As the final preseason game approaches Thursday night there are still a few open spots on the roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This game is most important for all the rookies trying to make one last impression on the coaches before the roster has to be cut to 53 players by Friday’s deadline.
Most of the positions have incumbent players, but need a backup. Usually, players that perform on special teams can fill the backup role.
Here is my projected 53-man roster:
QB – I look for the Steelers to carry 3 QBs again this season. There has been a lot of talk about cutting Charlie Batch to make room for a LB or OL due to injury concerns. The fact is the Steelers don’t have the luxury of a Hines Ward or Antwaan Randle El that can step in and takes snaps when needed. When your QB is sacked as many times as Ben Roethlisberger usually is, you’d better carry three QBs.
RB – What a mess this position is. Rashard Mendenhall is injured, Isaac Redman has been in and out with injuries and Jonathan Dwyer has been banged up, which leaves Baron Batch and rookie Chris Rainey as the two healthy backs. In an ideal world there wouldn’t be the need to carry five backs, but with all the injuries it will be needed. Chris Rainey is the big help here because of his special teams abilities.
FB – There will be only one fullback on the roster, Will Johnson. David Johnson will be on the IR list.
TE – Tight end is another one of those positions that is kind of tricky due to Weslye Saunders’ suspension. Heath Miller and Leonard Pope are definitely on the roster and David Paulson will likely get a spot until Saunders returns.
WR – I expect Pittsburgh to carry 5 WRs especially due to Mike Wallace’s late arrival. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and, the guy coaches have been raving about, David Gilreath. Gilreath shows all the potential that a coach can ask for, but that leaves Pittsburgh native Derrick Williams on the outs.
OL – Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Trai Essex, Doug Legursky and David DeCastro. Yes, DeCastro. According to offensive line coach Sean Kugler, DeCastro may return before the season is over and he will not be placed on the IR list. Legursky and Essex give the Steelers some maneuverability up front. Legursky can play center and guard, while Essex can play tackle and guard.
DL – Ziggy Hood, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Steve McLendon, Cam Heyward and Alameda Ta’Amu. There were some really talented defensive ends that won’t make this roster this season. Corbin Bryant and Al Woods were both capable of a backup on this team. Unfortunately, the injury concerns at LB have cut a roster spot at this postion. With McLendon’s ability to play outside and Heyward’s comfort at both ends of the line, there is no need for a seventh player.
LB – Lamar Woodley, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester, Sean Spence, Chris Carter and Adrian Robinson. Injuries everywhere force Pittsburgh to carry a ninth LB and Adrian Robinson gets the spot. With Stevenson Sylvester still down with an injury, rookie Sean Spence will be the primary backup inside.
CB – Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Taylor and Lewis will get the starts on the outside. Cortez Allen has progressed well and may make a run at the starting role next season.
FS – Ryan Clark and Ryan Mundy.
SS – Troy Polamalu and Will Allen.
The safety positions are also tricky. This was another roster spot lost due to injury. Either FS Robert Golden or SS Damon Cromartie-Smith will make the roster. Trying to decide which one will make the roster is an interesting choice. There is always the possibility that Pittsburgh takes both and cuts Will Allen. Injuries to Polamalu in the past few seasons have to be a concern and probably sways votes to Cromartie-Smith.
Special Teams – Shaun Suisham, Drew Butler and Greg Warren. Big surprise here is selecting Drew Butler over Jeremy Kapinos at the punter position. With injuries to Kapinos and the performance by Butler it really shouldn’t be that big of a shock. Kapinos would still be a just a phone call away.