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

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.

Offense (24):

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.

Defense (26):

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.

Specialist (3):

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Smitty 6788

    Good work.. Exactly how I hope it plays out.

  • Steeler Nation!

    On Fort, you would think his athleticism would allow him to continue to climb the depth chart. He appears to have more upside than Red. Worried about Vince too. We looked bad last week. Without Shazier, really bad.

  • Charles Mullins

    I agree with everything, but my guess is that McCullers makes the 53, Maxey goes to the practice squad and Philon gets bumped. Can we get a breakdown of McCullers snaps? I thought he had a pretty good showing last game. On Hilton’s almost safety the QB couldn’t step because of McCullers I am pretty sure. Concussions are nothing to play around with as we learned from Green and Hargrave “being in the protocol” is a bit scary.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Nice picks, it looks like the dark horse at TE is starting to catch on.

  • pittsburghjoe

    The 7 DB’s may be the way to go. Keep throwing them against the wall until one sticks.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Am I crazy to think Allen could at least contribute in spots at some point this year? I mean I know he’s raw, but how much worse can he be than what we’re used to seeing? That play he made against the giants was superb. He showed good speed and instincts playing the receiver. I’d be really bummed if he doesn’t make the 53.

  • Brian Moritz

    I’d keep Hagen over Golden.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    i really dont see allen on the 53. he plays like cortez allen.

  • Jake Marion

    I like that Hi;ton has played Safety in college. I would like to see him get some reps there to see if he is a dual threat DB.

  • steeltown

    I like it. But if Hunter makes it over DHB, which at this point he might, im keeping S.Johnson and bumping Maxey to the squad. No fear of losing him there.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Many things to talk about Matthew but I feel like I have said them enough in these roster threads so I will just focus on 1 thing.

    I am with you when it comes to safety depth. The overreation on the Depot after Sundays game about Golden is hilarious. Like people forget he has been a really solid safety for us because he had 2 bad plays against the Falcons. I am even seeing people talking about Hagen over Golden and I would just love to know what Hagen has done of significane for him to earn a spot over Golden who has given us quality starts that matter.
    Sure, Golden isn’t going to the pro bowl this year but how many backup safeties are?

    If anything we should be concerned about safety across the board. Nobody we have is better than average unless Davis really makes a leap this year. I would love to have a standout safety back there again.

  • francesco

    After watching WR Hunter and DHB against Atlanta i have changed my mind on their chances to make the 53.
    These are my choices at WR:
    AB MB ER JuJu Hamilton Coates
    PS: Ayers

  • steeltown

    I personally wouldnt mind Hamilton making the 53

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Stop it. He’s had a few good games in 6 years. Overall, he’s terrible. Tell me exactly what he does well? Slow, consistently out of position, blows coverages, and can’t cover anybody and tackles like a CB. He’s a special teamer, nothing more.. I’m sure the only reason he’s still even on this team is because he’s one of Tomlin’s “guys”.

  • Boots

    Grimble hasn’t been perfect, obviously, but a guy who is supposed to be the pass catching threat at TE has undoubtedly been affected by the lack of competent QB play he’s had. McGee has been a good story but I can’t put him on the roster simply by blocking PS candidates and hopefuls.

    It was only one game with limited chances but I thought Coates looked like he was catching the ball with his hands cleanly, especially a hard throw on a drag. Would like to see him and Hunter have some reps with better QB’s.

    Conner seemed to settle down as the game went on and didn’t seem to want to bounce everything outside as he settled in.

    I thought Finney struggled at C again, but overall the OL did a pretty decent job overall. Thought Hawkins played better at LT than RT.

    I admit I haven’t seen a practice, but based on what has happened in the games, I can not figure out how Matakevich is ahead of Fort, who, I think, has been impressive. I won’t say Matakevich has been terrible but I’ve only seemed to notice him when he’s getting trucked at the goal line.

    I am surprised you aren’t concerned about safety depth. That seems like a bit of a departure from the rest of the offseason. Did something change your mind?

  • SeventhHeavan

    Golden needs to finally be cut and I predict it will happen…

  • Rob H

    Good to have you aboard the Allen bandwagon Matthew, I saved a seat for you. It was pretty barren for a while, but the seats are starting to fill up now, even some of the veteran reporters are finally coming around to the fact that he is unlikely to clear waivers.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Ok lets take this in order. You say “he had a few good games in 6 years”. Well yeah, he has only got to start a few games so I would say that speaks pretty well for him. His one bad game I can remember is the Patriots playoff game and would you like to give me some examples of who on our defense played all that well that game? Or was it only Golden who left Chris Hogan open all game?

    What he does well is tackle (maybe our best tackling safety. It is between him and Dangerfield) and I think he is a solid ballhawk when he gets to play a deep role. You say he blows coverage and tackles like a CB but the former applies to all of our safeties and the latter is simply false. He has always been known as a good tackler.

    So yeah, going back to what I originally said. If people want to be concerned at safety they should be conncerned across the board. Mitchell rarely plays the ball and misses as many tackles as Limas Sweede drops passes. Davis has shown potential but is maybe even a worse tackler than Mitchell. And on top of that both are at the wrong positions. Mitchell should be in the box to limit his angles and help his tackling and Davis should be playing deep because he plays the ball better.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I forgot to mention that the amount of work he has been getting as a jammer and on kick coverage factors in here as well.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I didn’t think Cortez Allen would contribute as a rookie. I didn’t think Artie Burns would even earn the regular nickel role as a rookie. So I wouldn’t say Brian Allen can’t contribute. Heck they threw Justin Gilbert and Al-Hajj Shabazz out there last year. A couple years back, they gave B.W. Webb some dime snaps.

  • Matthew Marczi

    If he plays like Cortez Allen during his first three seasons, I’m good with that.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, I would be okay with this. Things can break several ways I could live with, honestly.

  • walter

    How does the practice squad practice during the regular season without a full team? Do they hire players off the street to fill in? Or do they practice with the team?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Regarding Grimble, my view is also influenced by training camp reports. It doesn’t seem as though he’s been wowing with his usual catches. He’s still dropping too many passes and according to Alex hasn’t caught anything down the field.

    Totally with you on Coates and Hunter, I hope they get some quality time with Ben on Saturday.

    I still need to take a closer look at the line play from the last game, to be perfectly honest, but I think both of them on initial impressions did a little better than they did the game before.

    Agreed on Matakevich. He hasn’t even looked as good as he did last preseason. I don’t get it. Training camp reports were glowing. I wouldn’t have a problem with Fort potentially being the top backup, or at least the top mack reserve.

    It’s possible I may have said something at some point over the offseason, but I don’t think I’ve ever been too down on the safety group. I think Golden and Dangerfield is a better backup tandem than they’re given credit for, largely because nobody bothers to compare them to how they stack up to other backups around the league. During the draft, I would have taken a safety high, but ONLY a safety high, as in somebody who could contribute as a third safety. I don’t think they need to improve their depth, though I was intrigued by Stafford. When he was in the picture though, I had them carrying five safeties.

  • Matthew Marczi

    In favor of whom? And what has this player replacing him shown that is deserving of a roster spot?

  • Matthew Marczi

    The practice squad practices with the rest of the 53-man roster. They do everything the regular rostered players do except dress and play for games.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Those few games were literally the only good moments of his career. Any other time he’s been a huge liability.

    Yes it was Golden lol. Of course he’s not the only one to blame but he was obviously the weakest link out there. His mistakes are as egregious as it gets. He’s the furthest thing from a ballhawk lol. You can’t tackle anybody if you’re nowhere near the ball lol

    Sure, but nobody in the secondary is caught out of position more than him and as severly. When he’s on the field he consistently gets burned. I’m sorry but he’s just not good, never was, never will be. I have more hope for cockrell. Golden, can’t play either safety position. Even with his deficiencies mitchell is clearly the best player in the secondary as of today. I agree he should be in the box.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    How has he been a liability if those good games were the only times he has played? That doesn’t even make any sense.

    No, it wasn’t Golden. He had one or 2 bad plays IIRC as did the entire secondary. You will just have to go back and watch tape to see his ball skills. I believe it was 2 or 3 years ago when he came in for Allen for a couple of games. Had a pick and almost another pick in back to back games. He is a pretty good read guy when given the right chances. VS NE you have to remember he was coming off of injury and hadn’t played a lot of the season. It isn’t easy to come in cold vs Tom Brady and look good.

    Nah, they are all caught out of position like that. In fact I can specifically remember Mitchell biting badly on a flea flicker vs NE. And even when Mitchell is in position he doesn’t play the ball well and frequently misses tackles. I am not saying Golden is better but to call him bad amongst this bunch is a bit of an overstatement. None of them are all that good. And Burns is going to be our best DB this year, not Mitchell.

  • Boots

    I must’ve mistaken your desire for a third safety as lack of satisfaction with the overall group. I don’t disagree that as a tandem you could definitely do worse, and a lot of teams do. I have stood up for Golden before, apparently I just have reached my tolerance level with watching him react half a tick too slow. The other thing that seemed to catch my eye was his lack of range on the deep ball Cockrell got burned on. I know single high safety can be tough, but he was not good on that play.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Admittedly, Sunday was not a good game for him. It might be the worst I’ve ever seen him play, at least in the past few years.

  • Michael Conrad

    I like it. Nice job Matthew . I just think they need to keep seven CB . The steelers schedule is such that they could give different CB’s a chance and improve over the first half of the season. I want to see Hilton and Sutton and Allen have a chance to contribute if possible.

    Lets not forget the backup CB’s last year were Justin Gilbert and Al-Hajj Shabazz. Coaches had no choice but to play who they did . Now they do. Lets see how they handle it.

  • pittfan

    solid roster, though i’d go DHW over hunter.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think the last two wide receiver spots is the least solidified group on the entire roster. And to be fair, DHB has been working with the first-team units during the preseason, while Coates and Hunter have not.

  • SeventhHeavan

    Hagen. I like this kid. I think he has more upside than Golden. I know that he hasn’t played much but they really haven’t given him a chance. He’s a rangy athletic guy. I think Golden is a liability and has regressed over the last 2 years.