Kozora: Steelers 2014 53 Man Roster Prediction – Post First Preseason Game Edition

By Alex Kozora

My third attempt at projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53 man roster. We’re gaining a little more clarity but for now, some situations are still fluid.

Feel free to add in with your input below.

Offense (24)

Quarterbacks (2) – Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski

Analysis: I’m nothing if not stubborn. Landry Jones has put together a couple nice practices and I’m slightly starting to come around to him. But still, the principle of the issue is a roster spot is better served for a guy who could contribute as opposed to one who will definitely be holding a clip board all year. Jones can be stashed on the practice squad. No one is going to pick up a guy who has never taken an NFL snap.

Running Backs (4) – Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Dri Archer, Tauren Poole

Analysis: Although there is not a clear favorite, it still feels unlikely the team would carry just three running backs, something they’ve only done once since 2008. Ideally, the 4th running back would also be apt in blitz pickup and as a receiver, and the former is an area Poole struggled in Saturday. Josh Harris may have usurped him in practice but Poole carries more weight as a special teamer. He was the upback for the entire game.

Fullbacks (1) – Will Johnson

Analysis: Call him a fullback, an H-Back, tight end, it doesn’t really matter. Johnson will line up everywhere this year.

Wide Receivers (5)– Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant

Analysis: The one difference from last time is the removal of Darrius Heyward-Bey. Pretty obvious his chances to make the team are slim. Dealt with a concussion and when he has been healthy, he’s been running as the #7 WR behind Derek Moye and the five above. Expect Justin Brown to get a helmer over Bryant if it comes down to keep four on game day.

Tight Ends (3) – Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, David Paulson

Analysis: Putting David Paulson on the roster gives me slight indigestion but no one else has made a case for this spot. The team will not keep just two “true” tight ends. Paulson at least has experience in the system and has made a couple of plays in camp and in Saturday’s game.

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

Analysis:  Not going to change anything here. I think Dave Bryan makes a good point about at least entertaining the idea of keeping Bryant Browning on the 53. He might be playing the best out of any of the backups. Whimper gets the last spot by virtue of being able to play four positions. If you keep a player like Browning, you would have only one backup RT.  Versatility is critical for the Steelers and it’s not like anyone’s talent is vaulting them onto the roster.

Defense (26)

Defensive Lineman (6) – Cameron Heyward, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt, Steve McLendon, Josh Mauro, Daniel McCullers

Analysis: Wrote last time this would be a tough group to project, and it has been. Making two changes for this edition. Kicking Roy Philon and Brian Arnfelt off my 53. Mauro and McCullers replace them. Mauro has been running as the second-team right end since last Thursday and has looked quicker off the ball than I expected. McCullers has shown real potential. Although he won’t see time at nose tackle, and could be inactive most games, I’m intrigued by the idea of him being used as a subpackage defensive end who can collapse the pocket.

Inside Linebackers (5) – Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin

Analysis: I said Sean Spence needed to show me he was healthy and he clearly is. Goes on the 53 in a heartbeat. No room for Zumwalt, who has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t shown value on special teams.

Outside Linebackers (5) – Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Chris Carter, Howard Jones

Analysis: Jones gets my final roster spot, replacing DHB. Does make this group heavy but pretty much virtually anywhere I add will make them heavy. We’ve done this song and dance with guys like Adrian Robinson and Alan Baxter before, but maybe this is the year a rookie pass rusher can finally latch onto the 53.

Cornerbacks (5) – Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, Brice McCain

Analysis: Nothing changing here. McCain has been used on first team kick coverage, played before Shaq Richardson, and can play in the slot and on the outside. I still see Richardson as having to climb past Devin Smith before he even thinks about threatening McCain’s spot. Still could change though.

Safety (5) – Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden

Analysis: No differences here either. Still a strength of this team. Don’t see how anyone is going to get cut. Golden is the upback and Will Allen is a Tomlin favorite who has gotten most reps over Shamarko Thomas.

Specialists (3)

Kicker (1) – Shaun Suisham

Analysis: No explanation needed.

Punter (1) – Brad Wing

Analysis: Winning by default, of course. Still no guarantee Wing will get the job. If he isn’t up to snuff, the team could pluck somebody off the streets like they did last year with Zoltan Mesko.

Long Snapper (1) – Andrew Economos

Analysis: Mike Tomlin sure made Greg Warren’s injury sound ominous. Just taking a stab here. Likely to assume UDFA Bryce Davis will not be this team’s long-snapper. Tomlin left Tampa Bay one year before Economos arrived, but I’m sure he has some connections with coaches who can fill him in. Economos long-snapped for Tampa from 2006 to 2013.

Practice Squad (8) –Rob Blanchflower, Jordan Dangerfield, Chris Elkins, Josh Harris, Ethan Hemer, Landry Jones, Shaq Richardson,  Jordan Zumwalt

Analysis: Three rookies don’t make the roster. Elkins can play center and guard and looked the most technically sound Saturday. Waters versus Blanchflower is close but the team will remember the hope they had when drafting Blanchflower. Dangerfield’s impactful hits earn him a spot.

2014 Steelers 53 Man Roster Prediction Training Camp

OFFENSE (24)
Roethlisberger, BenQB
Gradkowski, BruceQB
Brown, AntonioWR
Wheaton, MarkusWR
Moore, LanceWR
Brown, JustinWR
Bryant, MartavisWR
Miller, HeathTE
Spaeth, MattTE
Paulson, DavidTE
Bell, Le’VeonRB
Blount, LeGarretteRB
Archer, DriRB
Poole, TauranRB
Johnson, WillFB
Pouncey, MaurkiceC
DeCastro, DavidG
Foster, RamonG
Beachum, KelvinT/G
Gilbert, MarcusT
Adams, MikeT
Wallace, CodyC/G
Whimper, GuyT/G
Johnson, WesleyT/G
DEFENSE (26)
Taylor, IkeCB
Allen, CortezCB
Gay, WilliamCB
Blake, AntwonCB
McCain, BriceCB
Polamalu, TroyS
Mitchell, MikeS
Thomas, ShamarkoS
Golden, RobertS
Allen, WillS
Heyward, CameronDE
McLendon, SteveNT/DE
Tuitt, StephonDE
Thomas, CamDE/NT
Mauro, JoshDE
McCullers, DanielNT
Timmons, LawrenceILB
Shazier, RyanILB
Williams, VinceILB
Spence, SeanILB
Garvin, TerenceILB/OLB
Worilds, JasonOLB
Jones, JarvisOLB
Carter, ChrisOLB
Moats, ArthurOLB
Jones, HowardOLB
SPECIALISTS (3)
Economos, AndrewLS
Suisham, ShaunK
Wing, BradP
PRACTICE SQUAD (8)
Dangerfield, JordanS
Hemer, EthanDE
Richardson, ShaquilleCB
Blanchflower, RobTE
Elkins, ChrisC/G
Jones, LandryQB
Harris, JoshRB
Zumwalt, JordanILB/OLB

Senior in college, blogging from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Aric Brown

    Surprised to not see Arnfelt on the PS

  • ajleight

    Is anyone else ready to see one of the many dual threat TE popping up around the league to come in to play behind Heath until he’s ready to be unleashed? I thought it might have been Saunders, but we all know why that idea went out the window.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Or Nick Williams, for that matter. I would put either of them ahead of Hemer. Based on the quality of their backup OL, I think they might pick up someone from another team for the practice squad.

  • D.j. Hoy

    They say Waters is that kind of athlete. Personally I was on the Tyler Eifert wagon last year, but that didn’t happen either.

  • Alex Kozora

    Arnfelt has fallen so far so fast. Williams is a possibility but Hemer is running ahead of him right now.

  • Steelers12328882

    I don’t think Gradkowski is good enough for us to carry only 2 QBs. Almost perfect roster prediction, but get rid of Poole and add Landry to the 53. I’d just switch places actually and carry 2 RBs on the PS.

  • Crowned

    He’s better than any #3 we can get right now, and as long as he’s not hurt we have no need to carry 3.

  • John Novella

    Nice work. I appreciate your daily camp updates and analysis. I agree with much of your projected 53 man roster. However, although I would like to see them keep only 2 QBs, I think they will very likely keep 3. As such, there will be 1 less roster spot to use elsewhere. That would likely not leave enough room for 5 RBs.

  • steeltown

    Agree with almost everything. Im still undecided about only keeping 2QBs on roster but lets say we do, then I like your roster. The only change I would make is probably keeping Moye or Kashif Moore over Hemer on the practice squad.

    That said, I could see some things shake up over the next few weeks and im still hoping Shaq Richardson gets more playing time and has a good showing, in turn earning himself a spot on the 53

  • joed32

    It was only 2 years ago in 2012 when Ben was out and Batch and Leftwich both played in the game because of injuries. When we had Randle El or Ward they could act as emergency QBs is there anyone on the team now that could fill that role? If not then I would keep 3.

    I’m with you on Shaq and Williams.

  • RMSteeler

    Alex, I agree with most of your projections. However, I don’t see Landry Jones clearing waivers to the PS. I can think of a number of teams that might compete to take him for their #2 QB. A fourth round pick with two years system experience and starting to show a fairly good upgrade in play is a pretty big risk to try that, no NFL reg season snaps or not. Then he would truly be a wasted 4th rd pick that had a 2nd or 3rd rd grade on him. If you want to go with a QB to the PS, they might consider trying to trade Landry although I don’t think they could get anything higher than a 5th or 6th round pick. However, a team stacked at OLB like we are at ILB could be interested and could have an impact this year instead of two years down the road. If they like Kay, he definitely would make the PS if they want to go 2 QB route.

  • steeltown

    That’s always been my thinking as well. We have needed 3QBs in Pittsburgh over the yrs.

  • Alex Kozora

    I think it’s fair to classify McCullers as such. We really didn’t know what we had with him. Learning more, you can what there is to like. He’s not just big. The guy can anchor and move. Still a lot of work to do but I see the allure of his game…past the 350 pound listing.

    But yeah, could very well be inactive because he wouldn’t be the backup NT. Had to rack my brain about which seven I’d keep inactive. Tough to do. Think I’d have Poole, Bryant, two OL, McCullers, Howard Jones, and McCain.

  • Alex Kozora

    You’d probably see a lot of Wildcat if both were to go down.

    But as Tomlin says, live in your hopes, not your fears. Not going to keep Jones for the remote chance both QBs go down in the same game.

    The one caveat I’d add to my own argument is that if you carry just two, and one goes down, you get conservative with that second guy out of that injury fear.

    But close to half the league has done it for the last few years and that situation has come up rarely, if ever.

  • Alex Kozora

    I feel there are fans in 31 other cities saying how their guy won’t clear waivers. Doesn’t happen that often. Most teams prefer to pick from the guys they’ve seen every day. Every practice, every meeting. What makes them tick, how they are made up mentally, how they respond to coaching, etc. With a guy off the street, you just don’t know. You lose that comfort level.

    Plus, you have a good 13 teams keeping just 2 QBs. They all probably carry at least four. So there’s 26 other QBs getting cut. If a team is looking for a QB, they probably like one of those 26 more than Jones.

    Jones should clear waivers without issue.

  • Alex Kozora

    I have no clue how he fared. Just took a stab, wanted to at least provide a name.

  • steeltown

    Its a good guess. He has 5-6 seasons worth of experience.

  • Asmitty56

    None of the RBs on the roster after Archer are worth keeping, I’d sooner run Will Johnson out there as a RB before any of them. If they keep 4 RBs at all, it will be one that’s not currently on the roster unless Houston shows something.

    Would rather keep Palmer over Paulson.

    Would rather keep Nick Williams or Shaq Richardson over Howard Jones, unless Jones impresses on special teams. Being in the right place and taking advantage of other player’s great plays should only get him so far. As it is right now, in a pinch Garvin, Shazier, and Timmons can play OLB without hurting them at ILB thanks to that great depth. If Jones makes the team it will be because he beat out Chris Carter, who’s contract is up soon in the future.

    I might consider it a toss up between keeping Nick Williams or Wesley Johnson, Williams will see the field long before Wesley (I hope). Unless they decide to keep only 3 RBs, then it’s a mute point.

  • Asmitty56

    No one is putting Landry as their #2 unless their starting QB or second string QB gets hurt.

  • steeltown

    Its funny you mention H.Jones being in the right place at the right time.. it wasn’t that long ago that Adrian Robinson (previous camp phenom) scored a defensive TD in the preseason. He would go on to make the roster, but it was short lived

  • Asmitty56

    Well, they have to get one eventually. I mean what else would be their target in the draft? CB, future starter at TE, LT, as well as depth on OL. I’d also add in a sub package DE, a prototypical 4-3 DE (preferably one good against the run) they can sub in during the nickel. That way they could have a bit of a bigger body in there when they only have two down linemen so they can play the run a bit better, and they could stand him up as a LB or put his hand in the dirt for different looks. With the versatility of their LBs they could draw up multiple play calls, maybe sub him in for a ILB and slid Jarvis inside, that puts multiple pass rushers on the field at once. Or sub him in for Jarvis, to have two bigger pass rushers on the field and have a bit of a 4-2 look that they could stand up or put one or both with their hands in the dirt.

    Would love for them to make their sub packages more versatile.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I agree with your 53 man prediction Alex as I too am not on the keep Landry Jones bandwagon. I know a 3rd qb is nice to have but if we look around the league which 3rd team qb can come in and play winning football? It’s a luxury we had last year that we don’t need this year. A roster spot could be saved for one of the young Lb’s or maybe Shaq can sneak onto the 53 with that spot. I’m warming up to Mauro good hustle player stays around the ball. Big Mac has been a pleasant surprise in camp. After watching his college tape I thought there’s no way he makes the team playing so inconsistent and slow off the ball! Coach Mitchell should get a lot of credit for his work with him.

  • Tullydew

    I think Nick Williams will be on the practice squad.

  • patrick Mayfield

    Do you think we can get Economos on the cheap?

  • joed32

    In his 10 years Ben has played in 16 games twice. And the situation came up in 2012 with the Steelers, how can you say “if ever”.

  • ajleight

    Yean I definitely think this what they’re working towards, even last year despite injuries and ineffectiveness rearing its ugly head. This year they’ll be able to utilize Polamalu in Thomas’s spot, Tuitt or Cam Thomas in Keisel’s spot and Ryan Shazier in Polamalu’s spot. Should open up a lot of options and answer the increasing no huddle offense

  • Jake Miller

    A mid-round QB who has shown little improvement and has no NFL experience… yeah, he’s going to be flying off the PS in no time

  • Jake Miller

    There is no way some other team is lookin to clear a roster spot for a completely unproven 3rd string QB. Why does everyone believe this is the case?

  • Mark_K

    Seems like Hubbard would be a better choice for practice squad than Elkins. Much more likely to be able to contribute right away if he had to be activated due to injuries. I was thinking the downside on Elkins was his size and arm length; with Hubbard his technique. Seems Munchak with more time would have a better chance to improve Hubbard……

  • AndyR34

    But…but…but…Landry’s OUR #3! That makes him way-y-y-y better than most other teams No. 2! LOL! Sorry…no sarcasm font!

  • AndyR34

    Like the predictions, Alex. It’s difficult to argue the logic because none of us know what the coaches and FO know, nor how they are thinking. Plus, there are still three pre-season games to be played. Potential changes/injuries still to come; any big argument is based upon emotion , not facts. Quibbling is just that.

  • Craig M

    If I were Jones I’d personally hire Charlie Batch to mentor me to develop my potential.

  • CW

    He doesn’t have a contract and the season isn’t far away, so chances are he’s willing to play for league minimum. Long snappers usually are cheap.

  • Alex Kozora

    I was talking about the rest of the league. Still, it’s rare. Keeping 2 QBs is certainly a trend today, was my main point.

    EDIT: And we’re talking about the number of times Ben gets hurt in game. If Ben gets hurt and is out before the week, bring Landry up from the PS.

  • cencalsteeler

    Shown little improvement and has no NFL experience? That’s my point. Your willing to let him go because he wasn’t setting records during his preseason as a rookie? Let’s not be so quick to judge and give this kid an opportunity to develop. Just my two cents…..

  • GoSteelerz

    I totally agree with the DL, OL, and the WR positions, that’s how I see it playing out. I hope they would let Carter go, and as much as Zumwalt has not gotten time on defense or special teams, Dan Molls could end up on the PS instead of Zumwalt, but there is still time for Zumwalt to show something. I’d like for them to find a way to keep more CB’s maybe even keeping 2 on the PS, but thus far, how you have it is the way it probably will be. Devin Smith looks to have improved from last year, but is it enough to get a spot on the PS? If they kept Shaquille Richardson on the 53, they could keep Smith and Toler on the PS. I think they could use more looks at those 3 guys. How do you know what a guy can do with so few reps? Between now and next year’s draft/offseason, they need to know what they truly have at CB and what they will need once Ike goes. That’s why they might keep more CBs in the loop this year as opposed to other years. They may even be looking at other teams’ PS guys even now… Hopefully the picture becomes clearer after this next game…

  • pat

    I have a feeling we keep 6 wr and DHB makes the team

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    Just an idea, but with none of the TEs showing much after Heath and Spaeth and with Will Johnson working mostly with the TEs could you see them carrying two TEs on the active roster? Eric Waters on the PS incase of injury

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/JohnnyLoose Johnny Loose

    Landry Jones will make the team. Would be a very bold move leaving him off. I say we definitely need 3 QBs. Ben has been sidelined quite a bit behind the patchwork line he’s played with. Plus, if Ben goes down, we’re leaving everything up to Gradkowski. I like Bruce, but there is a pretty good chance he would end up getting hurt playing the way he does and trying to fill Ben’s shoes and, again, behind an Oline that is suspect for now. I Don’t see the Steelers carrying four RBs this year. I think if anything, Will Johnson could be that guy they needed to bring out RB #4 in a game. So, with that roster spot freed up, I’d go ahead and keep Shaq Richardson on the roster. Howard Jones makes the roster only if he beats out Chris Carter I think. If they Keep Carter, Then I’d let go of Jones and put DHB as the 6th receiver. Overall, Alex’s prediction is solid.

  • Dennis

    I rather have Landry Jones start if Ben ever got hurt. Gradkowski sucks. Charlie Batch off the street would be a better start than Gradkowski.

  • Asmitty56

    It’ll be interesting what they do with Polamalu and Thomas. Would they even play as many 3 safety sets with the speed Shazier and Timmons offer? Do they opt to put Spence, Williams, or Garvin in the game instead depending on the situation and down and distance? And when they do play 3 safeties, who plays in the box? Polamlau or Thomas? Thomas likely has the speed to stop the big play in the backfield, as well has the hitting ability in the pocket. I guess it’ll depend on Polamalu’s current ability and whether they are comfortable with Thomas mental ability to do certain things.

  • Asmitty56

    Can’t compare the two really, different situations as far as talent on the roster they would like to keep.

  • Jake Miller

    I think you missed what I was getting at. I’m not saying that he isn’t worth investing some time in. I was trying to show that there aren’t many reasons for him to fly off the PS.

    I agree that we should put some time in for the guy, but that doesn’t have to be on the 53.

    I’m just confused as to why you think he is going to disappear if we put him on there. Teams aren’t going to be desperately searching for 3rd string QBs. Even the guys like Zumwalt who we are scared to lose probably aren’t going to be taken from us. History suggests that freaking about PS steals is unfounded.

  • cencalsteeler

    Throw everything I said out the window after last night’s performance, lol!!

  • Jake Miller

    Haha. Yeah, I was still expecting him on the PS, but at this rate that is looking doubtful too.