By Jeremy Hritz
Only one more preseason game to go before the Pittsburgh Steelers cut their roster down to 53 on August 30th. On Saturday, they won their second exhibition in a row, while in dramatic fashion, the performances across the board were less than stellar, and there is much work for this team to do prior to their first regular season game against the Bengals. As the team prepares for their finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, here is my third edition of the Steelers 53-man roster projection. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my projection, so please post them in the comments below.
Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett
No change here, it’s still Trubisky and Pickett, with Pickett showing more evidence he is a capable backup to start the season, and a legitimate option to step in as the starter if necessary. Mason Rudolph played OK vs. mediocre competition, and his flat-footed play in the pocket continued. It’s just a matter of time before he is traded. Where will he land?
Running Back (3)
Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Warren
No change from edition #2. You could argue to keep Bennie Snell after his touchdown reception from Pickett and a solid special teams tackle; however, his performance rushing the ball was poor. Yes, chalk it up to the offensive line’s horrific 2021-like performance, but I just don’t see the value with him.
Wide Receiver (6)
Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Calvin Austin, George Pickens, Gunnar Olzewski, Steven Sims
Olzewski had a terrible fumble against the Jaguars, but it’s not enough to push him off the roster. If that persists against the Lions, it is cause for concern. Austin needs to get healthy and on the field. Tyler Vaughs had another strong showing, but he is destined for the practice squad.
Tight End (3)
Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward
No change. Hell of a performance from Freiermuth in his return from injury.
Offensive Line (8)
James Daniels, Mason Cole, Kevin Dotson, Chuks Okorafor, Dan Moore, Joe Haeg, John Leglue, To-be-named player (free agency/trade)
Where do I begin here? Just an abysmal performance across the board, except for Mason Cole. The Steelers could now be in a position where they not only are scouring what’s left in free agency for possible solutions, but also making calls to other teams for a left guard. And to make matters worse, Dan Moore, whom everyone has high expectations for this year, looked lost and ineffective. Green gets cut, as even at guard, the difficulties he had last year at center have not resolved themselves. I don’t like to list a player not yet on the roster on my 53, but that’s what I’m doing here because the organization knows it must make a move to help this unit.
Defensive Line (7)
Tyson Alualu, Montravius Adams, Cameron Heyward, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiah Loudermilk, Chris Wormley, Larry Ogunjobi
Still no Adams this weekend, and his status with the team is in jeopardy if he cannot get healthy. For now he sticks, but if he isn’t available against the Lions, he is in danger. Otherwise, no changes. Still not impressed with the play of the defensive line against the run and thought it was subpar against the Jaguars.
Inside Linebacker (4)
Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Mark Robinson
That’s a wrap for Devin Bush. Even though he hit the stat sheet with a handful of tackles, his woeful play continued: not getting off blocks, looking disinterested in the game, and being widely away from the play. The speed and lateral movement that made him an effective player as a rookie seems to have been taken from him as a result of the ACL tear, and it is unfortunate. Yet the Steelers have to move on if they want any chance of their defense playing at a higher level than last year. Robinson flashed again and there’s enough promise there for him to make the 53, in addition to the fact that the unit overall is average.
Outside Linebacker (4)
TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Genard Avery, Derek Tuszka
No change. But please don’t play Watt against the Lions. We know what he can do, and we know what can happen to this defense if he is injured and unavailable for any period of time.
Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, Tre Norwood, Levi Wallace, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet
Layne now makes the roster after coming up with a big play with the interception to help the team get the victory. Sure, he has his warts, but his athleticism makes him more attractive than James Pierre, who is cut on this iteration of the 53. Everyone else sticks.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Donovan Stiner
Miles Killebrew cannot get healthy, and his availability leads to his exit from the team. And with Karl Joseph’s season-ending injury, it opens the door for second year player, Stiner, who had a decent game against the Jaguars. Kazee and Edmunds both played well, and Fitzpatrick got his first action of the season.
Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin, Christian Kuntz