Marczi: 2017 Post-Preseason Game One 53-Man Roster Prediction

I posted my first roster prediction just as training camp was getting started. For a refresher, and appropriate condemnation, you can review it here. After one preseason game, here is where I stand currently.

Offense (24):

Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs

There is absolutely no reason to expect that this will change. The only thing that could alter the depth chart at quarterback is an injury.

Running Back (4): Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Knile Davis, Roosevelt Nix

After one preseason game and a few weeks’ worth of training camp, I think free agent signing Knile Davis still holds the edge for the third running back position, but somebody like Terrell Watson can make it interesting if he gets the opportunities.

Wide Receiver (6): Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey

I am making a change here knowing that it can change quickly. For the time being, I am flipping Sammie Coates for Justin Hunter, largely predicated on the fact that Coates hasn’t been around and has fallen behind. But he is expected back soon and could easily regain his standing. That could be at Hunter’s expense, or Darrius Heyward-Bey’.

Tight End (3): Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble

So far there is no compelling reason to shake things up here, but I am interested in seeing more from Jake McGee. Xavier Grimble has improved as a blocker, but if he keeps dropping passes and McGee plays well, including as a pass-catcher, the third tight end spot could be in play.

Offensive Line (8): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Jerald Hawkins, Chris Hubbard

It’s hard to see this changing any time soon, but now it’s becoming more clear that Hubbard is going to be the swing tackle this year, and not Hawkins.

Defense (26):

Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Johnny Maxey

Like Dave Bryan in his own most recent roster prediction, I too am separating from Daniel McCullers. While Johnny Maxey hasn’t been incredible, McCullers is looking like the most expendable with L.T. Walton seemingly firmly in the role of second-string nose tackle.

Outside Linebacker (5): Bud Dupree, James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Arthur Moats

I had Keion Adams here as a long-term prediction, and I think that he can still ultimately win the roster spot, but at the moment there is no reason to do so. We don’t even know how much time he will miss with his shoulder injury, and Moats didn’t show any reason not to have him on the roster.

Inside Linebacker (5): Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, Steven Johnson, L.J. Fort

Because Daimion Stafford never decided to show up, it’s unlikely the Steelers are going to keep five safeties. Johnson or Fort will most likely be the beneficiary here. Both of them showed well on defense in the preseason opener and both are contributors on special teams. I’m actually somewhat relieved.

Cornerback (6): Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, William Gay, Cameron Sutton, Coty Sensabaugh, Mike Hilton

Yeah, I just can’t have Senquez Golson on here anymore, not at least until he gets back on the field and plays well in a game. Mike Hilton did everything he needed to do in the preseason opener, including on special teams. Others are in doubt, but I don’t think Coty Sensabaugh is a 100 percent lock. Either Golson or Brian Allen could potentially make a run, but Sensabaugh is the more likely option.

Safety (4): Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield

I had Stafford on my initial prediction after training camp opened even though he didn’t report. That turned out to be a waste of time, as it seems he is basically retired. There isn’t a lot of competition for these four spots.

Specialist (3):

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 Jake McGee, RB Terrell Watson, T Brian Mihalik, OL Keavon MIlton, DE Francis Kallon, DT Roy Philon, OLB Keion Adams, CB Brian Allen, S Jacob Hagen

It’s interesting to see how much this has clarified already. I’ve made several changes here. Obviously Scott Orndoff is no longer on the roster. Mihalik stay for now, but I have Milton returning to the practice squad, where he spent last season, with Ethan Cooper not showing much. With Maxey now on the 53, Francis Kallon’s raw athletic ability makes for an interesting candidate. Philon is making more plays than Lavon Hooks. With five inside linebackers now on the roster and Adams not, I now have an outside linebacker displacing an inside on the practice squad. With only four safeties now on the roster, Hagen gets back as well.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Steelers12

    I think it is a strong chance both Hunter and Coates make it leaving Bey to play elsewhere or even retire and become a coach

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    I’d swap Coates with DHB based on the performance of others on Special Teams, and on Coates obvious surpassed ability in the receiving game over DHB, otherwise this roster looks spot-on to me.

  • Hyped Up Hypocycloid

    I sincerely hope they trade Coates. He reminds me of those QBs who are “good enough to get you fired” as in good enough to tease you with their potential, but they don’t ever quite get there. I hope I’m wrong, of course, but going by what my eyes show me, I don’t like the way he catches the ball. Let him tease someone else.

    How ironic is it that Hilton is going to take Golson’s place? There’s absolutely no way in hell you take a flyer on Golson. Let some rebuilding team. Bummer as I did want to see what kind of cover corner he could be and endorsed the pick at the time. But of all the people to take his spot … his teammate, heh.

    Yup, McCullers has to go. Not a bad risk to take but he just doesn’t have it. You’re not going to hit on all those late round projects, just some, so you take your shots.

    In another year you might keep Keion Adams but not in a title run year. You keep Moats.

    Terrell Watson is a fun camp story but I’ll take Knile Davis for the proven production, thank you.

    Only position I’m not thrilled with is TE but … that can’t be fixed this year so it is what it is.

    PS The Eagles might give us something for Coates. I have no idea what he’d be worth.

  • cencalsteeler

    I know Ryan Mathews has a history of injury, but I think he’d fit in well here with how little backups are used with the Steelers. I think he’s an upgrade over Davis and can be nice addition to the end stable.

  • Charles Mullins

    I dont think there is a shot of them keeping 5 ILB. 70% of the game they should only have 1 on the field imo. Id keep 7 DBS, or 7 Wide receivers over 5 ILB.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m not for trading Coates, but if you were, Eagles aren’t the team that’s going to give you anything for him. They just signed Alshon Jeffery and Torey Smith. They’re still trying to get something out of Agholar as a slot guy, and they just drafted Holliman and Gibson at WR this year.

  • steelburg

    I agree with this roster for the most part but I would rather see DHB gone and Coates get that last spot. I think DHB is maxed out on what he brings to the team and I think Coates showed well enough on special teams last year to move on from him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 potential upgrades either by trade or waiver wire to S, CB, and TE. The 2 players I could see that would be left off if that happens is David Johnson at TE, Mike Hilton at CB, and I think if they add an additional safety they will keep 4 ILB and Steven Johnson would be left off. But as it stands now I agree with the roster above except for DHB over Coates.

  • Big Joe

    McCullers is definitely on the outside looking in. With the 1-gap penetrating philosophy now in full motion, Walton makes sense in the middle since that was his role in college vice as a typical 2-gap 3/4 DE. The team also wants to get as much penetration from the front 3 as possible so that also puts McCullers behind the 8-ball as he remains inconsistent there. I don’t disagree on Maxey but time will tell. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how much more the team is able to stay in its base formatIon this year.

  • Big Joe

    I think you’ll get your wish on DHB. He has great ST value but Coates offers more upside in the offense – if he can get back on the field soon.

  • Big Joe

    A good possibility or they’ll keep 6 OLBs with an eye towards keeping Adams on the roster for ST and in prep for JH’s potential retirement next year.

  • steelburg

    I agree. Coates is just a younger version of DHB if I can see it I’m sure they can. Both were highly regarded for there speed in college, both have trouble catching the ball, Im not sure how DHB was early in his career but since he has been with the Steelers he has gotten good remarks from coaches about his work ethic and the same has been said about Coates since he was drafted. So like I said I think Coates is just a younger DHB, Coates just hasn’t embraced the special teams part yet. But just like DHB, Coates will realize that he will need to embrace special teams to stay in the league and on this team especially if he isn’t going to be consistent catching the football.

  • Charles Mullins

    I wouldn’t be opposed to that either.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Placing Ayers on the practice squad gives them 7 wide outs.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Coates should beat out DHB and at least be a serviceable option in case of injury/suspension. And he’s a competent STer. Hunter also beats out DHB due to RZ capabilities.

  • steelburg

    I agree.

  • Flip Fisher

    Perfect list. I would have Williams on the PS though. He is too versatile not to keep around. The Sammy Stonehands crowd makes me chuckle. Those gnarled up fingers will help he get back to that 19% drop rate he had in college. 🙂

  • Matthew Marczi

    Very much within the realm of possibility, but of course he needs to get back on the field first. Perhaps as early as tomorrow.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I honestly don’t know much about him, but would he be a guy that can live with getting no touches? I just have flashbacks of Blount, and he was the number two.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Of course there’s a shot of them keeping five ILBs. They’ve done it with extreme frequency in recent years. I believe each of Terence Garvin’s three years on the roster saw them carry five, and they at one point even had six last season. With it looking extremely likely that there will be no fifth safety, inside linebacker is the most likely position in which to make up that group, especially with both Johnson and Fort (and Matakevich) being important contributors on special teams.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Plus Brian Allen gives them 7 cornerbacks too.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I would like for Coates to win the roster spot too. Right now I’m taking the wait and see approach though, since he hasn’t been on the field. Personally, I also think Xavier Grimble is much more vulnerable than Johnson.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You mean Trey Williams? I like him too, but at the moment it doesn’t seem as though the coaches are even giving him much work in practice. They’ve also tended to favor a big back on the practice squad in recent years, so that skews my prediction further in Watson’s direction. I wouldn’t mind seeing Williams get work in the preseason and state his case though.

  • Steelers12

    Agree. What do u think is Golson chances at making main roster. I mean Hilton has looked great I just wanna see him with starting unit

  • Matthew Marczi

    Getting very slim now. Honestly have a hard time seeing him make it at this point as it doesn’t sound like he’ll be able to get back for the second preseason game. He probably wouldn’t play much at all in the third, and it would be awfully hard to award an injury-prone player a roster spot based on one preseason game.

  • Steelers12

    I see your point but ugghhh I just have a feeling he gonna get picked up by someone and be a good pick up. Oh well so is life

  • Chad Weiss

    I’d try trading Coates for Reggie Ragland who doesn’t fit in bills four three

  • Chad Weiss

    Coates for Reggie Ragland straight up would be a great team that would help out with teams imo

  • Delboka

    I hope Heyward Bey doesn’t make the cut. I think Coates can do what he dies on special teams (if healthy).

    That ILB depth is so thin. If Vince or Ryan sit out, teams will toast Big Red in coverage.

  • Charles Mullins

    I still do not see it. There is too much talent at other positions. Your going to let go of DHB of Fort/Johnson? I Wouldn’t. Sammy Coates? Hell no. Golson… Definitely debatable but if he gets into camp he is stll a 2nd round pick. Mike Hilton?

  • Charles Mullins

    I have high hopes for Ayers. I am not going to camp everyday, but I like what I seen out of him at the end of last year. I hope he shows us something in the punt game that makes us keep him on the 53.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s pretty unlikely that they are going to keep 7 WR or 7 CBs, if that is what you’re insinuating. I don’t know if it’s something that they have ever done in their entire history.

  • Charles Mullins

    Ok. Count William Gay as a safety. If health improved I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some emergency reps their.

    We have also never had the level of talent at WR that they currently have. Things change. The steelers usually don’t ride the front of that wave, but when you are talking about cutting a guy like Coates who was a legitimate threat for the first five games last year you have good problems.

    Dave likes to pound on special teams and I would say that DHB and Coates are more important to teams than Fort or Johnson.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s not impossible that they carry 7, I just think it would be pretty surprising when you consider their history.

    When you’re talking about special teams you also have to understand and consider what roles those players will be carrying out. For example, just hypothetically, DHB and Hilton could be the gunners on punt coverage. Fort and Johnson wouldn’t be in that role. They would be more down the middle of the field, protecting and then rushing. You need different types of players for different assignments on special teams. In other words, ILBs offer different things in that area than do CBs or WRs.

  • Charles Mullins

    Yeah I agree. They were high on Conner playing special teams. He is a similar build to LJ and Stevie. Size and mentality are two different things though. Special teams is the hardest part for average fans to take into consideration because the tv angels are so bad. I still don’t see them keeping 5. Injuries will most likely tell the story as always.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Honestly that’s one of the best things about having Game Pass. You get to see a lot more of what’s going on for stuff that doesn’t get fully shown on broadcast, like special teams. Unfortunately they don’t have coaches film for the preseason…