Tomlin and his staff will have some tough decisions to make over the coming weeks. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
I for one am excited as ever that the preseason has started, particularly because my favorite baseball team is fighting once again to stay out of the cellar of the National League West. So with the preseason in full swing, I thought that it would be a great idea to do a weekly breakdown on how I believe that Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster will shake out by the time the 2013 regular season starts.
Here are my predictions for this week:
Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
The top two spots are nothing short of “locks.” Roethlisberger is one of the best at his position in the league, and Gradkowski is a reliable guy to have as a number two in case disaster strikes. Unless Jones completely craps the bed, then I see no reason why they would cut ties with one of their fourth round picks during his rookie campaign. I still wish they would have drafted another pass-rusher or cornerback in the middle of round four this past April though.
Running Backs (4)
Le’Veon Bell, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, LaRod Stephens-Howling
The starting job should be Bell’s to lose, especially since he was drafted so high (48th overall). “The Hyphen” should provide some help on third downs and on special teams as well. I actually see Baron Batch as the odd-man out, and I believe that the Steelers will reward the more successful battering ram (Redman or Dwyer) at the end of this season with an extension to be Bell’s backup long-term. The other one will be put out to pasture and not signed as a UFA unless a rash of injuries strike.
Johnson has a nice set of hands and some surprising athleticism. With Heath Miller sidelined and the tight end position literally “bereft” of talent, Johnson will be relied upon heavily in the red zone through the first half of this regular season. Pittsburgh’s fullback took full advantage of his chance to shine last year, and the opportunities should be even more abundant this fall.
Tight Ends (3)
David Paulson, Jamie McCoy, Michael Palmer
The Steelers will probably go with the triumvirate of “Paulson, Palmer, and McCoy” until Heath Miller comes back from the PUP list. Paulson gained some experience down the stretch last year, but his plate will be full with Miller and Matt Spaeth both sidelined. I cannot see Pittsburgh’s offense utilizing many personnel packages with two tight ends with Palmer and McCoy as the backups, and it is almost a given that one will be released when Miller returns to the lineup.
Wide Receiver (6)
Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, J.D. Woods
I think that the Steelers will elect to carry either five or six wide receivers this fall. Brown, Sanders, Wheaton, and Cotchery should be “locks” barring injury, and I would look for Pittsburgh’s coaching staff to carry a bigger-framed pass-catcher to balance out the quintet like Justin Brown or Derek Moye. Reggie Dunn or J.D. Woods could be an option for the Steelers if they elect to carry six pass-catchers, and I think that they will try to sneak someone like Woods on the roster to avoid him going on the waiver wire if he continues to play well during the preseason.
Offensive Linemen (8)
Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marucs Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, John Malecki, Joe Long
The starting five are set in stone, and could form one of the most talented groups of younger players in the league. As long as they can stay healthy, then the Steelers should be in great shape. I should also add that Kelvin Beachum is a solid “jack-of-all trades” for Pittsburgh to turn to in a pinch if injuries strike, but the depth behind him is quite murky. John Malecki sticking on the 53-man roster makes sense, particularly because he can play both center and guard. Yet the door is wide-open for an eighth or ninth guy, a tackle like Joe Long in particular, to solidify a place for himself on the roster over the next three weeks.