There are two preseason games now in the books, with two milestones of data to draw from, which means that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster is coming closer and closer into shape. My predictions have already changed once from before training camp to after the first preseason game, and as you might guess, things have changed again.
Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs
Unless Jones’ abdominal injury proves to be a lingering issue, there is no way that the 53-man roster at the quarterback spot ends up looking any different than the above, barring something unpredictable.
Running Back (4): Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Knile Davis, Roosevelt Nix
Personally, I would like to see Trey Williams earn this spot from Knile Davis, but he needs to be given the opportunity to do so, for starters. Davis has been decent as a runner and had a nice tackle on special teams on Sunday.
Wide Receiver (6): Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, Sammie Coates
I still find myself rather uncertain about this decision. To lose both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Steven Johnson (see below) is a major blow to special teams. Coates can contribute on special teams, of course. We haven’t even seen too much from him yet. We haven’t seen much from Hunter yet, either. The final two roster spots here are still very much in flux.
Tight End (3): Jesse James, David Johnson, Jake McGee
Here is where I begin to go out on a bit of a limb. After two strong preseason showings and extensive work on special teams during the second half of Sunday’s game, I’m predicting that by the end of the preseason McGee will have done more to earn a roster spot over Xavier Grimble.
Offensive Line (8): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, Chris Hubbard, Jerald Hawkins
While I no longer feel completely confident that Hawkins is a lock to make the roster, he still has the advantage for the time being. He looked a little better on Sunday than he did in camp or the first preseason game, so that’s a start.
Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Johnny Maxey
Depending on how things shake out at other positions, it is possible that the defensive line could be a position that gets short-changed. As much as they might like Johnny Maxey, he doesn’t need to be on the 53-man roster, and may well be retained on the practice squad.
Outside Linebacker (5): Bud Dupree, James Harrison, T.J. Watt, Anthony Chickillo, Arthur Moats
With the news that Keion Adams seems likely to be headed for injured reserve, I think this group is locked in now.
Inside Linebacker (4): Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort
Even though Steven Johnson’s injury will reportedly not keep him out of practice, I am still making a change here and bumping him from the roster, a decision I may regret. I do think Fort is ahead of him. He has looked the better player on defense, and certainly the more athletic.
Cornerback (7): Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, William Gay, Cameron Sutton, Coty Sensabaugh, Mike Hilton, Brian Allen
I am following Alex Kozora’s lead here and projecting that the Steelers carry seven cornerbacks due to Mike Hilton’s strong play, including special teams, and the fear that Brian Allen has done enough to make other teams interested in him.
Safety (4): Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield
A lot of people seem to be really unsatisfied with the Steelers’ depth at safety. I’m not one of them.
Kicker: Chris Boswell
Unless he gets injured, this is going to be a lock for another decade or so. Hopefully.
Punter: Jordan Berry
Jordan Berry had one of the best games of his career to date on Sunday, pinning seven of his eight punts inside the 20-yard line, the other reaching the 21-yard line.
Long Snapper: Colin Holba
There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason behind when the Steelers use Holba and when they use Kameon Canaday. Perhaps it’s just whichever Danny Smith happens to see first. But Holba hasn’t done anything to lose this job. He did down a punt on Sunday.
Practice Squad (10): WR Demarcus Ayers, TE Xavier Grimble, RB Terrell Watson, T Brian Mihalik, OL Keavon MIlton, DE Francis Kallon, DT Roy Philon, ILB Matt Galambos, OLB Farrington Huguenin, S Jacob Hagen
Grimble making it through waivers and accepting a spot on the Steelers’ practice squad is a pretty big assumption, I’ll admit. Watson is a more useful practice squad player than Williams would be at running back. Huguenin benefits from Adams’ injury, and Galambos benefits from Johnson missing the roster. With seven cornerbacks making the team, none are needed on the practice squad. Ayers needs to get healthy.