By Jeremy Hritz
There have been so many changes that have occurred in the last two weeks in terms of the Steelers roster that I felt it was necessary to revisit my initial 53-man roster prediction, especially after the signing of Melvin Ingram, Chaz Green, and the retirement of Vince Williams. While this forecast will undergo several iterations, here is where we stand as of Monday, July 26th, 2021.
Nothing out of the ordinary here, with Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, and Dwayne Haskins as your top three. This is the last stop for Joshua Dobbs, and while I am hopeful they can utilize him as trade bait, I don’t see that as a reality.
There is only one, and his name is Derek Watt. Look for him to be (actually) utilized in this year’s version of the Steelers’ offense under Matt Canada. Apologies to Derek for lumping him into the running back room my last go-round.
In descending order: 1) Najee Harris, 2) Bennie Snell, 3), Anthony McFarland, and 4) Kalen Ballage. Jaylen Samuels still is the odd man out, and his time with the team has expired. There has been speculation that Snell will be cut, but I believe that to be too premature, especially with the promise he showed last year, and the thinness it would cause at the position. There has been speculation, though not confirmed, that the Rams were interested in trading for Snell to compensate for the injury to Cam Akers, but there has been no verification this report is true. Snell was drafted in the 4th round, and the Steelers would be foolish to give him up for anything less.
No change here for me, as Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, and Zach Gentry are my top three. Freiermuth has been receiving some early buzz, so he is a player worthy of monitoring throughout camp, and also in preseason contests. I expect him to get a decent amount of snaps in the Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys.
No change here, also, to the wide receiver room with Juju Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Dionate Johnson, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud as my top 5. However, Rico Bussey has generated some positive praise early in camp, so keep an eye on his play as the preseason wears on. Oh yeah, he can return kicks, too.
Things are jacked up right now on the offensive line as a result of injuries.
Despite that and despite the signing of Chaz Green as tackle depth, I don’t see Green making the roster. In fact, I don’t believe the Steelers are done with the tackle position, and I fully expect them to address it prior to the start of the regular season. Too much at stake in terms of Ben’s health to not have someone of substance beyond Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner.
In terms of who makes it, your starting five are: Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Trai Turner, and Banner. The depth behind these gentlemen will be provided by BJ Finney, Joe Haeg, and brawler Dan Moore, Jr. Green is a camp body, nothing more.
No changes here on the defensive line, but I do want to point out a great observation by Neal Coolong whom you can follow @NealCoolong on Twitter. Neal mentioned how this week marked the second time Isaiah Buggs was involved in an altercation with another teammate (Carlos Davis first, then Moore Jr.). For me, this solidifies his exit with the team, as I originally predicted. Your preserved defensive linemen are as follows: Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Davis.
Vince Williams’ retirement shocked everyone in Steelers Nation, and nobody saw it coming. While some predicted that Williams would be cut, his experience and leadership were valuable, especially in light of the Twitter drama provided by Devin Bush. His loss will be felt, and it will put the responsibility on the current ILB room to step up and to take on a leadership role. As it stands now, Bush, Robert Spillane, Ulysses Gilbert III, Buddy Johnson, who has received positive praise in camp, and Marcus Allen will make up the inside backer room.
The signing of Melvin Ingram has made Cassius Marsh expendable, and I forsee him being cut soon. Ingram will provide versatility and rest to TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith, as well as creativity to Keith Butler. The final OLB to make the roster will be Quincey Roche, though keep an eye on Calvin Bundage who can play both ILB and OLB, and also has experience at safety. He has the potential to carve out a niche role with the team.
There is no change to my cornerback forecast: Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet, and Mark Gilbert. Maulet is in the thick of a battle for the nickelback spot, and Gilbert has the athleticism and speed to compete for a roster spot on the outside. Had he not been hurt in college, he would have been a high-round draft pick.
No changes at the safety position, though for a minute, I was buying into the signing of Malik Hooker. Heading into the season, it will be Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Antoine Brooks, Jr. (seems destined to be the nickleback), Tre Norwood, and Miles Killebrew. Worth nothing about Killebrew is that he also plays ILB and more than likely will be featured on special teams for the Steelers. I also want to acknowledge that UDRFA Lamont Wade has impressed early in camp and should be included in the conversation at safety.
No discussion or debate: Chris Boswell.
I’m sticking with Pressley Harvin to unseat Jordan Berry. As long as he can be consistent in his punts, the job is his.
Kameron Canaday. Is analysis even really needed here?
|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|
|Marcus Allen||6’2||215||3||Penn State|
|Melvin Ingram||6’2||247||10||South Carolina|
|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 Killebrew||6’2||222||5||Southern Utah|
|1||Pressley Harvin||5’11||263||R||Georgia Tech|
|1||Kameron Canaday||6’4||245||4||Portland State|