With minicamp in the rearview mirror and training camp on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Steelers should already have all of the main components of their offseason roster in place, with all draft picks signed and no more free agents projected to be added until further evaluation.
It’s possible that a need should arise for further additions, either due to poor performance or injuries, once we reach training camp.
But for the time being, we should take a look at the depth chart that the front office has put together since the end of the 2013 season and see how well it stacks up in terms of quality and depth.
Due to the cumbersome lengths that offseason rosters can reach, we will be projecting a number or range of roster spots per position and focusing on that number of players per position, with other potential notables receiving mention below.
Projected Roster Spots: 5-6
Ike Taylor: Is this it for Taylor, in his 12th season? While he says he doesn’t want to play anywhere else, I have to imagine that he might still want to play after this year. Whether or not the Steelers give him another opportunity in 2015 will very much depend on how he bounces back this year.
Cortez Allen: Allen had a bit of an aborted beginning to his career as a starter last year. He was basically demoted to playing the slot for most of the season. But he bounced back late in the year, and even recorded a pick six. He battled some injuries last season, but he appears to be healthy heading into this year. Hopefully that will make all the difference.
William Gay: Gay has a bit of a history of rising to the occasion after being counted out, starting in his second year in 2008, when he stepped in due to injury and helped the defense march on to a Super Bowl without missing a beat. He had to fill in as starter last year while Allen struggled to find his bearings, but he is at his best when he is allowed to stay in the slot.
Antwon Blake: Blake, the 5’9” speedster whom the Steelers picked up with final cut downs last season, didn’t get to play much last year due to his unfamiliarity with the system. But he’s been practicing as the number four corner (and in the slot while Taylor was absent) all offseason so far, which would lead one to believe that he’s in the driver’s seat for that role. He has reportedly had a good offseason overall so far, but he’ll have competition in training camp.
Brice McCain: The Steelers signed McCain to add a slot corner with experience, but there are no guarantees that he makes the roster. He’s apparently been playing behind Blake so far. His roster spot may come down to special teams.
Shaquille Richardson: The rookie fifth-rounder does possess one trait that gives him an advantage over the rest of his competition, and that would be his height. At six foot, he has three inches over most of his competition. We’ve heard nothing negative about his progress so far, unlike the last fifth-round rookie cornerback.
Others: The fact that both Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden can play the slot hinders the opportunities for advancement for the rest of the cornerbacks, which could result in the team carrying only five. If the unit as a whole performs well enough on special teams, however, it’s not out of the question that they even carry seven.
Isaiah Green, another short burner, saw some special teams duty last season. Devin Smith has spent some time now in the system as well. The two could at least battle for a spot on the practice squad, where both saw time a year ago.