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): *****
BACKUP ABILITY: **1/2
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.
STARTER HEALTH IMPORTANCE: ***1/2
BACKUP ABILITY: ****
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.
STARTER HEALTH IMPORTANCE: ****
BACKUP ABILITY: ****
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.
STARTER HEALTH IMPORTANCE: ***
BACKUP ABILITY: ****1/2
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!
STARTER HEALTH IMPORTANCE: *****
BACKUP ABILITY: *1/2