Marczi: 53-Man Roster Prediction – Training Camp Edition

Now that training camp has finally begun and we’re starting to get a clearer picture of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s time to take another crack at predicting the 53-man roster. These predictions are based on the accumulation of data through the offseason, of course, and are not just based on what was seen and heard on day one of practices.

Below will be a simple list of the names and numbers at each position group, followed by a brief explanation of my decisions. As usual, what follows is what I believe will ultimately happen, not necessarily what I personally would choose. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a prediction, but rather a wish list.

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

No surprises here. I just can’t see the Steelers ever going into a season with only two quarterbacks on the roster, and the coaching staff obviously has a higher opinion of Jones than many fans do. They’ll give him at least two full seasons to reveal his potential.

Running Back (3): Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer

For the time being, I’m sticking to the sentiment that the Steelers believe they can accomplish with their top two backs what most teams do with three. Archer is a wildcard, and snaps after the top two will already be hard to come by. Plus, Johnson can always carry the ball.

Tight End/Fullback (4): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Will Johnson, David Paulson

Because of the way the Steelers are using Johnson, I’m bunching the tight ends and fullbacks up in a throwback to the Bruce Arians days. Perhaps Paulson winning the last tight end spot could qualify as a minor controversy. I think the rookie could probably stand to benefit from some more seasoning on the practice squad, while I expect to see improvement, and more confidence, from the third-year player.

Wide Receiver (6): Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey

With a deep crop of wide receivers, it would just make sense to make the most of the bounty and carry six of them. The younger Brown makes it and begins to carve out a role for himself. Heyward-Bey serves as the emergency veteran presence in case any of the trio of inexperienced players falters.

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

Not much of a surprise among the top seven players. The final two spots are taken up by players who have proven their versatility in the past. Johnson has played all five positions at the college level, while Whimper, new to guard as of last year, played everywhere but center. He should only be more accustomed to guard now.

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

Everybody knows that the top four are going to make the roster, pretty much no matter what. Arnfelt emerges from the mountain of young defensive ends to join the rotation. With Thomas as an eligible body at nose, and the fact that the Steelers will be playing a lot in sub-packages, McCullers gets the chance to redshirt on the 53-man roster with a rep or two here and there.

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

No surprises amongst the top seven at the position. Carter gets one last chance in the final year of his rookie contract. Garvin is the new inside-out guy, edging out the rookie by virtue of his knowledge of the system and his contributions on special teams.

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

I’ve speculated multiple times about the possibility of the Steelers keeping 11 defensive backs, but when push comes to shove, I see them going with the usual 10. Blake is running with the second-team defense opposite Gay on the outside and is a core special teamer. Will Allen’s experience is too valuable to give up on this year. Richardson edges out the back end of the cornerbacks because of his height and smarts, proving that the stage isn’t too big for him.

Special Teams (3): Shaun Suisham, Greg Warren, Brad Wing

There will be a new punter this year either way, but I’m thinking the young, promising leg edges out the older leg who no longer has the consistency it once had. Wing has seemingly gotten his life in order off the field, and he’s ready to capitalize on his potential as a professional.

Practice Squad: Nick Williams, Jordan Zumwalt, Chris Hubbard, Rob Blanchflower, Isaiah Green, Alvester Alexander, Howard Jones, Hebron Fangupo

Addressing just about every position that isn’t already overloaded. Alexander and Hubbard resume the roles they played last year. Fangupo reverts to the practice squad in favor of the rookie, while two other rookies, Zumwalt and Blanchflower, hope to make the roster in year two. Green bounced back and forth last year, starting on the 53. This year, he starts on the practice squad.

About the Author

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

  • Putter

    While I can certainly make a case for everyone you’ve listed, there are a couple of concerns with your 53: 1.) as much as I like all of those WR’s, I can’t see them keeping 6 – they only play 2 or 3 at a time and rarely does the 4th get a throw, let alone the 5th. 2.) Unless McCullers REALLY delivers, I think you’ve got to have Fangupo on the 53 (does he have PS eligibility?) 3.) I wouldn’t rule out Brice McClain (mentioned by name by Coach Lake on draft day)

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Matt, I think you’ve nailed it.

    Defense. Based on the limited information we’re hearing so far, I think McCullers makes the 53 (inactive on game days). I also get the feeling we’re keeping an additional safety (Golden) for special teams and big nickel flexibility.

    Offense. I would like to give Blanchflower the nod at TE but Tomlin LOVES David Paulson (like he loves Willie Gay). The rookie will have to dominate to beat him, which I hope happens but I can’t bet on it yet. The last WR spot… Who knows?

  • Darryl Battle

    I do agree with most of your choices Matthew but there are some changes I would personally make:

    1) Remove Guy Whimper totally. Mainly because Wesley Johnson can play all 5 positions and Cody Wallace has G/C versatility as well.

    2) Remove Chris Carter and add Vic S’oto. S’oto has experience in the 3-4 defense and Carter has had 3 years to show something, anything, but has not produced.

    3) Replace Paulson with Blanchflower. I love Blanchflower’s athleticism and versatility. Look to notes on Chris Carter for David Paulson.

    4) Place Landry Jones on the PS. Because the defensive line needs more depth, I would have Jace Mauro on the 53 at defensive end and Jones on the PS. He still has PS eligibility and most teams rarely care 3 QB’s on Sunday.

    What do you think about those changes?

  • dgh57

    With Dri Archer on the roster I don’t think we carry 6 WRs. See ya, DHB!!

    I think if Blanch shows he can block better than Paulson, then he’s history!

  • Weiss Chad

    I don’t know what would upset me more,Paulson making 53 or carter making 53.Unless Paulson has figured out how to block or carter can figure out how to find the qb.

  • cencalsteeler

    Yep, I see it the same way Matt, unless camp injuries dictates otherwise.


    I like your thinking Darryl. I would say Munch gets to decide Whimper’s fate…and I think he proves talented enough in his ZBS to keep. All the rest are spot on, plus I like Goodwin to make the PS. I think if we keep this Offense listed above, with the 6 WR’s plus Dri, that it will show that the FO and Coaches have bought into more than just Haley’s draft analytics, but also into.his game-planning analytics, that speed from one teams depth gases the defender into making mistakes against now fresher top tier receiving talent. Go Steelers!

  • Leon Mcnair

    McCullers will beat out fangupo , fangupo is garbage

  • Steelers12328882

    Not bad except for Paulson. I don’t understand why everyone gives Golden a roster spot.

  • walter mason

    Moye had his chance and didnt show anything. It will be harder for him to make the roster this year but its not impossible. he will have to play hard to impress.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Golden gets a roster spot because he plays two positions and is one of the best special teamers on the team. Danny Smith has a lot of sway over the last few roster spots. I chose Paulson because that’s what I see the coaching staff doing, not necessarily what I would do.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Alex says he’s playing second-team nose over Fangupo early in camp so far.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Archer in the mix definitely complicates things, but so far it seems like they’re mostly using him as a RB. And like I wrote, as of now, I see them carrying DHB as an extra veteran because of how inexperienced everybody but AB and Moore are ahead of him. I think Blanchflower has a strong chance of making the roster ( as does Eric Waters).

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s why I have Paulson going over Blanchflower for now: coach’s discretion. I could easily see it going the other way though, as we’ve really just started this process.

  • Matthew Marczi

    My thinking on the receivers is that, because JB plays his way on to the roster, there are too many inexperienced players at the position, so they carry DHB as a veteran in case they falter. He also plays special teams and has been a good teaching influence so far from the sounds of things. McCullers so far seems to be playing second-team over Fangupo, but it’s very early. I’m certainly not ruling out McCain (in addition to what you mentioned, Steelers FA signings almost never miss the cut, although they almost never sign this many either), but it sounds to me like Richardson is ahead of where they thought he would be, and the team isn’t short on…well, short cornerbacks as it is. Richardson is the only other 6″ guy outside of the starters, so I see that as a bit of an edge for now. Obviously, all very much subject to change.

  • dgh57

    Thanks, I’ll take that as positive news!

  • Matthew Marczi

    1) I don’t see the Steelers having so much confidence in Johnson already that they would be comfortable carrying him as the 8th and last lineman. He’s a bit undersized right now to play tackle at the pro level, so I see Whimper as the 4th tackle for now, and I think Munchak will help him as well.

    2) While I’m interested to see what So’oto can offer, he really hasn’t done anything in his career either, honestly, and the coaching staff at least trusts that Carter knows what he’s doing. My prediction as of now is that they would rather have Carter, but that can change. I don’t think he would have made the roster last year without that last preseason game, for example.

    3) As I’ve commented to somebody else above, I definitely don’t consider Paulson a lock. Blanchflower is strong competition, but so is Palmer, and Eric Waters as well. Should be a good battle.

    4) I just can’t see the Steelers trying to put Jones on the practice squad and risk losing him. I think they would consider that much more of a loss than most fans do. Remember, Roethlisberger has only played 16 games twice in his career, and they’ve had to use more than two QBs more often than they would have cared to over the years. I think a third QB is more valuable than a 5th DE, but I do see Mauro giving Williams a run for his money for the PS spot.

    Everything you’ve said is certainly plausible, and I considered those variables making up this roster. This is just where I see the coaching staff leaning as of now. Thanks for the reply.

  • Steelers12328882

    Well hopefully we have a few better options for special teams cause Golden sucks at playing safety.

  • Putter

    So much could change based on the next 3 weeks – loving the dialog as we move from shorts to pads. At the edge, your 53 was gutsy.
    If McCullers and Richardson play their way on to the 53, I think it’s a net-positive for the Steelers! I imagine the DL battles don’t start until 3pm tomorrow. 🙂
    I also wonder about only carrying 3 RB’s. It seems risky.(especially if one of them is Archer, simply based on his size)

    You make a compelling case for 6 WR’s and I certainly get it. I love the depth but my practical side wants them to have another solid tackler somewhere.