Not much has transpired since our first roster projection for the 2012 Steelers more than two months ago. However, some minor transactions and news from minicamps has impacted the bottom of the roster, practice squad, and ordering of those closest to making the 53-man active roster or getting cut.
It would still be somewhat surprising if the Steelers do not add an inexpensive veteran running back and/or receiver before preseason games begin, since the team is precariously thin at receiver and will likely have only one healthy, proven NFL running back for opening day in Isaac Redman.
Starter Rashard Mendenhall claims he is recovering well from the torn ACL tear that sidelined him for the playoffs last year, but is still expected to begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which would require that he sit out at least the team’s first six games.
But with veteran and Mike Tomlin-favorite Mewelde Moore signing with the Vikings after not receiving an offer from Pittsburgh, the Steelers appear to be in wait-and-see mode to evaluate several youngsters while hoping that everyone stays healthy. Running back is one position where a cheap, but proven veteran can likely still be added even after training camp starts.
Thus, the only future transactions projected for this roster are the re-signing of veteran offensive tackle Max Starks and subsequent release of tackle Jonathan Scott some time in August, assuming Starks continues to progress in his rehab from a torn ACL, which was not as severe as the knee injury Mendenhall suffered and linemen generally can return to the field earlier from major lower-leg injuries.
The signing of Starks would not only provide a proven veteran to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside at left tackle – instead of immediately entrusting that key responsibility to rookie second-round pick Mike Adams – but would also likely help create a little more cash under the team’s 2012 salary cap to help pay the pro-rated signing bonus on a potential long-term deal for standout receiver Mike Wallace.
Although it is already counting against the Steelers’ cap, Wallace is the last restricted free agent in the NFL yet to sign his team-issued 1-year tender for around $2.5 million. Both sides are hoping for a long-term deal before the start of the 2012 season. Assuming one is reached, Wallace’s 2012 base salary could be dropped to say $700,000, although an upfront $15 million signing bonus prorated over 6 years would increase his cap number to $3.2 million for 2012.
The more the Steelers can pay Wallace now, the less burden he would count toward future salary caps, where Pittsburgh is in for terrifying doldrums for 2014 and 2015, especially if the NFL has little-to-no increases in annual team salary caps for the next three years, instead of a large increase in 2014 after new television deals are signed, which is what most fans believed – as seemingly did the Steelers’ brass based on their recent and risky habit of pushing back hefty salaries to future years – or at least were hoping would transpire.
Even if Starks does not re-sign with the Steelers, Jonathan Scott will likely be a cap casualty barring injury to others or his agreeing to take a significant paycut, since the Steelers would save $2.2 million in 2012 (which is also the last year of his contract) with his release and he is not expected to start regardless of Starks’s status. In such an event, rookie seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum and Chris Scott would be the lead contenders for the ninth and likely final offensive line spot, with both offering much cheaper alternatives than Jonathan Scott or Starks.
However, even though other teams have expressed interest in Starks and some experts believe he will not return to the Steelers, Starks has repeatedly said his preference is to return to Pittsburgh, the Steelers would like him to return if healthy, and unless some team loses its projected starting left tackle to injury in the next six weeks, no other franchise is likely to offer much more than the veteran’s minimum to a 30-year-old who has seen his last two seasons end due to serious injuries. Thus, paying Starks around a million per year would be a bargain for the Steelers, even if he finished the year serving as the No. 3 tackle or only started a few games before another injury.
Projected 53-Man, Opening-Day Roster
** = Roster Lock (95% or better barring major injury or arrest)
* = Roster Near Lock (75-94% barring major injury or arrest)
No stars = Clinging to the 53-man roster at this point
(These stars assume no more roster additions – outside of Starks – or season-ending/major injuries)
QB Ben Roethlisberger **
QB Byron Leftwich *
QB Charlie Batch *
RB Isaac Redman **
RB Jonathan Dwyer *
RB Baron Batch
RB/WR Chris Rainey *
FB/H-Back D.J. Johnson *
TE Heath Miller **
TE Leonard Pope
TE//H-Back David Paulson
WR Mike Wallace **
WR Antonio Brown **
WR Emmanuel Sanders **
WR Jerricho Cotchery **
WR Toney Clemons
LT Max Starks * (projected FA signee, which would trigger the release of Jonathan Scott)
LG Willie Colon **
C Maurkice Pouncey **
RG David DeCastro **
RT Marcus Gilbert **
C/G Doug Legursky **
T Mike Adams **
G Ramon Foster *
G/T/C Trai Essex *
DE Ziggy Hood **
NT Casey Hampton **
DE Brett Keisel **
DE Cameron Heyward **
NT/DE Steve McLendon **
NT Alameda Ta’amu **
DE/NT Al Woods
OLB James Harrison **
OLB LaMarr Woodley **
OLB Jason Worilds *
OLB Chris Carter
OLB/ILB Brandon Johnson
ILB Lawrence Timmons **
ILB Larry Foote **
ILB Stevenson Sylvester *
ILB Sean Spence **
SS Troy Polamalu **
FS Ryan Clark **
S Ryan Mundy **
S Will Allen *
S Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith
CB Ike Taylor **
CB Keenan Lewis **
CB Cortez Allen **
CB Curtis Brown **
K Shaun Suisham
P Drew Butler
SN Greg Warren *
PUP (minimum of 6 games): RB Rashard Mendenhall
Suspended (4 games): TE Weslye Saunders
Opening Game-Day Inactives (7): WR Toney Clemons, TE/H-B David Paulson, OG Ramon Foster, OL Trai Essex, NT Casey Hampton (likely will not be healthy at this point, but should be long before game No. 7) or DL Al Woods, LB Brandon Johnson S Ryan Clark (because game is in Denver, where Clark’s sickle cell trait prevents him from playing in high altitudes)
Last 22 Released From Camp (in order of how close they are to making team and their position matters): P Jeremy Kapinos, DE Corbin Bryant, CB Terrence Frederick, OL Kelvin Beachum, WR Derrick Williams, RB John Clay, WR Marquis Maze, FB Will Johnson, OL Chris Scott, K K Daniel Hrapmann, SN Matt Katula, ILB Mortty Ivy, OLB Adrian Robinson, Jr., TE/FB/H-B Jamie McCoy, S Myron Rolle, S Robert Golden, QB Jerrod Johnson, WR Juamorris Stewart, OG/C John Malecki, CB Terry Carter, OG Ryan Lee, DE Ikponmwosa Igbinosun
Last 16 To Make the Team (in order of likelihood of being cut and their position matters): P Drew Butler, S Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, DE/NT Al Woods, LB Brandon Johnson, TE/FB/H-B David Paulson, OLB Chris Carter, WR Toney Clemons, TE Leonard Pope, RB Baron Batch, K Shaun Suisham, S Will Allen, SN Greg Warren, FB/H-B D.J. Johnson, QB Charlie Batch, RB Jonathan Dwyer, RB/WR Chris Rainey
Practice Squad (8): RB John Clay, WR Marquis Maze, OG/OT Kelvin Beachum, OT/OG Chris Scott (I believe he does still have 1 year left of practice-squad eligibility with the Steelers), DE Corbin Bryant, OLB Adrian Robinson, S Robert Golden, CB Terrence Frederick
- Ridiculously Early 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Projected Roster and Other Goodies (V 1.0)
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Mock Draft and Projected 53-Man Roster (V. 1.0)
- Explaining the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2012 Salary-Cap Quandary (Part 1)
- Projecting Salary Cap Cuts and Moves for the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers (Part 4)
- Projected 53-Man Final Roster After 3 Preseason Games and Other Goodies