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: 4-5
Troy Polamalu: It seems almost a given that as long as Polamalu is healthy, he will turn in a Pro Bowl season. And he was healthy last year, which means he had a Pro Bowl year, forcing five fumbles and intercepting two passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Due to injuries, the Steelers moved Polamalu up to linebacker frequently in the second half of the season in the quarters package. This may have contributed to some of his miscues in coverage, though certainly not all of them. His gambles didn’t roll the way he wanted them to more frequently than normal last season.
Mike Mitchell: Mitchell is the biggest free agent acquisition for the Steelers since perhaps James Farrior or Jeff Hartings, and likewise will be expected to enter the starting lineup immediately. His size, speed, strength, and intelligence will be an asset in shoring up some of this defense’s weaknesses, even if his tackling technique leaves some to be desired. If the coaching staff can clean that up, he should be a very good player for this defense for years to come.
Will Allen: Allen has been with the Steelers for the better part of the last two seasons, receiving significant playing time in both cases. But the team was willing to enter the season without him last year, with the same backups that they have now. Could they possibly do the same again this year, if another roster spot were needed elsewhere? It would be a surprise cut, but not out of the question.
Shamarko Thomas: The second-year defensive back spent the majority of his playing time as a rookie covering the slot, until he injured his ankle and lost his place in the rotation to Allen. It’s not entirely clear where his place will be this season at this point, but training camp and the preseason should offer some clarity on that matter.
Robert Golden: Entering his third season, the former undrafted free agent Golden has emerged as a core special teams player, which alone should secure his roster spot for another year, but there’s no reason to believe that he can’t contribute on defense. Like Thomas, Golden is also capable of covering the slot, but he played deep safety in his limited playing time last year.
Others: Ross Ventrone and Jordan Dangerfield are in camp, but they don’t figure to battle for anything more than perhaps a role on special teams. The problem for them is that the reserves at safety already serve that role. It’s unlikely that either player will find a spot with the Steelers, barring injury, even on the practice squad.