The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their two biggest threats on offense, but the future looks bright for this talented core.
Losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown would be a massive letdown for any franchise, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are brushing it off like it’s nothing — as they should. Don’t get me wrong, Bell and Brown are two of the best at what they do, but the Steelers’ roster won’t suffer as much as most make it seem.
The Steelers are still left with an all-time great quarterback, a very reliable and experienced offensive line, two young stars in Smith-Schuster and Conner, a great tight-end tandem and a ton of unproven players ready to prove themselves to the league.
Let’s take a look at where we stand today:
Ben Roethlisberger, Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, Delvin Hodges
Big Ben entered training camp more focused than he’s been in a few years. As he put it, he’s enjoying it “more so this year. I am not sure why, but I am.” Roethlisberger will obviously enter Week 1 as the starter, but the real battle has been at the backup position.
Dobbs and Rudolph have been swapping second-team reps throughout training camp. It’s still a very close call as preseason will be the real test, but Mason Rudolph has had some solid days.
Last year, the Steelers kept three quarterbacks on their roster, and will likely do the same this year.
James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr., Trey Edmunds, Ralph Webb, Malik Williams, Travon McMillian
After spending last season as the workhorse for the Steelers, Conner looks ready to go at it again. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding rookie Benny Snell Jr., who the Steelers selected in the fourth round. Samuels continues to show a lot of potential as a pass-catching back.
With Roethlisberger hinting at the Steelers using more two-RB sets this year, you can expect to see a lot of Samuels and Snell Jr. this season. Last year, the Steelers had three running backs on their roster, but that could increase to four this season.
If so, that puts Edmunds, Webb, Williams and McMillian left to battle it out.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to keep Roosevelt Nix as their fullback. Nix has spent the past 4 years with the Steelers, without missing a game in the past 2 years.
Mostly used as a blocker, Nix did score a receiving touchdown and rushing touchdown in 2017, but hasn’t seen the endzone since.
Juju Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer, Trey Griffey, Johnny Holton, Tevin Jones, Diontae Spencer, Brandon Reilly
The top-three receivers in this group are pretty much set in stone for this upcoming season. After a breakout season last year, Smith-Schuster is ready to take his third year in the league to the next level. The Steelers signed Moncrief to a 2-year deal, with most of the money being earned in the second year — expect him to play with a lot to prove this year.
Washington has looked like a different player in 2019, and is currently battling for that No. 2 spot with Moncrief. Expect these two to build good chemistry with Ben, especially with a lot of the attention going to Smith-Schuster.
If Pittsburgh keeps 6 receivers on their roster like they did last season, that means there are 3 spots up for grabs between 8 players. May be the best men win. As of right now, those spots would likely go to Johnson, Switzer and Rogers, but that could change in the coming weeks.
Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Trevor Wood
With Jesse James gone, Vance McDonald will be the clear No. 1 tight end on the roster in 2019. He will need to remain healthy, and that uncertainty means the backups will need to be ready at all times.
Grimble and Gentry are the two that stand out. Grimble has spent the past few seasons with Pittsburgh, but has struggled to show much potential. If it’s still there, he will have to show it this season. Gentry was drafted this offseason in the fifth round, but he will still have to earn his spot on the roster.
Rader spent last year’s training camp with the Packers, but spent the entire season out of the NFL. Scotland-Williamson is a part of the International Pathway Program and could land on the practice squad without counting towards the 10 allowed.
Wood shows some versatility, as he’s also listed as a long snapper. If he can show value at both positions, he could land a roster spot after going undrafted this offseason.
Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, B.J. Finney, Zach Banner, Derwin Gray, Damian Prince, Patrick Morris, J.C. Hassenauer, Garrett Brumfield, Fred Johnson
Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers ended the season with the 3rd best offensive line, ranked by PFF, which has become a common theme with this team. The Steelers’ offensive line will look very similar this season, and will likely perform that way.
Pouncey, DeCastro, Foster and Villanueva have built incredible chemistry with Roethlisberger — and that will likely continue to grow as they remain starters on the roster. Feiler started 10 games last season, while Okorafor started 3 games. Those two are currently battling for the right tackle position, the only starting position on the offensive line that is up for grabs.
The rest of the field will be competing for depth roles, with Hawkins, Finney and Banner leading the way. Morris and Brumfield have been intriguing, so it will be interesting to see what the preseason shows us.