As we get further into the 2015 preseason, everyone is surely wondering who makes this team and who doesn’t. Based on what we have seen so far, here is my first attempt in predicting the Steelers 53 man roster.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkoswki, Tyler Murphy (WR/QB) Breakdown: There are no questions with this unit until the third string. Ben is playing the best ball of his career. Gradkowski is adequate as a 2nd stringer. Landry Jones is desperately trying to stay on the team, but it may be time to jettison the 4th round pick and replace him with someone who, at least, shows position versatility.
Wide Receiver: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates. Breakdown: Brown, Wheaton and Bryant make up one of the most talents wide receiver corps in the NFL. Coates has flashed talent and as a third round pick will make the team. There are some voices out there who think we need to cut Heyward-Bey, however, they fail to see his value on special teams and as a veteran influence.
Running Backs/Fullback: Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, Josh Harris, Dri Archer, Will Johnson. Breakdown: Bell will miss the first two games but will, once again, be one of the best backs in the league upon his return. DeAngelo Williams is a solid backup and will fill in sufficiently. Josh Harris is serviceable and Dri Archer may be coming into his own as a running back and receiver.
Tight Ends: Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jesse James. Breakdown: There was never much mystery about who are the top three tight ends on the team. Miller is aging but is still a beast. Spaeth is a competent blocker who can be utilized in the red zone. Jesse James beats out Cameron Clear for the last slot. Clear has good size but no fire while Jesse James shows more competitiveness. James brings many of the same qualities as Spaeth, though he seems to be slightly more athletic.
Offensive Line: Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Cody Wallace, Chris Hubbard, Alejandro, Villanueva. Breakdown: The offensive line really started to gel last year and all the starters are returning. Cody Wallace will be the backup center. Chris Hubbard should be the backup guard and ex- army ranger Alejandro Villanueva takes the place of the injured Mike Adams.
Defensive Line: Steve McLendon, Daniel McCullers, Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, Cam Thomas, L.T. Walton. Breakdown: This unit will be substantially better than it was last year with the emergence of Stephon Tuitt. McCullers development will be worth watching. Walton and Thomas can both play DE and DT and show value when we go to a four man front. Walton is the wild card here, With the injury to Clifton Geathers he just has to show that he deserves this spot over Ethan Hemer.
Outside Linebacker: Arthur Moats, Jarvis Jones, James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo Breakdown: Moats and Jones are penciled in as the starters. Harrison is 37 years old and still a valuable backup. He will have his snaps minimized to keep him healthy and active all season. The plan is for Dupree to be our OLB of the future and he can learn behind the underrated Moats until he develops. Jordan Zumwalt was placed on the injured/waived list and Anthony Chickillo has done enough to deserve the fifth spot over Howard Jones.
Inside Linebacker: Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin. Breakdown: Timmons and Shazier are going to be exciting to watch this year, and are elite athletes. Vince Williams and Sean Spence can rotate in without a drastic drop in talent. Terence Garvin could take the last spot due to his value on special teams.
Cornerback: Brandon Boykin, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Antwon Blake, Doran Grant, B.W. Webb. Breakdown: Brandon Boykin will thrive in the cover 2 and could be the best cornerback on this team due to his instincts and athleticism. Allen needs to bounce back from a horrendous 2014 season. Gay will probably start the season as a starter but could be moved inside if Allen and Boykin play strong. Dorant Grant shows promise and will be given every opportunity to grow into the position. Senquez Golson is out with a shoulder injury so B.W. Webb and Kevin Fogg are fighting it out for the last slot. I give the edge to Webb at this point.
Safety: Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden. Breakdown: This is actually a tough one for me. Mitchell, Thomas and Allen are all locks, though I think Thomas may end up spending some time on the bench in favor of the veteran Will Allen. Golden gets the last slot though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers don’t opt for a younger player like Ian Wild or Alden Darby.
Specialists: Garrett Hartley , Greg Warren, Brad Wing Breakdown: No surprises here. Brad Wing is inconsistent but is the best we have at this point. Greg Warren will remain a staple on the team. Hartley shows promise but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see us look at the waiver wire when teams make their final cuts.
Well, there you go. This is my prediction for the final roster. Is there anyone here that you feel doesn’t belong? Is there anyone who was left off that you feel warrants consideration? Let me know.
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