By Jeremy Hritz
With only 12 days before the Steelers report to training camp to begin preparing for the 2021 season, the anticipation and excitement is growing about which players will progress and emerge and vault the team back into contention. Conversely, there is also interest and curiosity surrounding which players will not make it through the cut down process, and what surprises await in terms of who makes the roster and who does not.
Below you will find my pre-training camp 53-man roster prediction for the Steelers, considering only those players who are currently slated to participate in training camp. While I do believe some moves will be made yet in free agency, I did not include these projections in this exercise.
The Biggest Questions
There were certain positions I struggled with determining how many players and who would make it onto the 53, specifically, offensive line, inside linebacker, and cornerback.
In terms of the offensive line, as it is such a question mark, I struggled hard to decide whether to keep 8 or 9. I like the veteran experience of Rashaad Coward and originally had him on the 53, but the Steelers have snatched up young, developmental offensive linemen in the past and stashed them on the practice squad. With this in mind, I kept Coward off the 53, which allowed me to keep 5 inside linebackers which I’ll explain my rationale for later. There is also the chance the team could cut Dan Moore, Jr. and hope he clears waivers and can be added to the practice squad, which would allow them to keep Coward, but as a 4th round pick, that is too risky. Something tells me they are not yet done with offensive line in free agency, but we will have to wait and see what transpires there.
At inside linebacker, I kept 5 on the roster, and I have Vince Williams making the team, and I am not yet ready to give up on Ulysses Gilbert III, and his athleticism sets him apart from the other ILBs on the roster. With the recent events on social media with Devin Bush, Williams’ leadership will be critical, and his experience and understanding of the defense is just too valuable to part with. Sure, we do not want him covering running backs or receivers, but his worth to the team goes beyond his production on the field.
At cornerback, I am keeping 6, and I have Justin Layne making the roster despite his struggles in his first two seasons. Additionally, due to the overall lack of speed from the cornerbacks, I have Mark Gilbert, the UDRFA from Duke, making the team, as he offers this element at the position. Gilbert struggled mightily with injuries in college which derailed his trajectory as a potential high-draft pick, but if he can stay healthy, he can boost the cornerback position.
I also have Dwyane Haskins beating out Joshua Dobbs for QB3, which should not come as too much of a surprise, as the Steelers will give him the time and resources necessary to see if he can develop.
At tight end, I have them holding on to their stock in Zach Gentry and giving him the opportunity to show he was worth the investment.
And finally, I have Pressley Harvin unseating Jordan Berry, and developing consistency in his punting. Being that the Steelers spent a draft pick on him, he will be given every opportunity to win the job, and I believe he will bring some wrinkles to special teams with his unique skill set.
This Is Tough
This is a tough exercise to determine who those 53 players who will make the final roster for the 2021 season, and it offers a small glimpse into the difficult decisions, and the domino effect that occurs when the Steelers organization determines personnel. My next version of the 53 will be published following the Hall of Fame Game on August 5th against the Cowboys.
Projected Steelers 53-Man Roster
|3||Ben Roethlisberger||6’5||240||17||Miami (OH)|
|Mason Rudolph||6’5||235||3||Oklahoma State|
|Dwayne Haskins||6’4||230||2||Ohio State|
|Bennie Snell, Jr.||5’10||224||2||Kentucky|
|Kalen Ballage||6’2||231||3||Arizona State|
|3||Eric Ebron||6’4||253||7||North Carolina|
|Pat Freiermuth||6’5||258||R||Penn State|
|Chase Claypool||6’4||238||1||Notre Dame|
|James Washington||5’11||213||3||Oklahoma State|
|Kevin Dotson||6’4||321||1||UL Lafayette|
|Chukwuma Okorafor||6’6||320||3||Western Michigan|
|BJ Finney||6’4||318||5||Kansas State|
|Joe Haeg||6’6||298||5||North Dakota State|
|Dan Moore, Jr.||6’5||311||R||Texas A&M|
|6||Cameron Heyward||6’5||295||10||Ohio State|
|Stephon Tuitt||6’6||303||7||Notre Dame|
|Robert Spillane||6’1||229||2||Western Michigan|
|Ulysses Gilbert III||6′||230||2||Akron|
|Buddy Johnson||6’2||240||R||Texas A&M|
|Vince Williams||6’1||233||8||Florida State|
|Quincey Roche||6’3||245||R||Miami (FL)|
|James Pierre||6’2||185||1||Florida Atlantic|
|Justin Layne||6’2||192||2||Michigan State|
|Terrell Edmunds||6’1||217||3||Virginia Tech|
|Antoine Brooks, Jr.||5’11||210||1||Maryland|
|Miles Kilebrew||6’2||222||5||Southern Utah|
|1||Pressley Harvin||5’11||263||R||Georgia Tech|
|1||Kameron Canaday||6’4||245||4||Portland State|