Great Scot: Pittsburgh Steelers' 53-man roster breakdown

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Aug 29, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers Felix Jones (23) runs the ball during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Steelers 25-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Football season is upon us and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster has arrived.

Not much shock here, the Steelers will need to remain healthy for the duration of the season, if they want to be contenders. A few too many injuries in key areas will force the Steelers to draft quite high in next year’s NFL Draft, but for now, let’s break down each position and I’ll give you what I think on the depth of that position as well.


BEN ROETHLISBERGER returns for another season of running for his life and with backups Bruce Gradkowski and Landry Jones in tow, if the Steelers truly want to make a run for the Super Bowl, Big Ben better stay healthy. Gradkowski could win a game or two but would falter with any type of long relief.  Jones is almost a shock to make the team but the front office must have felt he wouldn’t have cleared waivers.

STARTER HEALTH IMPORTANCE (out of five stars):  *****



Rookie Le’Veon Bell is eyeing a Week 2 return and could share time until he proves he can stay healthy and effective, but in the meantime, ISAAC REDMAN looks to be the starter come Sunday and he will share time with newly acquired Felix Jones. Jones is a capable back but probably isn’t the answer, while Redman has shown ability to have big games. LaRod Stephens-Howling could get mop-up time and used as the third-down back because of his quickness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Mike Tomlin said he won’t go back-by-committee, he does like to say he will allow the game to dictate who plays each down.




October 21, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (89) and tight end Heath Miller (83) talk on the sidelines in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a big fan of the Steelers receiver group this season, led by ANTONIO BROWN and EMMANUEL SANDERS, young guys who can make big plays, go over the middle, score touchdowns and give fits to the opposing secondary. Rookie Markus Wheaton has shown his big-play ability and route-running skills and could eventually move Sanders back to the slot full time. Jerricho Cotchery is a good veteran for the Steelers to have in case a starter goes down.  He can play the slot pretty nicely and is very good on third downs. Derek Moye is a big, tall guy who might not get a ton of playing time but an injury or two could thrust him into a bigger role. At this point, it would be best to ease him in and allow him to build up during the season.




Heath Miller could return to the Steelers after a few weeks into the season and that’s excellent news for the team, especially since Matt Spaeth won’t be eligible to return until week 6 and healthy. For the time being, DAVID JOHNSON and DAVID PAULSON will share time as the starting TE for the team and both of them could be lined up to start the game as well. Neither guy is a true pass catcher and neither guy is superb as a blocker but they can get the job done until Heath comes back or hold down the fort if Heath doesn’t.




This unit is very young and that’s great because they will grow together and be together for many years to come. The problem with a young group is knowing how to block properly without penalties. This unit throughout the preseason was pretty good for run blocking but had it’s share of problems pass blocking and the penalties that went along with them.  This group will get better as the season goes along, headed up by center MAURKICE POUNCEY and the left side of MIKE ADAMS and RAMON FOSTER; the right side has MARCUS GILBERT and DAVID DeCASTRO.

The biggest problem with this unit will be if one or more of them go down throughout the season.  Pouncey has been injured for almost as long as he’s been healthy, DeCastro started off injured but was fine when he came back. Adams was stabbed during the offseason but he seems to be past it now and Gilbert was injured for a bit last season too. The weakest link to this line will be Foster but his backup is NFL veteran Guy Whimper. The rest of the backups include Kelvin Beachum and Cody Wallce. If a starter goes down, it will be time to start screaming run, Ben, run!



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  • Lou Bourbon JR

    Watching preseason football with an interest toward our backup QB’s, I believe we have a really good NFL caliber QB in Gradkowski. He can run and he can throw and he’s got NFL experience…albeit on turkey football teams. He made me think that an injury to Ben this year is not the playoff death knell that it has been in the past.

    Landry Jones looked like a rookie in preseason…but a capable rookie. He made some really nice passes, scored a few TD’s and made some stupid throws for ints…none as dumb as the one Roethlisburger delivered to the Washington Redskins in his own backfield.

    I think Landry can manage a game for our defense to win…the same that Batch, Dixon and Leftwich did…except there is an upside to Landry where as our backup QBs of recent years past were all on the downside of their careers.

    I’d argue that our backup QB position, with backups being what they are, is a 4 of 5. It’s certainly better than at anytime in the past 8 years and these QB’s centered around the weapons that this offense has should be very effective in their own ways. I think Gradkowski can win games and I think Landry can manage one.

    • Eric Scot

      The ratings aren’t really designed to have these players base their ability on their own talent alone. The back up rating is based upon their ability to step in for the starter and play up to their level. With that being said, Brad Gradkowski is a journeyman type of QB who can win some games and will lose some games and Landry Jones might be able to win some games but I’d imagine he would lose a whole lot more than he’d win. If for no other reason than the playbook closes way up compared to what Ben is allowed and capable to do. With that being said, if the Steelers lose a starter in the biggest of key positions, they are in BIG trouble. Stay healthy and we have a shot at the Super Bowl.

  • Adam Banig

    I have a few critiques:

    1. David Paulson is a pass catching TE and I expect Will Johnson to see considerable time in a H-back type role

    2. I expect Stephens-Howling to see more time than Felix Jones. I see LSH as the 3rd down pass catching back

    3. I trust Kevin Beachum as a reserve guard or right tackle. The rest in agree with there.

    4. The reason Keenan Williams is gone was strictly his salary- the steelers couldn’t match the Saints offer, it wasn’t because of his play

    5. I’d say the starting importance for the safeties is a 10 on a scale from 1 to 5, if you get my drift. ;)