Mid-Preseason 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Projected Roster and Other Goodies (V 2.0)

With training camp and two preseason games in the books, it is time to update the projected roster and practice squad we posted following the 2014 NFL Draft.

We’ll get to the three special-teams spots later (where there is a great deal of uncertainty). By our count 34 of the remaining 50 spots are roster locks (barring injury), with another eight players near-locks.

Several players have moved into the latter category with strong performances thus far, including ILBs Terrence Garvin and Sean Spence (who have both looked fantastic and fast), and DBs Antwon Blake and Robert Golden, both of whom are also special-teams coverage standouts.

Also on the near-lock list remains No. 3 QB Landry Jones, who – by all accounts in training camp and clearly in preseason games – has been terrible since the Steelers wrongly took him with a 4th-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

That said, the Steelers like to carry three QBs and there is too much hubris amongst Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin to admit that most of the fans were right in proclaiming this a botched pick so quickly.

Therefore, Jones will likely get one more season, but expect a QB to be drafted in the latter rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. Still, the NFL’s recent-change to 10-man practice squads and loosening of practice-squad eligibility (making Jones eligible) keeps him from being a lock for the 53-man roster, particularly since it is highly unlikely another team would claim him for its 53-man roster.

With DE Brian Arnfelt and CB Isaiah Green seemingly no longer in the Steelers’ 53-man roster plans, coupled with the astute re-signing of veteran DE Brett Keisel on Tuesday, that essentially leaves 18 position-players batting for the final eight spots on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster, with the front office and coaching staff having a great deal of position flexibility to decide on who to keep, who to cut and who to release with the likelihood of being able to re-sign those players to the practice squad.

Those 18 players battling for the final eight spots seem to be (in position order):

Tauren Poole for 0-1 RB spot

Justin Brown, Derek Moye and Darius Heyward-Bey for 1-2 WR spots

David Paulson, Michael Palmer and Rob Blanchflower for 1-2 TE spots

Wesley Johnson for 0-1 OL spot

Daniel McCullers, Josh Mauro and Nick Williams for 1-2 DL spots

Chris Carter, Howard JonesJordan Zumwalt and Vic So’oto for 1-2 LB spots

Will Allen, Brice McCain, Shaq Richardson and Jordan Dangerfield for 1-2 DB spots

 

Greg Warren will be the Pittsburgh snapper this fall. The only question is if the 10th-year veteran will need to be released and then signed back after one or two games, following minor knee surgery. In that scenario, Luke Ingram would likely be on the opening-day 53-man roster.

Former LSU standout Brad Wing was expected to battle veteran Adam Podlesh for the Pittsburgh punting job throughout training camp and the preseason. But Podlesh has not reported to camp due to a family issue and Wing has been inconsistent. Thus, the Steelers may do what they probably shouldn’t have done to Drew Buttler after he seemingly won a spirited punting battle in the 2013 preseason, and release Wing if a more consistent veteran can be claimed off waivers.

Below is our best guess at how the 53-man roster and practice squad shapes up, but much can change for those final eight position spots (plus punter) over the final two preseason games.

It should be noted that this projected roster includes 26 defensive players and 24 on offense. I cannot recall a year when the Steelers kept more defensive players than those from offense, but this would seem to be the year to do so with young players looking good in the preseason on the defensive line and especially at linebacker, where most roster candidates (e.g., undrafted free-agent rookie Howard Jones) also offer the greatest boost in special-teams coverage skills.

 

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)

 

OFFENSE

QB Ben Roethlisberger **

QB Bruce Gradkowski **

QB Landry Jones *

RB Le’Veon Bell **

RB LeGarrette Blount **

RB/WR/RET Dri Archer **

FB Will Johnson **

WR Antonio Brown **

WR Markus Wheaton **

WR Lance Moore **

WR Martavis Bryant **

WR Justin Brown

TE Heath Miller **

TE Matt Spaeth **

TE David Paulson

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 *

G/T/C Wesley Johnson

 

DEFENSE

DE Cameron Heyward **

NT Steve McLendon **

DE Stephon Tuitt **

NT/DE Cam Thomas **

DE Brett Keisel **

NT Daniel McCullers

OLB Jason Worilds **

OLB Jarvis Jones **

OLB Arthur Moats *

OLB Chris Carter

OLB Howard Jones

ILB Lawrence Timmons **

ILB Ryan Shazier **

ILB Sean Spence *

ILB Vince Williams *

ILB/OLB Terence Garvin *

SS Troy Polamalu **

FS Mike Mitchell **

SS Shamarko Thomas **

FS/CB Robert Golden *

S Will Allen

CB Ike Taylor **

CB Cortez Allen **

CB William Gay **

CB Antwon Blake *

CB Brice McCain

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Shaun Suisham **

P Brad Wing

SN Greg Warren ** (opening day?)

 

Opening Game-Day Inactives (7): QB Landry Jones, WR Justin Brown, OL Guy Whimper, OL Wesley Johnson, NT Daniel McCullers, OLB Chris Carter, CB Brice McCain

Practice Squad (10): RB Tauren Poole, WR Derek Moye, TE Rob Blanchlower, OL Chris Hubbard, OL (played signed after release from other team), DE Josh Mauro, DE Nick Williams, ILB Jordan Zumwalt, S Jordan Dangerfield, CB Shaq Richardson

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  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Ted, thanks for the detailed thoughts on the roster. That could be one of our best practice squads.

    I agree with just about all of your roster choices. On the margins, I’m not sure about the value of keeping Chris Carter with so many other OLBs and OLB-flexible players on the roster. Also, TE Eric Waters may not make the team but has a decent shot at the practice squad, based on the reports of his play.

    With Archer looking like more of a WR than a HB who could take 20 carries in a game in a pinch, I’d like to see another HB added to Bell and Blount. Even this year’s version of a Dwyer or Redman replacement-level back would make me more comfortable. This is similar to the innings-eater fifth starter on baseball who doesn’t even need to be all that good to be valuable in preserving the bullpen.

    • ted

      All three of your points are accurate possibilities and were considered. If you notice, I have Chris Carter on the inactive list for week one if everyone’s healthy. Hard to argue he is worth keeping a year before free agency if he can’t make the dress roster. However, he knows the system (very important to LeBeau and Keith Bulter), has had a good preseason and is a true OLB, where the Steelers are not as deep as inside linebacker and the starters are more injury-prone and not as good as their inside counterparts.

      However, I could see releases of any of Carter, McCain or Howard Jones (if brass thinks they can stash him on practice squad) to get another offensive player on the roster and/or keep a seventh defensive lineman like Mauro or Williams.

      I have long said the Steelers would keep a fourth tailback, but it looks like that would need to come from a waiver-wire pick-up or a Felix Jones-type trade, probably for a linebacker like Carter.

      Poole has looked serviceable, both running through the tackles and playing on special teams. But he probably wouldn’t dress barring injuries, does nothing particularly well and would be easy to stash on PS. P, TB and possibly a No. 9 OL would seem to the be the only positions where the Steelers will watch the waiver-wire closely to add to their 53-man roster. At the very least, I expect them to add an OL to the practice squad from another club, because the young guys vying for those spots have underwhelmed.

      Waters is likely battling Blanchflower for a PS spot, although as a draftee, Blanchflower still has an outside chance of being the No. 3 TE. But if the Steelers keep just three tight ends, and Paulson beats out Palmer for that spot like I projected above even though Palmer is the better blocker, that increases the odds that Blanchflower (better blocker) beats out Watters. We shall see on all three, but I would like adding a veteran RB to the roster, and some decent ones are usually released at that spot.

  • David

    Well, with the pot charges coming against Bell and Blount, we may need RB help for the first couple of weeks.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Isn’t there a rule in which the president and veep aren’t allowed to travel together? How about one where your only two true halfbacks can’t drive and smoke pot together?

    Think the Vikings will trade AP for Chris Carter? Carter did make the X-Files, so he’s gotta be worth something. We’ll even throw in DHB if they ask nicely.