Pittsburgh Steelers: 2014 NFL Roster Projection

Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


I felt going into the finale preseason game that Jones had to play his way off the roster. The second-year man didn't do that and the Steelers will give the 2013 fourth-round pick another season as the No. 3 quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Josh Harris and Stephen Houston each had a nice run Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers. But neither got the kind of work that leads you to believe the Steelers are seriously considering one of them as a No. 4 running back. The question is which one will they keep for the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Bryant's shoulder injury, which is signficant, clinches the Steelers keeping six wide receivers. Heyward-Bey really emerged in the second half of the preseason and I see the sixth-year veteran not only making the team but also getting a helmet on game days. Justin Brown is the odd man out here if the Steelers only keep five wide receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Palmer isn't flashy but he blocks and is a solid contributor on special teams. Neither David Paulson nor rookie Rob Blanchflower did enough in the preseason finale to move past him. Blanchflower, a seventh-round pick, heads to the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Offensive line coach Mike Munchak will push for nine here. If he gets his wish Guy Whimper makes it for another season. If not Johnson, a rookie fifth-round pick, beats out the nine-year veteran because of his upside and versatility.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

McCullers, thought to be a project, has been a pleasant surprise. The rookie sixth-round pick is a lock to make the team. Defensive end Josh Mauro, an undrafted rookie, makes the 53-man roster if the Steelers keep seven defensive linemen. If not the Steelers will try to sneak the Stanford product onto the practice squad.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Jones is the surprise here, and the undrafted rookie makes it over fourth-year veteran Chris Carter because of his ability to play special teams and his upside. I really want to put Jordan Zumwalt on the 53-man roster and the rookie sixth-round pick is a candidate for short-term injured reserve, which the Steelers can use on one player. The guess is that the Steelers take the small risk of waiving Zumwalt, who hasn't played since the preseason opener because of a groin injury, and then signing the UCLA product to the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Richardson only played 17 snaps in two games before hurting his knee, and the rookie fifth-round pick is in a similar situation as Zumwalt. The Steelers keep him because they desperately need to develop some young cornerbacks.

SAFETIES (5)

The Steelers have a tough cut to make if they only keep four safeties. Golden has more upside but Allen is a dependable veteran. Both are good special teams players. I think both make the 53-man roster.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Coach Mike Tomlin seems to be high on Wing, who has been the Steelers' only punter since the start of training camp. Consistency was an issue for him in the preseason and the Steelers could keep a close eye on the waiver wire even if Wing makes the 53-man roster. We also may have not heard the last from veteran Adam Podlesh, who has yet to report to the Steelers because of a family matter.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Jones' hold on his roster spot remains tenuous but I am keeping him on the team for now. This is one position though where the Steelers could go with one less if they want to keep an extra player at another position.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Tough week for LeBackfield, and the Steelers will need to carry an extra running back if they suspend Blount or Bell -- or both -- for the regular-season opener against the Browns. I don't see that happening so I will stick with three running backs and Johnson as the fullback. None of the other backs on the roster has emerged though Tauren Poole still has a chance to make the team. He needs to make a strong closing argument Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers after missing the Steelers' third preseason game because of a hamstring injury.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

This is the first time in awhile that I have the Steelers keeping six wide receivers. Heyward-Bey is one of the few Steelers players who flashed in their 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and he provides speed and a veteran presence to the wide receivers corps. Bryant is still a wild card and Justin Brown has been a disappointment so the Steelers may need Heyward-Bey to serve as their No. 4 wide receiver.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

There is no change here, and rookies Eric Waters and Rob Blanchflower each have to play well in the preseason finale to thrust themselves into the discussion as far as the 53-man roster. Will Johnson plays enough tight end in his new role that the Steelers could go with Miller and Spaeth as the only players who are exclusively tight ends if they only want to keep those two at this position.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

The first seven are set and I still have Johnson making the team over Guy Whimper because of the rookie fifth-round pick's versatility and upside. He is anything but a lock for the 53-man roster so the Vanderbilt product will have to make the most of his extended playing time on Thursday night.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

The re-signing of Keisel adds an extra player here, and I still have Mauro, an undrafted rookie, getting the nod over second-year man Brian Arnfelt. Mike Tomlin likes to dress an extra defensive lineman early in the season when heat and humidity are a factor in games so it makes sense to keep seven up front.

LINEBACKERS (9)

I have switched back to Zumwalt making the team over Howard Jones even though the rookie sixth-round pick has missed the last two games because of a groin injury. If Zumwalt is unable to go against the Panthers he is headed for the practice squad, providing an opening for Jones or Vic So'oto. The Steelers could also play it safe here and keep Chris Carter for one more season.

CORNERBACKS (5)

No change here with rookie Shaquille Richardson missing the game last Thursday night because of a knee injury. His status for the preseason final is uncertain, and I think the fifth-round pick opens the season on the practice squad.

SAFETIES (5)

There is no change here as well. Golden's special-teams work and the improvement he has made at safety compels the Steelers to keep five players here.

SPECIALISTS (3)

I had the Steelers carrying two long snappers last week with Warren recovering from surgery that fixed torn meniscus in his knee. Warren's avaliability for the Sept. 7 season opener remains in question. But the Steelers could put either Bryce Davis or Luke Ingram on the practice squad and sign one of those players to the 53-man roster if Warren can't play against the Browns. Wing needs a good game against the Panthers to make the team and then hold onto his roster spot. His net punting average of 35.8 yards won't cut it and the Steelers went to the waiver wire last year to address their punting situation after Drew Butler initially made the 53-man roster.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


Jones is a candidate to be waived and signed to the practice squad if he doesn't show significant improvement in the last two preseason games. The second-year man took a step back big last Saturday night despite getting work with the Steelers' first-team offensive line in a 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills. This could be a position that the Steelers try to upgrade after final cuts are made, depending on which quarterbacks are on the waiver wire.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

I dropped Tauren Poole for now since the Steelers are going to have to carry an extra long snapper until Greg Warren returns from a torn meniscus. Poole has a chance because of his special-teams play but no running back has emerged behind Bell, Blount and Archer.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Justin Brown has to show more after catching just three passes for 15 yards in the Steelers' first two preseason games. He is safe for now but a player like Darrius Heyward-Bey still has time to make a move. Derek Moye seems to be losing ground in his attempt to make the 53-man roster for the second year in a row.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

There is no change here but David Paulson and rookies Eric Waters and Rob Blanchflower are still in the mix. Palmer gets the nod for now because of his experience, blocking and ability to contribute on special teams. Will Johnson plays enough tight end in his new role that the Steelers could go with Miller and Spaeth as the only players who are exclusively tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

I'm still sticking with eight here but the Steelers could go with one more player up front if they go with one less at quarterback, running back or tight end. Adams will be the No. 3 tackle, allowing the Steelers to cut ties with veteran Guy Whimper and keep Johnson.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Brian Arnfelt is ahead of Mauro at right defensive end on the depth chart only. Mauro has played with the second-team defense in both Steelers' preseason games, and the undrafted rookie helped himself against the Bills with a pair of sacks and a quarterback pressure. McCulllers is a keeper and has the potential to be one of the steals of the 2014 NFL draft.

LINEBACKERS (10)

Zumwalt needs to get on the field as the rookie sixth-round pick didn't play against the Bills and has been hampered by a groin injury. Assuming he can get healthy the UCLA product makes the team. Jones is raw and could probably use a season on the practice squad. But a couple of players make the team every year because of their special-teams work, and the undrafted rookie has stood out in that phase of the game.

CORNERBACKS (5)

McCain has been solid and appears to have moved past Blake as the fourth-best cornerback on the team. Rookie Shaquille Richardson is off the 53-man projection for the first time as I need to see more from the fifth-round draft pick to put him on the team. Richardson still has time though his status for the Steelers' third preseason game in Philadelphia is uncertain because of an undisclosed injury he sustained last Friday in practice.

SAFETIES (5)

Golden flashed against the Bills with an intercepton and two pass break ups and he is a known commodity on special teams. The third-year man is the odd man out if the Steelers only keep four safties and go with six cornerbacks instead of five.

SPECIALISTS (4)

Punter Adam Podlesh has yet to re-join the Steelers after missing all of training camp because of a personal matter but Wing hasn't exactly put a stranglehold on the job. His net average after two games is just 35.8 yards though three of his 12 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line. Ingram gets the nod over Bryce Davis as temporary long snapper until Warren returns.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


No change here, though, I need to see more from Jones to solidify his spot on the roster.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Poole is a new addition here as I think the Steelers keep four running backs -- Johnson is a fullback -- if the final one to make the roster can contribute on special teams.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

A fourth running back means one less wide receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey is the odd man out for now.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Keep an eye on Eric Waters, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent, if the Steelers keep four tight ends. I don't have them doing that since Will Johnson also plays tight end.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

I have Hubbard making the team over veteran Guy Whimper. Johnson's versatility will make it too risky to try to sneak the rookie fifth-round pick onto the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

I had veteran defensive end Brett Keisel re-signing with the Steelers at some point during preseason practice. It still could happen but it might take an injury up front for the Steelers to bring back "Da Beard." McCullers, the rookie defensive tackle, makes his first appearance on my projected 53-man roster.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Jones, who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent, bumps Chris Carter from the projected 53-man roster this week. Garvin makes his way onto it, though, I see a real battle shaping up between him and rookie Jordan Zumwalt if the latter can stay healthy. Zumwalt has practiced sparingly because of groin tightness.

CORNERBACKS (5)

An extra linebacker means one less cornerback. I have Blake and Richardson making the roster over Brice McCain.

SAFETIES (5)

Golden is back on the list, though, one to watch here is Jordan Dangerfield, who signed a futures contract with the Steelers last January. The hard-hitting safety has opened some eyes with the first part of camp.

SPECIALISTS (3)

No change here even though Podlesh has yet to report to training camp -- his wife is due to give birth -- and he and Brad Wing at list as the co-No. 1 punters on the first depth chart released by the Steelers.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Rookie Brendon Kaye would really have to outplay Jones to take the 2013 fourth-round draft pick's spot on the roster.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Steelers can stash one or two running backs on the practice squad in case they are needed because of injuries. Why carry a fourth running back on the 53-man roster -- Johnson is a hybrid fullback/tight end -- if is he is not going to see the field.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

After watching the first two practices of training camp I agree with the observation that offensive coordinator Todd Haley made last month: Some good wide receivers are not going to make the team because of a numbers crunch. Heyward-Bey is one of my last ones in as far as the 53-man roster.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I had Rob Blanchflower making the team in my initial projection of the 53-man roster. But I only hear good things about Palmer and how valuable he is as a special-teams player. Blanchflower makes the team if the Steelers keep four tight ends though I pretty much count Will Johnson as a tight end

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

A veteran group will be tough to crack for fifth-round draft pick Wesley Johnson, and he may need the Steelers to keep nine linemen to make the team. If the Steelers think they can sneak the versatile Johnson onto the practice squad they keep the veteran Whimper over him.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

I'm sticking with Keisel returning to the Steelers at some point during camp or the preseason. He can still help the Steelers as a situational player and they will have a rotation at left defensive end.

LINEBACKERS (8)

I'm trying to find a place for Terence Garvin on the 53-man roster because I like him and think the Steelers do as well. I think sixth-round pick Jordan Zumwalt is headed for the practice squad unless the Steelers are confident he can play outside as well as inside.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Isaiah Green will be part of the discussion though his chances are hurt if the Steelers only keep five cornerbacks. I have six making the team -- for now.

SAFETIES (4)

This position appears to be as set as running back. The biggest question is whether Allen will hold off Thomas as remain the Steelers' No. 3 safety. I like Robert Golden but he could be a numbers-crunch casualty.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Podlesh has yet to report to camp because his wife is due to give birth any day now. He will have to hold off Brad Wing, whose talent is undeniable but lacks Podlesh's experience and NFL track record.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
The Steelers are set at their No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the depth chart. Rookie Brendon Kaye has an outside shot of beating out Jones, but the undrafted free agent is likely using the preseason games to audition for other teams.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

This is the one position where someone under the radar has a chance to play his way onto the 53-man roster. The Steelers can probably afford to go with three running backs -- Johnson is a fullback/tight end -- and stash a back or two on the practice squad in the event of injuries.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
Darrius Heyward-Bey makes the team if the Steelers keep six wide receivers because of his ability to play special teams. The Steelers may need an extra spot at wide receiver this year if Bryant isn’t ready to contribute as a rookie.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I went a little light here because Johnson could play a significant amount at tight end this season. David Paulson and Michael Palmer are incumbents but neither has shown enough to hold off Blanchflower, who could be another late-round find for the Steelers.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

I could see the Steelers going with eight offensive linemen if they think they can sneak Johnson, a fifth-round draft pick, onto their practice squad. This group will be among the hardest to crack given how many returners the Steelers have up front.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

Yep, I see Keisel making the Steelers' 53-man roster, whether the Steelers re-sign the 12th-year veteran before the start of training camp or during it. A surprise player or two always makes the team. I’m thinking Lapuaho has a chance to be that guy with sixth-round pick Daniel McCullers needing a year on the practice squad.

LINEBACKERS (8)

The Steelers could have some tough choices at linebacker, especially if Spence’s knee holds up during training camp and the former third-round pick looks as good practicing in pads as he did in shorts. Terence Garvin may be the odd man out inside while veteran outside linebacker Chris Carter could get bumped from the roster by Zumwalt.

CORNERBACKS (6)

McCain could be in trouble here if the Steelers go with five cornerbacks because Blake is so valuable on special teams. Richardson is no lock to make the roster after Terry Hawthorne, the cornerback the Steelers drafted in the fifth round in 2013, didn’t even make the practice squad last year.

SAFETIES (5)

I think the first four safeties are set barring injury. A couple of spots are reserved every year based solely on special-teams play. That’s how Golden makes the 53-man roster again this season.

SPECIALISTS (3)

The only battle is at punter where Podlesh will try to hold off Brad Wing. The latter is an intriguing prospect because of his physical ability and his past work at LSU. Given that Podlesh has a track record in the NFL, Wing will have to clearly outperform him to make the team.

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