step up last night and it is my understanding that the coaches are fond of him and his character, and that he’s become somewhat of a young leader to the new guys.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The Steelers already said they would carry three quarterbacks, and they only have three on the roster. A fourth-round rookie quarterback is certainly susceptible to being picked up. I’m confident they don’t take the risk of putting him on the practice squad. The Steelers need 7 players to be game day inactives anyway…why not let it be a third-string project quarterback?

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think they would have traded Carter instead of Robinson, in that case. He was moved because he was almost certain to not make the roster, and both Carter and Baxter have played well since the trade, so I can’t see Robinson back in Pittsburgh, especially with no practice squad eligibility. I hope he can catch on somewhere, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to. Maybe the Saints could be interested.

  • Joey

    Didn’t know he did not have PS eligibility. Well, in that case it was good for us then!

  • charles

    Not a bad thought

  • charles

    It might be that Carter’s playing was because he was on the bubble. If so, he represented himself very well, still Baxter’s dynamism (like Jarvis Jones) is intrigueing and might give the Steelers some powerful possibilities in the pass rush which we desperately need…

  • Pete

    Good list overall. I believe Dwyer ran well during the preseason. But they already know what he can do. I don’t believe he had to show them he can run. I agree that he did put the ball on the ground too many times in preseason and you just can’t do that unless you are recognized as the starter. I’ll still be surprised if Dwyer is released but it is a real possibility. However, even if he manages to find himself released, I’m not believing that somehow Felix Jones is going to resurrect his career in Pittsburgh. He’s a bust, plain and simple.

    Anyway, I really liked what I saw in Moye. They gotta keep this guy. Baxter is a keeper too.

  • Jeff

    Jones hasn’t lived up to his 1st round draft pick potential, but his numbers career wise are significantly better than both Redman and Dwyer combined. He’s averaged almost 4.8 yards per carry over his career with almost 600 carries, and more importantly right now he’s a healthy body.

    He’s looks like he’s in good shape and has earned nothing but praise from the coaching staff, especially Tomlin. I’m still pulling for Bell to get back in there as starter as soon as he’s fully healthy, but Jones could provide a spark that this team needs.

  • Tom

    In what way has Ta’amu made big strides on and off the field?

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