With the Steelers first playoff game in the books, here is an updated look as to how I think the final roster will shake out.
The Steelers won their first preseason game against the Seahawks, and while there is still plenty of time for players to earn roster spots, the early results are in. There was a lot to like in the Steelers first game, as the offense effectively moved the ball down the field and scored. While no fringe player has locked up a spot yet, some are off to a good start.
This roster prediction is significantly different than the one I posted earlier in the offseason. For some battles, unexpected names have made a significant impact. In others, players that I thought would perform well have not lived up to the hype. That said, here is an updated roster prediction for the Steelers.
Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett
These three seem to be pretty locked up as of now. The top two obvious names are Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky, as the Steelers invested a lot into both players. As of this writing, Trubisky is easily the safest quarterback to start in week one. The surprising name has been Mason Rudolph, who has easily looked the most consistent out of every quarterback on this team.
The only way this trio changes is if the Steelers opt to keep two quarterbacks and trade Rudolph. Considering he has seen almost no playing time, Chris Oladokun won’t be on the active roster come week one. If the team opts to flip Rudolph, expect them to either sign someone else or only carry two quarterbacks this season.
Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Warren, Derek Watt
This is the first big change I have on this roster prediction, and it comes by way of the team moving on from veteran running back Benny Snell. At this point, Snell’s best role is as a special teams player, as he offers next to nothing as a runner. The first preseason game was a different story though, as both Anthony McFarland and Jaylen Warren showed up in major ways.
McFarland flashed the big play ability that he had at Maryland. Warren was more of a grinder, running hard and carving out nice chunks. Both seem like better natural running-back depth pieces than Snell. The team could still add a veteran here, but it was a solid outing for the potential backups.
Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin, Gunner Olszewski, Miles Boykin
The top four of this group are essentially locked into stone. The only way one of those four isn’t on the roster in week one is if an injury occurs or if the team decided to trade Chase Claypool (which isn’t likely). Calvin Austin is struggling with a foot injury but assuming he isn’t placed on injured reserve, he will be on this roster in week one.
While not locked in yet, Gunner Olszewski popped a little bit for the offense. His primary role will be as a returner and special teams player, so the offensive action was an added bonus. The last name is the real question mark. I’ll go with Miles Boykin for now since Anthony Miller seems to be fading, but this battle could go either way.
Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward
This group is almost locked in as of this writing. The obvious two are Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry, as both established themselves last year as solid options. Freiermuth has some of the highest potential out of anyone on this offense. Gentry is a great backup who can block well and serve as a big target in the passing game.
While not a conventional tight end, Connor Heyward seems to be getting a lot of love from the Steelers. He has been an active target in the passing game and can chip in on special teams. Frankly, there is no better third tight end than him right now, so Heyward seems like a close lock to making the roster.
Dan Moore, Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels, Chukwuma Okorafor, Joe Haeg, Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer
Unless someone makes a significant push to lock up an additional ninth roster spot, this group seems set. With so many other positions needing some extra bodies, there isn’t a sense in keeping an additional blocker. Beyond this, the starters seem set unless Kendrick Green can find a way to unseat Kevin Dotson.
The one name that I think could earn the final roster spot (if they kept another body) is John Leglue. A standout from camp last year, Leglue more than held his own and played a wide variety of positions. Could he still make the roster? Sure, but the practice squad seems like a safer bet as of now.
Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Larry Ogunjobi, Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal, Montravius Adams
Typically, the Steelers only keep six players at this position, but it seems like the team is keen on rostering seven capable players here after how bad injuries got last season. Unless the team shops one of their backups for a potential trade, this group is set.
The only thing that would shake this up is if the team is adamant about only keeping six players here and they can’t trade anyone. I would guess that Isaiahh Loudermilk or Montravius Adams would be the odd man out. That said, it would seem unwise to cut one of them just to keep six players in this positional group.
T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Genard Avery, Derrek Tuszka
Ug, outside of the starters, this group is ugly. The starters are obviously strong, with T.J. Watt being the best edge rushers in the league and arguably one of the best defenders overall. Alex Highsmith, meanwhile, had some growing pains last year, but he was extremely efficient down the stretch and one of the bright spots on defense.
If the team were to add to any group after cutdowns, edge has to be the top position. Genard Avery has a good deal of experience as a reserve and rotational player but having to count on him for a stretch of time would be tough. Derrek Tuszka is even less dependable and only helps out on special teams. This group could use a capable reserve badly.
Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Mark Robinson, Buddy Johnson
The off-ball linebackers are essentially the opposite here, as they have quite a few names that could serve as solid depth, but they lack the starters atop of the roster. Myles Jack is the only safe name, but even he needs to do some work in order to get back to his previous top form. Devin Bush is another story, and the only reason he is locked into the roster is due to there being no better option than him.
There seems to be a trio of players fighting for two roster spots. Mark Robinson, despite being a rookie, has played the best of the three and is my favorite to make the roster. I gave the other nod to Buddy Johnson, not because he has looked great (he really hasn’t), but due to the fact that Marcus Allen has barely seen the field because of injury. That could change quickly once Allen gets healthy again.
Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, James Pierre, Arthur Maulet
As of this writing, these five seem to be locked into their respective roster spots. The top three are secure, as each are playing on significant deals and are expected to start. The remainder of the roster is up for grabs, but there haven’t been any big surprise players vying for a shot. James Pierre and Arthur Maulet are the top guys off the depth chart right now.
The big name missing is Justin Layne, as the former third-round pick is only a special teams player at this point. That role can be filled by someone else at this point. The remainder of the cornerback room is young and needs some seasoning. Expect one or two of these guys to make it to the practice squad, but not much more than that right now.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew
This group has actually been more contested than I expected it to be. The starters are set, although Damontae Kazee seems to have a lot of confidence behind him. He could push Terrell Edmunds if he struggles. At the bare minimum, he seems to be the third safety and should see some defensive snaps. Tre Norwood has been a surprise as a seventh-round pick, so expect to see him used in a wide variety of roles.
The name now most at risk seems to be Miles Killibrew. An early injury slowed him down, and the team saw a lot of versatility out of Karl Joseph. Joseph went down with an injury, so that may allow Killibrew to get back on track. He is a core special teams player and should be able to hold onto a roster spot as long as Joseph doesn’t keep outplaying him.
Special Teams (3)
Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin, Christian Kuntz
No reason to project anything different than what this team has. Chris Boswell is one of the best in the business and was given a new deal. Pressley Harvin struggled as a rookie, but the team didn’t bring in much in terms of competition. Christian Kuntz was a pleasant surprise last season and lacks any competition.
While there is still a long way to go before the Steelers finalize their roster, this is a fair assessment of how the roster may shake out right now. There are still plenty of roster battles that aren’t done yet though, so expect some hard-fought battles going forward into camp.