After an unusually active offseason in signing external free agents and selecting nine players in the NFL Draft, the Steelers’ training-camp roster is mostly set.
Per most of the connected insiders who cover the team full-time (e.g., Ed Bouchette, Jim Wexell, etc.), barring injury the Steelers will likely not be re-signing veteran defensive end Brett Keisel, following their drafting of Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt in the 2nd-round.
Keisel could still aid this team, which only has three defensive linemen on its roster with any real game experience. But belatedly going with a youth movement will hopefully pay off in the long-term.
While the Steelers will likely tinker with their roster leading up to training camp, they appear to have only two other positions where a veteran addition would have a good chance to make the team.
The obvious one is to bring back James Harrison after June 1st on an inexpensive deal to serve as the No. 3 outside linebacker behind Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones.
Pittsburgh did not address its need for depth at outside linebacker in the draft. Free-agent signee Arthur Moats will help, but nearly all of his NFL experience has been on the inside and/or while working in a 4-3 scheme. Fourth-year pro Chris Carter is a below-average NFL player, who has yet to record a sack in 29 career regular-season games.
Further, Worilds has a history of nagging injuries and Jones underwhelmed as a rookie. Harrison wants to return to Pittsburgh and would accept coming off the bench at the end of his career.
Really, there are only three reasons not to sign Harrison. First, the coaches don’t want to put any pressure on Jones to keep his starting job, which would be a ridiculous rationale. Second, the Steelers simply believe Harrison is washed up. And finally they may decide to take a chance that no one else will sign Harrison, thus opting to see how Jones and Moats fare early in camp before possibly opting to bring back Harrison later in the summer.
The one position most likely to see a veteran addition before training camp is tailback. The Steelers may be fine with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount as a two-headed monster, and Dri Archer as the utility guy. But at the very least, they need another back for training camp with an NFL carry on his resume.
Thus, it would not be surprising to see La’Rod Stephens Howling or Felix Jones brought back on a veteran minimum 1-year deal after June 1st. This also may be a position where the Steelers could add from the waiver wire right before opening game if they are not pleased with their depth.
For now, though, I will hold off on adding Harrison or a free-agent tailback to my projected opening-day roster, although I do not expect Tauren Poole to hold the spot I have below unless he has an outstanding preseason. If the Steelers do not keep a fourth tailback, then expect four tight ends to make the team instead.
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 or season-ending injuries)
QB Ben Roethlisberger **
QB Bruce Gradkowski **
QB Landry Jones *
RB Le’Veon Bell **
RB LeGarrette Blount **
RB Tauren Poole (or more likely a veteran re-signed like La’Rod Stephens Howling or Felix Jones, or waiver wire pick-up)
RB/WR/RET Dri Archer **
FB Will Johnson **
WR Antonio Brown **
WR Markus Wheaton **
WR Lance Moore **
WR Martavis Bryant *
WR Derek Moye
TE Heath Miller **
TE Matt Spaeth *
TE Michael Palmer
LT Kelvin Beachum **
LG Ramon Foster **
C Maurkice Pouncey **
RG David DeCastro **
RT Marcus Gilbert **
T Mike Adams *
C/G Cody Wallace **
G/T Guy Whimper
T/G Wesley Johnson
DE Cameron Heyward **
NT Steve McLendon **
DE Stephon Tuitt **
NT/DE Cam Thomas **
DE Brian Arnfelt
NT Daniel McCullers
OLB Jason Worilds **
OLB Jarvis Jones **
OLB/ILB Arthur Moats *
OLB Chris Carter (or wisely adding James Harrison to roster)
ILB Lawrence Timmons **
ILB Ryan Shazier **
ILB Vince Williams *
ILB/OLB Jordan Zumwalt
ILB Terence Garvin
SS Troy Polamalu **
FS Mike Mitchell **
SS Shamarko Thomas **
FS Will Allen *
FS/CB Robert Golden
CB Ike Taylor **
CB Cortez Allen **
CB William Gay **
CB Brice McCain
CB Antwon Blake
K Shaun Suisham **
P Brad Wing
SN Greg Warren **
Opening Game-Day Inactives (7): RB Tauren Poole (or FA signee at RB or 4th TE), WR Derek Moye, OL Guy Whimper, OL Wesley Johnson, NT Daniel McCullers, OLB Chris Carter (or Terence Garvin if James Harrison is re-signed), CB Brice McCain
Practice Squad (8): WR Justin Brown, TE Rob Blanchlower, OG Nick Embernate, OL Chris Hubbard, DE Nick Williams, DE Josh Mauro, OLB Howard Jones, CB Shaq Richardson
Other Players On Roster Not Currently Projected to Make Opening-Day 53-man Roster or 8-Man Practice Squad: QB Brendon Kay, RB Alvester Alexander, RB Miguel Maysonet, WR Danny Coale, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Jasper Collins, WR Kashif Moore, WR Lanear Sampson, TE David Paulson, TE Eric Waters, OT Kaycee Ike, OL Chris Elkins, OG Bryant Browning, OG Will Simmons, C/G David Snow, NT Hebron Fangupo, DE Ethan Hemer, DT Al Lapuaho, DL Roy Philon, OLB Vic So’oto, LB Kion Wilson, ILB Sean Spence, ILB Dan Molls, S Devon Carrington, S Jordan Dangerfield, DB Devin Smith, DB Ross Ventrone, CB Isaiah Green, P Adam Podlesh, SN Bryce Davis
Top Camp Roster Battles:
1. Tauren Poole vs. Alvester Alexander vs. FA Signee/Waiver Pick-up for 0-1 RB spot.
2. Derek Moye vs. Darius Heyward-Bey vs. Justin Brown for 1 WR spot.
3. Michael Palmer vs. David Paulson vs. Rob Blanchflower for 1-2 TE spots.
4. Guy Whimper vs. Wesley Johnson vs. Nick Embernate vs. Chris Hubbard for 2 OL spots.
5. Daniel McCullers vs. Hebron Fangup and Brian Arnfelt vs. Nick Williams, or any duo among those 4 for 2 DL spots.
6. Chris Carter (or James Harrison if re-signed) vs. Jordan Zumwalt vs. Terence Garvin vs. Kion Wilson vs. Sean Spence for 2-3 LB spots.
7. Robert Golden vs. Shaq Richardson vs. Antwon Blake vs. Brice McCain vs. Isaiah Green for 2-3 DB spots.
8. Brad Wing vs. Adam Podlesh for P job.