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Preseason Week 3; 53 man roster predictions

Justin McGonigle

 

QB (2) Ben Roethlisberger, and Landry Jones. With Bruce Gradkowski and Dustin Vaughan injured, the Steelers may be forced to keep only two quarterbacks and use the extra spot at another position. Recently signed Bryn Renner has a slight chance if he shows a sign of life during the next two weeks, but without any time to grasp the offense, they may just be better off going without him. The door may be open for the Steelers to claim someone off the waiver wire prior to the beginning of the season if someone of value becomes available.

 

RB (4) DeAngelo Williams, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Daryl Richardson, and Roosevelt Nix. Williams was a lock, and Nix was unchallenged, and rightfully so as he’s been solid since taking the job of fullback from Will Johnson. With Le’Veon Bell suspended for the first three games, it should extend the battle between Richards and Toussaint for the third running back spot.  Toussaint was signed to the practice squad last season before eventually becoming the starter during the playoffs because of injury. Toussaint was a key contributor in the Steelers' 18-16 win in the Wild Card at Cincinnati, but a late fumble against the Broncos the following week opened the door for Denver to come back and eventually end Pittsburgh's season. Richardson contributed as a rookie for the Rams, backing up Steven Jackson and even competed for the starting job once Jackson was released. Richardson eventually lost out to Zac Stacy, and the Rams drafted Tre Mason. With a loaded backfield of high draft picks, Richardson was eventually released.  Richardson led the Steelers in rushing in their first preseason game while Toussaint led in the second. Even if Bell wasn’t suspended, the Steelers may have been forced to keep both. Now, they will get an extra three weeks to see if someone takes the job and runs with it.

 

WR (5) Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates. Brown is the best receiver in the game, but beyond that are a lot of question marks. The Steelers deep threat, Martavis Bryant, is suspended for the entire season, and so far the hole looks gaping. Second-year receiver Sammie Coates was supposed to take his game to the next level and make the loss of Bryant over surmountable, but he has looked very inconsistent in his opportunities. Coates fumbled twice against the Lions before making an outstanding catch along the sidelines for a large gain against the Eagles. Wheaton has been limited the entire camp with an injury but is expected to be ready to go by the regular season.The surprise of camp has been the emergence of Eli Rogers as a slot receiver. Rogers showed promise early in camp last season but an injury forced him to injured reserve. Rogers is a natural slot receiver and has been drawing comparisons to Antonio Brown because of their ability to make quick moves and catch quick passes across the middle. Steeler fans can only hope that Rogers can become half the receiver that AB has become. Journeyman Cobi Hamilton recently signed to the team and has become a dark horse along with seventh round draft pick Demarcus Ayers. Ayers is coming off a 100+ catch season at the University of Houston but appears like he is going to be forced to the practice squad because of Rogers' outstanding camp. Rogers has also looked better returning punts then Ayers. Hamilton has a huge frame and has made a few nice receptions in game action since being signed.

 

TE (3) Ladarius Green, Jesse James, David Johnson. The tight end position remains very uncertain. Green hasn’t practiced one single time since signing with the Steelers in March. Various rumors are swirling about whether it’s still his surgically repaired ankle that is keeping him off the field or if it's headaches lingering from concussions suffered while he played for the Chargers. I’m going to predict that he makes his way back soon and even if James starts week one that Green will still be a part of the 53 man roster. The only other option would be to keep Green on the physically unable to preform list and keep Xavier Grimble to fill the third tight end spot. Green would then be eligible to return after week 6. Grimble was hyped heading into camp, but he has significantly under preformed. Bad blocking and dropped balls have plagued him throughout the preseason. Johnson was resigned to help on blocking situations and to fill the gap left by the retirement of Heath Miller and the release of Matt Spaeth, who were both above average blockers.

 

OL (9) Alejandro Villanueva, Ryan Harris, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David Decastro, Marcus Gilbert, Cody Wallace, Jerald Hawkins, and Chris Hubbard.  Not much change from a season ago. The Steelers only kept eight offensive linemen heading into 2015, but with fourth-round draft pick Hawkins added to the mix, they won’t want to expose him to waivers to be able to add him to their practice squad. Hubbard would be the odd man out if they decide to only go with eight again, but because he is able to back up several positions along the line, he should be able to hold onto his roster spot. BJ Finney will be the last one cut and hopefully signed back to the practice squad.

 

DL (6) Cameron Heyward, Daniel McCullers, Stephon Tuitt, Ricardo Mathews, Javon Hargrave, LT Walton.  The strongest unit among the defense, the line is entrenched with potential all-pros Heyward and Tuitt. McCullers and rookie Hargrave should give the Steelers a solid one-two punch in the middle replacing Steve McClendon, who bolted to the Jets. Mathews, who signed with the Steelers from San Diego, has been a pleasant surprise throughout camp. Mathews gives the Steelers someone that appears more then capable of giving Heyward and Tuitt a breather every few series. Heyward looked worn down toward the end of the season after being forced to play almost every snap because backup Cam Thomas was terrible. Walton and Caushaud Lyons appear to be battling for the sixth and final spot. Neither player has made much noise in camp, and they only have three tackles between them in the preseason. Lyons was released after being claimed from Tampa Bay prior to week one last season before eventually being signed to the practice squad. Based on little progress by either, you would have to assume Walton, who was drafted by the Steelers last season, would again keep his spot ahead of Lyons.

 

LB (11) Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Steven Johnson, LJ Fort, Anthony Chickillo, and Tyler Matakevich. Kevin Colbert and company will have a rough time figuring out what to do with the back end of this group. Jones, Dupree, Moats, Harrison, Johnson and Williams are locks but what should the Steelers do with the rest? Chickillo had a marvelous training camp and appeared ready to take the next step but an ankle injury has limited him since the Lions game. Fort has made his presence felt during games after spending most of last season on the Steelers' practice squad before being signed to the active roster when Nix was injured in week 15. Much like Fort, rookie Matakevich is always around the ball carrier and has eight tackles through the first two preseason games. With special teamer Ross Ventrone on injured reserve, that should open a spot for Matakevich on the 53-man roster, even if the Steelers don’t feel like he’s ready to compete at linebacker. Rookie Fenney missed almost all of training camp before playing in the second preseason game. He recorded one tackle and showed a quick first step. If he doesn’t show anything for the remainder of the preseason, he might be a candidate for the practice squad if they feel like no one will claim him on waivers. He could be the last one released.

 

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