Marczi: Steelers Roster Projections – OTA Edition

It’s now the beginning of June, and we’ve already gotten some of our first glimpses of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers roster through the first round of OTAs. I don’t expect that the Steelers will add anybody new, but if they do, it will be dealt with then. Now, it’s time to start exploring how the regular season roster will take shape, so here’s an OTA edition roster projection.

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

Running Back (4): Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer, Will Johnson

Wide Receiver (5): Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant, Justin Brown

Tight Ends (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Rob Blanchflower

Offensive Line (9): Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Cody Wallace, Guy Whimper, Wesley Johnson

Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt, Brian Arnfelt, Daniel McCullers

Linebacker (9): Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, Chris Carter, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Arthur Moats, Jordan Zumwalt

Secondary (10): Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, William Gay, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden, Antwon Blake, Shaquille Richardson

Specialists (3): Greg Warren, Shaun Suisham, Adam Podlesh

Wildcard (1): Darrius Heyward-Bey OR David Paulson OR Brice McCain

This is how I see the roster unfolding as we move on. Of course, the vast majority of it isn’t full of too many surprises. The quarterback position, as it typically is, is quite safe, for example.

One possible point of interest is that I see all nine draft picks making the final roster. The biggest question marks in that area would be Daniel McCullers due to his raw mechanics, Jordan Zumwalt due to his time off, and Shaquille Richardson and Rob Blanchflower due to the potential numbers at their positions.

The Steelers typically carry just about any free agent player that they sign, so it may be surprising that I have both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brice McCain potentially missing the roster. But the Steelers rarely sign as many free agents as they have this year, and even with the amount of turnover they’ve experienced, it’s difficult to get everybody a spot.

Some more general comments:

Mike Tomlin said that he could do with two backs what most teams do with three. I take him at his word. The inclusion of Dri Archer limits the need for Heyward-Bey as Justin Brown beats him out for the fifth receiver spot.

With Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth back healthy, the impulse to carry four tight ends is drastically reduced. Rob Blanchflower proves that he’s a more well-rounded player than either David Paulson or Michael Palmer. Paulson has a chance to make it as a fourth tight end if he performs well on special teams, as Tomlin still hangs on to his belief in him.

With Cody Wallace and the loser of the tackle battles ready-made as game day reserves, and Guy Whimper and his flexibility on board, the Steelers can afford to carry Wesley Johnson as a ninth lineman. He has the ability and wherewithal to play this season, but could stand to bulk up some.

Brian Arnfelt was already on the roster last season before they booted three of their top four defensive ends. Because defensive linemen don’t contribute much on special teams, however, they continue to carry just six of them with all being healthy. McCullers is a game day inactive with Cam Thomas having the ability to play nose tackle—when the Steelers are not in sub-packages.

The Steelers have lots of inside linebackers, and they take advantage of the depth of one of the prime special teams spots. On the outside, the team is more comfortable than many would like them to be, but they go with Arthur Moats and Chris Carter there for depth. Jordan Zumwalt and Terence Garvin fight a close battle for the last spot, and Zumwalt’s long-term potential wins out.

Pittsburgh would like to carry more defensive backs if they could—and they might, with McCain. The depth here is too valuable to special teams with the likes of Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, and Antwon Blake.

McCain has to earn an 11th defensive back spot that way, unless the Steelers are willing to dump Will Allen, which they don’t appear ready to do. Richardson has a relationship with Carnell Lake and is about three inches taller than his nearest competitors.

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

    DHB will make the team and Spaeth won’t or can’t.

  • Donny Simmons

    Don’t count Deion Blue out. If he is healthy he is very good. I’d love to see him make it as a gunner get a little bigger and push for a starting role next year.

  • ApexSteel

    Here’s a thought. How about we give Terrell Thomas a chance?

  • mem359

    Considering all the college players leaving early, I wonder if the practice squad rules should be changed, to add a spot or two for rookies, where they can’t be plundered by other teams (that first year).

  • falconsaftey43

    I hope spaeth is healthy this season. Injury is the only way he doesnt make the team.

  • dgh57

    I agree with most everything except at LB. Howard Jones is my coming out of nowhere player and would provide a shot in the arm so to speak right where it’s really needed the most and that’s at the OLB position. He could be this years Terence Garvin and could be Chris Carter’s ticket out of town!

  • SteelersDepot

    I will be SHOCKED if Blue makes the 53. It would be an upset of all upsets.

  • dgh57

    Spaeth is a very good run blocker to go along with our improved OL, to go along with Bell and Blount. He’s a important piece to get our running game going therefore I don’t see him going anywhere.

  • ergomesh

    Moye over brown another year on practice squad for brown we also should consider not having 3 qbs in roster seems like a waste

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    This is just speculation of course but I believe Howard Jones makes a spot at OLB over either Carter or Zumwalt. I also believe Heyward Bey makes a spot at WR over Brown because I think he contributes more on special teams.

    Besides that I pretty much agree with the list. Although I hope we look to scoop up some other teams “cuts” at the DB and OT positions. And I hope we look to bring back some combination of Harrison/Holmes/Keisel as depth.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I can see this Matt.

    Justin Brown almost bounced Moye last year even with Moye having a full year on the PS and Justin being fresh out of College. All accounts are JB is a hard worker, runs good routes and has more bulk than Moye which is Moyes problem. He can’t seem to get separation and his bean pole physique is part of the problem.

    Arnfeldt was snatched off the practice squad for a reason. Now he has an entire off season of the playbook and he was already strong right out of college. I have always said Fang is done. He was a stop gap because they got rid of Taamu because of off the field issues, not because he outplayed Alameda.

    I can see Zumwalt also. Everything I have heard so far says he plays faster than his combine time and he knows this type of system already. He willingness to hit people is unquestioned.

    This team is getting faster, deeper ( except for a few issues) and the final 53 will show that. The PS group of developmental players is getting better and better also. Nick Willams, I can see Kashiff Moore on it again. Moore has potential, just not quite there yet.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I could see him on the PS though.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Spaeth? No way Spaeth doesnt make the team. Did you see the run game immediately after Spaeth came back? He also does catch the ball if you through it to him and most of the time, its a TD. Look at his career stats.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I could see a lot of two TE sets in the redzone. With miller, Spaeth and the ability to have Bell or Archer available for a swing pass. Brown and Wheaton or Bryant on the ends?

    That is a lot of options and size now on offense. Ill say this again, Spaeth is 6’7″ if you make it to your third or fourth read, throw him the ball inside the redzone. He can do more than block when given the opportunity.

  • cencalsteeler

    Any word on Brad Wing and how he’s doing? It’s slow, so I thought I’d ask.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I 100% guarantee that Spaeth will make the team. He just had the screws removed from his foot four weeks ago, which is why he didn’t practice last week, but he claims that his foot feels better than it has in some time.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I wouldn’t mind it, personally, if he was willing to settle for vet min. Otherwise I’d rather have resources allocated to extending players.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I may be mistaken, but I think an expansion of the practice squad was voted on this year but rejected. Assuming I’m not imagining things, I could see this being brought up again.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I haven’t heard anybody mention him yet…not even during rookie minicamp. But I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about the punting battle in time.

  • LucasY59

    I think the “wild card” players are actually more favored to make the Roster (other than Paulsen)

    I think McCain is the 53rd guy on the roster (need as much depth in the Secondary as possible)

    Heyward-Bey over J. Brown (DHB is the better ST player and Brown can go to the PS again)

    Blanchflower and Palmer is the real competition for the 3rd TE (Paulsen should be gone, would’ve been last year if top 2 TE’s were healthy) If Blanchflower can do the same things on ST that Palmer did last year, than he’s the guy if not he can go to the PS

    If they sign Harrison (and/or Keisel) tomorrow then Zumwalt (as long as Spence shows he can still play in TC when the hitting starts, I think/hope he will) and McCullers can go to the PS (If neither of the vets are signed for depth they are definitely on speed dial if there is an injury)

    Pratice Squad = already mentioned J.Brown, Blanchflower, Zumwalt, McCullers OLB- H.Jones, DE- N.Williams (if not on PUP) or Mauro (if Williams is still hurt) RB- 3rd best from TC after Bell and Blount, CB- I.Green or D.Belue, O-line probably a G or 2?, WR- K.Moore (if J.Brown does make the Roster)

  • Eric MacLaurin

    HIgher bar to make the roster this year. Some tough choices coming up unless we have a few injuries.

    Everyone has to earn their spot and some people will show things they haven’t done before but as of now I would let Will Allen and Paulson go while keeping Bey and McCain.

    I think Howard Jones makes it and that we also sign James Harrison. They will replace Carter and Will Johnson.

  • LucasY59

    That is disappointing, I would like to see a Developmental Roster of about 5 players that are safe from being signed by other teams

    and a few more spots on the PS so the team can still practice if players get hurt

  • lefnor

    I like this roster projection very much. But I think Whimper’s spot is not so safe, he is the 9th OL member and his roster spot is in serious doubt imo.
    The wildcard man would be McCain for me.

  • Paul R

    if they are signed by another team they are guaranteed a roster spot for I think, 5 weeks? that amount at the minimum is more than they make all year on the practice squad. you cannot prevent the guys from making more money if possible.

  • Paul R

    Unless Coach Porter has misgiving about Jarvis Jones I do not see Harrison being signed, even at 955K veteran minimum. With the players already at DE I also don’t see The Beard coming back (one because veteran minimum is still 955K of salary cap and two because he has already publicly stated that he doesn’t want to play for minimum).

    Just like with Hampton, Hines, and Harrison last year, I believe the team with just quietly move on…

  • ApexSteel

    Extending Ben or Worilds would actually provide us with more cap room. So he may be able to take a little more than that.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Out of curiosity, who would you see replacing Whimper’s spot? And as it stands right now, I think I would agree that McCain is the most likely of the three wildcards I’ve listed to make the roster.

  • Matthew Marczi

    True, but I think extensions with Pouncey or Allen are more likely. I have a feeling an extension for Roethlisberger won’t happen this season. I just looked it up, however, and Thomas played for the minimum last season anyway. I’d forgotten that the Giants released him last year and then re-signed him.

  • lefnor

    An 8-men OL is not out of the question with the C-OG-OT capable Wesley Johnson. 7 OL will be active on gameday, so maybe a total of 8 would be enough. The 8th would be Johnson at the beginning of the season. Adams can play OT and Wallace is a good center and guard backup.
    But all of it depend on Johnson’s progress.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Agreed that an 8-man OL is very possible, but in that scenario, I would think the Steelers carry Whimper and sign Johnson to the practice squad. You have to keep in mind that the team needs at least 10 linemen between the roster and the practice squad for practice and a scout team.

  • LucasY59

    then pay them more to be a developmental player

  • Donny Simmons

    Dave it would not be the first shocker for you. Remember Robert Golden.

  • steelerwheeler

    Dont really care what Tomlin says, you think the Steelers want to head into a game with their starting back out (the chances of Bell missing a game are very, very high) leaving them with Bloundt, an always under utilized fullback, and an college player not big enough to be excluded from pee-wee football? Another RB with a pulse makes this team.

  • steeltown

    I think I totally agree with this assessment

  • Stun22

    Howard jones has been doing well, from what i have been hearing and because of his recent success, Chris carter may be moving down the depth chart. It would be foolish to let that much athleticism go.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Mine was very close to that…I had Whimper not making the roster but Palmer did and Golden missed the roster but McCain did