By Jeremy Hritz
The first Steelers preseason game is history, and now the process of cutting down the roster begins. My last 53-man roster projection was published on July 15th, and now it is time for my second iteration. There are some changes and surprises, but much has remained the same. I will continue to update my projection following each preseason game as we get closer to the opener in Cincinnati. I’d love to hear your comments on my 53, so please post them below!
Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett
I still do not have Mason Rudolph making the roster, as his flat-footedness and lack of pocket awareness is still there. He did make some nice throws against the Seahawks, but to me, it wasn’t enough. Trubisky is your starter until proven otherwise, while Pickett is showing that he has enough tools and moxie to be the #2 should Trubisky get hurt. Chris Oladokun goes to the practice squad.
Running Back (3)
Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Warren
Harris is your workhorse, no question. McFarland has made me eat my words, and he has had an outstanding camp and first preseason showing. I am encouraged by the prospects of what he can offer this season. In my first 53, I projected Warren to make the roster, and man, he is making me look like a genius. On Saturday, every carry went forward, and he showed both in the running and passing game, that he can carry the load as the #2. The end of Bennie Snell football.
While he doesn’t provide a ton of value as a fullback because he isn’t used, Watt is an excellent special teamer. Maybe he will be used more in the Matt Canada offense post-Ben Roethlisberger.
Wide Receiver (6)
Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Calvin Austin, George Pickens, Gunnar Olzewski, Steven Sims
This could be a stacked group, especially with the emergence of Pickens and the high-quality play of Olzewski and Austin. Sims is intriguing, and he adds value on special teams and as a Jet Sweeper and showcased on Saturday evening. Not keeping 3 quarterbacks frees up space for Sims to stick.
Tight End (3)
Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward
Freiermuth has struggled with injuries this camp, but he will be ready come the regular season. Gentry has had an outstanding camp so far, as has Heyward, who has shown great versatility in the preseason. Tight end is quietly a position of strength heading into 2022.
Offensive Line (8)
James Daniels, Kendrick Green, Mason Cole, Kevin Dotson, Chuks Okorafor, Dan Moore, Joe Haeg, John Leglue
One small change here, and that is JC Hassenauer to the practice squad, though if Green continues to be uneven and struggle, he could be cut. Or would it be too early to do so considering he was a 3rd round pick in 2021? Need better play from this unit this Saturday against the Jaguars.
Defensive Line (7)
Tyson Alualu, Montravius Adams, Cameron Heyward, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiah Loudermilk, Chris Wormley, Larry Ogunjobi
No changes on the defensive line for me, either. Was a little disappointed in Loudermilk’s performance on Saturday and need to see more this coming weekend.
Inside Linebacker (4)
Devin Bush, Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson
Uggghh. Significantly concerned with the Inside Backer position, and while I contemplated not including Bush here, I want to see him in one more game before I make any definitive decisions. Jack is a gamer, Spillane is a favorite of the coaches, while Johnson is still Green and in need of reps. Would not be surprised whatsoever to see Omar Khan pursue an answer at the position via a trade.
Outside Linebacker (4)
TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Genard Avery, Derek Tuszka
Same 4 here, though not a great showing from Tuszka on Saturday. Could the team be in the market for depth at OLB as well?
Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, Tre Norwood, Levi Wallace, James Pierre, Arthur Maulet
Same 6 here, no changes. Pierre lacks speed, but offers value on special teams and has experience. Maulet is aggressive and brings intensity to the defense. Depth is questionable.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Karl Joseph, Miles Killebrew
Same 5 here as well, and I am keeping Killebrew around, even though he has been injured for most of camp. Kazee has been consistent, while Joseph too has been injured for the last few weeks.
Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin, Christian Kuntz
Status quo with the specialists.