It may be a day late, but, to be fair, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t practiced yet, so before we get things going and the pads start popping, I just wanted to get my first roster prediction on the record so we can look back and see in a couple of months just how wrong I am. So without further ado…
Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs
No mysteries or surprises here, and really no explication needed. The pecking order is also more likely than not locked in for the season.
Running Back (4): Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Knile Davis, Roosevelt Nix
Bell is going to report at some point, and Conner is obviously going to make the roster. Davis is going to have a fight on his hands, and it’s possible that the team adds somebody else here as well, but at this point I give him an edge. Nix, of course, also remains.
Wide Receiver (6): Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Assuming Bryant gets fully reinstated, the first three here are locked in, and Rogers is a very near lock as well. Coates’ roster spot got more precarious with news of a lingering knee issue. He had at least three injuries last year. Let’s hope he gets healthy. DHB gets the edge until somebody outperforms him because of his special teams value.
Tight End (3): Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble
I think this group remains from last season. The two rookies are probably not going to have enough to show this summer to make it all that interesting, but should fight for a practice squad spot.
Offensive Line (8): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Jerald Hawkins, Chris Hubbard
The only debate here is whether or not the keep a ninth lineman, but with depth more valued elsewhere I just don’t think there’s room to swing it.
Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Daniel McCullers
McCullers’ position is in my opinion the only one in jeopardy, but I do think it’s his spot to lose. Johnny Maxey will have to have a very very good camp, or McCullers a very very bad one.
Outside Linebacker (5): Bud Dupree, James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Keion Adams
Adams edges out veteran Arthur Moats. While money isn’t a big factor, he is a bit cheaper and obviously has more upside. But he has to endear himself on special teams.
Inside Linebacker (4): Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, Steven Johnson
There are not enough roster spots this time to go around to keep more than four here. Matakevich and Johnson are the special teams standouts. L.J. Fort, though, is a guy they like with more athletic ability.
Cornerback (6): Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, William Gay, Cameron Sutton, Coty Sensabaugh, Senquez Golson
This is really more complicated than it has been in years past, and cornerback is as complicated as any. Golson needs to have a good camp to lock up his spot, and remain healthy, of course. It will be tough to cut Brian Allen, for sure, but at the moment I have him outside the bubble and making it to the practice squad.
Safety (5): Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield, Daimion Stafford
Stafford didn’t report but for now I’m assuming there’s a good reason. He doesn’t want to risk missing too much time though.
Kicker: Chris Boswell
The Steelers don’t even have another kicker in camp and they may not bring one in. Boswell is young and can handle it. Plus they all need to work on a rapport with a new long snapper.
Punter: Jordan Berry
The same argument for Boswell applies to Berry. Both are already solid at their jobs but still have upside.
Long Snapper: Colin Holba
With Greg Warren out of the picture, there aren’t many road blocks for Holba to take over at long snapper. He just needs to be consistent.
Practice Squad (10): WR Demarcus Ayers, TE Scott Orndoff, RB Terrell Watson, T Brian Mihalik, OL Ethan Cooper, DE Johnny Maxey, DT Lavon Hooks, ILB Keith Kelsey, CB Brian Allen, Player Not On Roster
I’m sure many are worried about losing Ayers off waivers, but he only has a few games under his belt. There’s a good chance he clears. Orndoff is a good developmental guy. Watson is a solid back who’s a good squad candidate. Mihalik has been around, and they seem to like Cooper’s potential. Maxey just misses the cut, and Hooks makes it to a practice squad finally. They could keep two inside linebackers here, or a safety. Allen obviously sticks because of his future potential, but Mike Hilton could be a good consolation prize if they end up losing him.