Sports Magazine

Battling Bucs : Early Look At The 53 Man Roster

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
I know it’s early but I opted to take a short break in my usual baseball oriented world and take a look at the current Steelers roster. The roster currently includes 90 names but in just a few short months that number is going to have to be trimmed to 53. Now I would be shocked if that final 53 man roster did not include at least one player who is not currently on the 90 man roster but for the most part the final roster is indeed going to be made up of this group. So let's take a look at where things currently stand.
Quarterbacks
Secure Job: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
Competing:
Long Shot: John Parker Wilson
The quarterback position seems fairly settled at this point. Barring injury Roethlisberger will obviously be the starter. Gradkowski was brought in to be Ben's primary backup and Jones was drafted to groom as the eventual backup. Very little is likely to disturb that trio. John Parker Wilson remains on the roster most likely as a camp arm.
Running Backs
Secure Job: Le'Veon Bell
Competing: Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Barron Batch, LaRod Stephens-Howling
Long Shot: Curtis McNeal
The running back position remains largely unsettled. The only player I feel confident in saying has a secure spot on the team is second round pick Le'Veon Bell. Beyond that I imagine the Steelers will carry 3 additional running backs most likely from the Dwyer, Redman, Batch and Stephens-Howling group. Stephens-Howling would seem to have a slight edge because of his return ability but I could see any one of the other 3 being let go. One of Redman or Dwyer will likely be kept as either the starting running back to begin the season or at minimum in a time share with Bell. Batch provides a good change of pace but the results just haven't been there and in addition to returning Stephens-Howling can do a lot of what Batch does. Even Curtis McNeal who I classify as a long shot mostly because of the logjam in front of him could factor into this discussion.
Wide Receiver
Secure Spot: Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jericho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton
Competing: Justin Brown, Plaxico Burress, Reggie Dunn, David Gilreath
Long Shot: Kashif Moore, Derek Moye, J.D. Woods
With the departure of Wallace it should be pretty clear that Brown and Sanders are the obvious starters. Beyond them the steady veteran Cotchery and the 3rd round draft pick Wheaton should have little issue making the final roster. Past those three the Steelers will likely keep one more receiver although two or even none could be a possibility as well. The most likely candidates for that spot(s) appear to be the veteran red zone presence Burress, the draft selection Brown, the return specialist Dunn and the young but capable Gilreath. What the Steelers determine they need (i.e. red zone help, return help, special teams help) will decide how this position fills out. The other three receivers on the roster all seem like camp bodies to me although I will admit I know very little about any of them.
Tight Ends/Fullback
Secure Spot: Heath Miller, David Paulson
Competing: Will Johnson, David Johnson, Matt Spaeth
Long Shot: Jamie McCoy, Peter Tuitupou
It is possible Heath Miller isn't healthy enough to start the season on the active roster but for now I'm going to assume he is good to go. Obviously if he is healthy Miller will be the starting tight end. Paulson didn't exactly blow the doors off last season but he was solid enough where I can't imagine the Steelers not giving him another look as the backup tight end. That leaves two spots available the 3rd TE and the starting full back. Matt Spaeth and Will Johnson would appear to have the inside track on those two jobs but David Johnson should provide some healthy competition. McCoy has been around the Steelers for a little while now and may enter the discussion if an injury arises but right now he and Tuitupou are definite long shots to crack the roster.
Offensive Line
Secure Spot: Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum
Competing: Joe Madsen, Nick Embernate, Chris Hubbard, Justin Cheadle, John Malecki, Mike Farrell, Mike Golic Jr, Joe Long, Guy Whimper
Long Shot:
The starting offensive line appears basically set. Gilbert and Adams will handle the tackle positions although who will take what side is still up in the air a bit. Pouncey will center and lead the line and Foster and DeCastro will fill out the rest of the interior. As for the reserves Beachum is being trained as a utility lineman essentially preparing himself to step in at any position. This flexibility will likely earn him the top backup spot. Beyond Beachum the rest of the reserves could virtually come from anywhere. The Steelers have a mix of young linemen and one veteran tackle (Whimper) that are going to be fighting it out all summer for what will likely be 3 reserve spots. The current favorites are likely Malecki and one of Long and Whimper. Malecki is the most experienced center of the group and Long and Whimper are the only ones who seem to definitively be tackles. Two of the final three spots will likely be taken up there but the last one could go any which way.
Defensive Line
Secure Spot: Steve McLendon, Cameron Heyward, Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel
Competing: Nicholas Williams, Al Woods, Hebron Fangupo, Omar Hunter, Alameda, Ta'amu
Long Shot: Brian Arnfelt, Cordian Hagans
It should come as no surprise that it appears Hood, McLendon and Keisel will comprise the starting defensive line this season. Backing up the defensive ends and rotating in a fair amount I’m sure will be Cameron Heyward. Aside from those 4 the Steelers will likely keep two additional players. Al Woods appears the be the odds on favorite for one of those spots and will serve as the 4th DE and has even been getting work as the backup NT. The last spot will likely go to one of the young nose tackles probably Fangupo or Ta’amu but Hunter and even 7th round draft pick Nicholas Williams (who is a DE) might factor in. Arnfelt and Hagans are likely just camp filler.
Linebackers
Secure Spot: Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote
Competing: Stevenson Sylvester, Adrian Robinson, Chris Carter, Marshall McFadden, Sean Spence, Vince Williams
Long Shot: Alan Baxter, Terence Garvin, Brian Rolle, Kion Wilson
The five locks for the team as usual are straightforward. Woodley, Foote and Timmons will occupy three of the starting spots while Worilds and Jones will likely compete for the other OLB spot. The loser will serve as the primary OLB backup. The Steelers will usually carry 9 or 10 linebackers so a lot of jobs are available here. Sean Spence is healthy would be a strong favorite to secure one of the open spots but there are serious questions about his health. McFadden and Williams appear to have inside track to jobs as they are the only middle linebackers of that group although Sylvester could easily be switched back I’m sure. Robinson is probably the early favorite for the 4th OLB job and it would appear Carter and Sylvester are competing for a special teams job although a lot could change. Baxter, Garvin, Rolle and Wilson appear to be here just to fill out the camp roster.
Defensive Backs
Secure Spot: Cortez Allen, William Gay, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, Troy Polamalu
Competing: Terry Hawthorne, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian, DaMon Cromartie-Smith
Long Shot: Isaiah Green, Nigel Malone, Ross Ventrone
The starting secondary appears set with Taylor and Allen at the corners and Polamalu and Clark manning the safety positions. Gay was brought back to add a veteran who knows the system to the mix of young backups and that is exactly what he will do. The reserve safeties figure to be Golden who played well enough last year and 4th round draft pick Thomas. The remaining 2 or 3 defensive back jobs will likely go to some of the young corners the Steelers have in camp. Hawthorne is a new addition to the mix and I’m sure is a player the Steelers are hoping to keep around but he’ll have to show his worth over the returning trio of Van Dyke, Brown and Victorian all who have shown flashes of potential in the past. This should be an interesting battle throughout the summer. If the Steelers opt to keep a 5th safety it will likely be Cromartie-Smith although he seems to have a steep hill to climb. The trio of Green, Malone and Ventrone is unlikely to enter the 53 man roster conversation.
Special Teams
Secure Spot: Shaun Suisham
Competing: Luke Ingram, Greg Warren, Brian Moorman, Drew Butler
Long Shot: Daniel Hrapmann
This should be fairly straightforward. Suisham will remain the team’s kicker and Hrapmann is just here as a camp leg. The other two spots long snapper and punter appear as if they will have some competition. Warren should probably still be considered the favorite for the long snapping job seeing as he is the incumbent but one of these years the challenger the Steelers bring in will unseat him and there is nothing saying that it won’t be Ingram who does the job. As for the punting job it would appear Butler would have the slight edge right now but Moorman is a veteran punter who I’m sure just isn’t here to be a camp leg, he will give Butler a good fight.

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