By Jeremy Hritz
The Pittsburgh Steelers made their final cuts on Tuesday, and the initial 53-man roster is set. At least for now.
After all of the speculation about who would make it, who would get cut, discussions about position battles, we now have some clarity in terms of the direction of this team in 2021. In this article, I breakdown the 53-man roster and discuss its implications, in addition to sharing those position at which I still believe the Steelers will make some type of move.
Joshua Dobbs was placed on the injured reserved list, and Dwayne Haskins made the roster as the QB3. Nothing else of interest here.
No real surprises here, and the thinking that Jaylen Samuels would not make it was finally realized, as both Bennie Snell and Kalen Ballage made the roster. Samuels will be remembered for his excellent game against the Patriots several years ago, but he has done nothing since and always appeared 1 to 2 steps slow to play the position. Snell and Ballage are both power runners, and they will be complimented by Anthony McFarland and his ability to hit the home run (though we haven’t seen it yet at the professional level). Najee Harris will have a nice stable of backs to relieve him during the year, but you’d have to think that both Snell and Ballage will not dress on game day, and possibly, you could make the argument that the team may be trying to see what they could acquire by trading one of them. While not likely, Kevin Colbert covers every angle and possibility.
Zach Gentry made it over Kevin Rader, who probably will be headed to the practice squad. Gentry had a nice training camp and preseason as a blocker, and even though he didn’t show much in the receiving game, his size and development as a blocker make him a solid compliment to the pass catching Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth. I feel much more confident in this unit in 2021 than I did last year, and I believe tight end could be a position of strength.
Nothing out of the ordinary here, as Ray Ray McCloud holds on to the 5th spot in the receiving room.
Lots of movement on the offensive line, with Rashaad Coward, BJ Finney, Chaz Green, John Leglue all getting cut, leaving the position somewhat thin. Making the roster are Joe Haeg and JC Hassenauer, Haeg providing depth at tackle, and Hassenauer being expected to be the new Finney, being able to not only play center but guard as well. Things are still unsettled here, as there is concern regarding Zach Banner’s availability, and there is speculation that Dan Moore, Jr. may start at left tackle, and Chukwuma Okorafor will move over to the right side. What seems inevitable here, is that the Steelers will look to the waiver wire, or negotiate with another team for a trade to improve the depth on the OL. This unit is not in its final form.
Henry Mondeaux, Isaiah Buggs, and Carlos Davis all made the final roster, and this seems like a lot considering the other needs of the team. There is speculation that Stephon Tuitt is battling an undisclosed injury and could be placed on injured reserved, which is why they are carrying so many defensive linemen. Clarity regarding the status of Tuitt and whether or not all these players stay on the roster will be coming next week as the team prepares for the Buffalo Bills.
Wow, the Steelers kept 6 here, but I don’t expect this to stay put. In addition to Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, and Buddy Johnson, the Steelers also kept Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, and Ulysses Gilbert. I was not expecting them to keep Gilbert, and they may only be doing so because of the injury to Allen. As the team begins to make other moves at positions like offensive line, Gilbert will be one of the first off the roster.
Cassius Marsh is a Steeler no more! The battle for the #4 spot was won by Jamir Jones after he put together a strong preseason, both as a pass rusher and a special teamer. Quincey Roche was cut, and now the team will look to get him on the practice squad. The Steelers have to like their depth at OLB with Melvin Ingram and the youth and energy from Jones, who gets to learn and develop under the tutelage of some outstanding edge rushers.
The Steelers currently have only 4 corners on their roster, and this will absolutely change in the coming days via roster addition from the waiver wire or via trade. Mark Gilbert and Arthur Maulet were both cut, and the need still exists for a player to serve as the slot corner. If the season started today, the Steelers would be shifting James Pierre outside and Cameron Sutton inside to handle slot duties, but Colbert is assuredly actively looking to find a player to manage these duties.
Donovan Stiner was cut, but he never had a chance to make the roster, and Tre Norwood and Miles Killebrew both find their way onto the 53. The team is a bit thin here at safety as well, and I would not be surprised to see an addition here either.
Pressley Harvin is your new punter, and there is much excitement around what he can provide for the team, and Christian Kuntz is your new long snapper. 2/3’s of the specials were overhauled, and I will be watching closely to see how these changes improve/hurt the overall team.
- Only one 2021 draft pick did not make the 53-man roster: Quincey Roche
- Could the Steelers be looking for someone to replace McCloud? He doesn’t bring much as a receiver, and when was the last time he did anything in the return game. If I am Colbert, I scanning the waiver wires for a return man/receiver as I look for OL/CB depth.
- More surprises on the defensive side of the ball than the offense with the 53-man roster.
- The offensive line still remains the biggest question facing this team. Would they make a push for a proven tackle to provide some stability/confidence? They have the cap space.