By Jeremy Hritz
Only two more games to go before preseason is complete, and the Steelers have their 2021 roster set (most of it) for the upcoming season. By tomorrow, August 17th, the Steelers must trim their roster from 90 to 85, and should not have any problem doing so; however, in order to get to their final 53, they will have some difficult decisions to make, and here is my third take on what this will look like following the Eagles game from last Thursday (see the full roster below my analysis).
There are multiple changes from iteration #2 to the version of the 53 you are currently reading, starting with the tight end position. The top 2 spots are locked with Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth, but the battle for the third spot is heating up between Kevin Rader and Zach Gentry, with Rader currently having the advantage. Rader has been more sure-handed in the two preseason contests in comparison to Gentry, in addition to being an impressive blocker, while Gentry has not capitalized on his opportunities in the passing game. While Gentry has shown improvement in his run blocking, he may need to do more in order to stick. This competition is ongoing, and the next two weeks will be critical in determining who is the #3TE. With the rededication to the running game, could they keep 4? And, is the 3rd TE even on the roster?
In order to keep an additional offensive lineman, I cut Bennie Snell from the roster due to the performance of Kalen Ballage and Snell’s injury. With the offensive line in flux and the starting 5 still be tinkered and toyed with, the Steelers will need options, in addition to available depth in the event of injury. Encouragingly, many of the Steelers backup linemen are getting high-quality reps as a result of the projected starters missing time for a variety of reasons, and this is what is keeping players like Rashaad Coward and Joe Haeg on the roster. One item to note here is whether or not cutting Haeg will factor into the Steelers favor in terms of compensatory draft picks, and if they can gain. a late round pick in the 2022 draft, especially since they just shipped out another late pick for Joe Schobert, there is the potential they do so in favor of grabbing someone off of the waiver wire. I am still not settled on the offensive line and predict there will be a name on this list that is currently on another team when things are all said and done.
With the signing of Schobert, Ulysses Gilbert III’s time is complete in Pittsburgh, thought I still have Marcus Allen making it here due to his versatility which the team covets.
Cassius Marsh is out on this version of my 53, and I have Quincey Roche making the 4th OLB spot. Roche has played well in the preseason, and with Melvin Ingram as the #3, this gives the team a bit more flexibility here at the 4th spot with more upside than Marsh. The bigger question is has Jamir Jones done enough for a legitimate shot at the 53, or is he destined for the practice squad?
Next to the offensive line, cornerback is the position I am most concerned about, and I can also envision a roster move/trade here as well. Justin Layne is cut due to his underperformance, and I still have Mark Gilbert as the surprise winner here due to his speed and play this preseason. The team needs a confidence-engendering corner with some experience to fill the void from what was expected from Layne, and this should happen in the next few weeks. A corresponding roster move could spell the end for Allen at ILB.
Look for my next 53-man prediction following the Lions game.
53-Man Roster, 8/16/21
|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|
|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|
|Kevin Rader||6’4||250||1||Youngstown 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|
|Rashaad Coward||6’5||326||4||Old Dominion|
|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|
|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|
|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|