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Inside the Match-up – Vikings at Steelers

By Thomas Cooper
www.SteelerNation.com

The Steelers played a sloppy brand of football riddled with a disjointed offense, a secondary that lacked some communication, and a whole team that decided to get a season’s worth of penalties in one game. The Vikings appeared in mid-season form clicking on offense, defense, and special teams. Will the Steelers take the bad film against the Browns and use it as a teaching tool to make a drastic improvement or will they continue the sloppy play? Will the Vikings believe that the performance they showed on Monday night be the consistent level of play they expect to have throughout the season or will they tumble back to earth? In the openers, both teams played a little out of character, the Vikings being better and the Steelers making Cleveland look like a contender. Did we see the true character of both teams?

Steelers Defense VS Vikings Offense

The Vikings’ offense looked to have an excellent blend of run and pass against the Saints’ defense. Rookie Dalvin Cook was everything the Vikings hoped he would be when they drafted him in the second round. He has solid hands and can be a threat out of the backfield as a receiver, but he also showed good power and vision in the run game. The Vikings rebuilt their offensive line in the offseason with the key acquisition being left tackle Riley Reiff from the Lions. They also added veteran Mike Remmers on the right side and drafted Pat Elflein to play center. Joe Berger is the grizzled and consistent veteran at right guard and the line is rounded out by second year man Nick Easton at left guard. In the season opener, they did a masterful job opening holes in the Saints run defense and kept Sam Bradford clean enough for him to slice apart the Saints secondary. Kyle Rudolph is coming off his best season as a pro and is steady and consistent. Rudolph isn’t that seam splitting deep threat that often gives the Steelers defense trouble, but he is able to find spots underneath to keep the chains moving. At wide receiver, the Saints have two true threats in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Diggs is the more explosive playmaker while Thielen is an excellent route runner with a large catch radius and excellent hands. Behind the two starters, Laquon Treadwell is the first player in but he doesn’t show great athleticism and can struggle to separate. Jarius Wright also sees significant snaps, but Wright fits the profile of a slot receiver due to his lack of size and elite quickness.

This will be an interesting matchup for the Steelers defense. The injury to Stephon Tuitt could play a big role in how the Steelers defense decides to attack. The key to this game will be to stop the rushing attack of the Vikings. It will be the key. The Steelers defense must make them one dimensional and a lot of that pressure will fall on the defensive line and linebackers. I would expect the Steelers to begin with three defensive linemen and four linebackers on the field on early downs. If the Vikings go with three wide receivers, I would expect the Steelers to trade Vince Williams for Mike Hilton, JJ Wilcox, or Robert Golden. The defensive line, starting with Cam Heyward and Javon Hargrave, have to play big against the run. If Tuitt is available and healthy, then it should help them attack the Vikings offensive line and choke down the rushing lanes. If Tuitt misses, LT Walton and Tyson Alualu must step up. Bud Dupree, TJ Watt, Anthony Chickillo, and James Harrison need to play strong at the edge and turn runs back inside. Ryan Shazier and whomever is paired with him must finish better than they did against the Browns. If the Steelers cannot stop the Vikings run game, then expect a difficult day for the defense as a whole.

If the Steelers can stifle the Vikings run game early it takes away the play action pass, which the Vikings used effectively against the Saints. The Steelers defense should play some matchup man coverage against the Vikings. Joe Haden’s size, speed, and overall skill set matches up well with Diggs and it would be wise to allow Haden to mirror him. On the other side, Burns length and skill set fits very well against Thielen. While both corners could potentially stick to their representative sides, if you match them up and allow them to follow those wide receivers, it could really stifle the Vikings passing game. If the third wide receiver off the bench is Wright then the Steelers have another potentially favorable defender in Hilton. The speed and quickness of Wright is a concern, but his physical characteristics mirror that of Hilton. Treadwell is a bigger wide receiver but again, he does not have elite physical attributes and can struggle to separate. Hilton should also be able to take away that option. The other receiving threat is the big tight end, Rudolph, but Shazier has the requisite speed and coverage ability to potentially limit his effectiveness. The Steelers could opt to go with a three-safety look and allow Wilcox to handle the coverage responsibilities and if that three safety look and the defensive front can handle the run, it could be the primary defense against the Vikings.

The big elephant in the room will be if the outside linebackers of the Steelers can get pressure. The Steelers sacked Deshaun Kizer seven times last week. Some of those sacks happened because Kizer held the ball, but that should not take away from the pressure the front seven delivered. Watt had a surprisingly good game against Joe Thomas, the perineal All-Pro left tackle. Chickillo played well against Shon Coleman, but also faced Coleman who was making his first start. Hargrave and Heyward contributed with sacks of their own and they will be key in this game. If those four can continue to press the pocket and limit the time Bradford has to stand in the pocket and deliver, the Steelers defense could dominate in this game. If they fail to handle the Vikings offensive line and the Vikings get their running game going, it could lead to a long outing. I’d watch for man under 2-deep coverages with potential matchups against certain receivers, especially on early downs. If the Steelers get the Vikings in long yardage situations, they will rely on the standard Cover-2 zone defense and work to tackle the football before the sticks.

Steelers Offense VS Vikings Defense

The Vikings has two very good edge rushers in Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter. The Saints offensive tackles struggled most of the night to give Drew Brees time and a clean pocket, but injury forced a rookie into protecting his blindside and the Saints right tackle isn’t of the caliber of Marcus Gilbert. Brian Robison will alternate in and give them rest, so the Vikings have three solid edge rushers. On the interior, the Vikings have Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson. Joseph is mainly working as a run stopper and plays about half the downs. Johnson played roughly 75% of the snaps in the season opener so he appears to be the main cog in the packages used by the Vikings. Shamar Stephen will rotate in on passing downs as well. The front four for the Vikings played exceptionally well against the Saints, even though they feasted on a struggling offensive line. The Vikings employed a lot of two linebacker sets in the opener and I would expect that to continue. Anthony Barr is a long, fast linebacker that tracks things well. He is excellent in space. Eric Kendricks is a third-year player who runs well and plays as well against the pass as he does against the run. Ben Gedeon is the third linebacker but he doesn’t see a great deal of snaps, only when the Vikings are in their base 4-3 defense. It appears the Vikings have adopted the nickel for the majority of the snaps, at least early this season, and will sprinkle in the dime when needed. They do not play a heavy back-end though, utilizing two safeties for many of the snaps. Harrison Smith is the unquestioned leader in the secondary and is a dangerous player on the backend. Andrew Senedjo has been around a long time and earned the starting spot in 2015. He isn’t an explosive athlete and won’t jump off the film, but he is steady and consistent. Xavier Rhodes is one of the better corners in the league and I would expect him to match up with Antonio Brown. Trae Waynes plays opposite and he will end up spending much of his time dealing with Martavis Bryant. Terence Newman, the ageless veteran just keeps playing well and he is the first corner off the bench. MacKensie Alexander comes in when they go with six defensive backs.

The Steelers need to have an excellent game plan to attack this defense. The Vikings played in packages about 75% of the total snaps against the Saints. Almost every down other than first down, the Vikings removed a linebacker or defensive lineman. The Steelers need to be prepared on early downs to take advantage of Gedeon. If he is in the game, it would be wise to attack the defense through the air and I would suggest moving into empty sets. The Steelers may desire to employ three wide receiver sets early with JuJu Smith-Schuster. While he struggled as a blocker in the season opener, he gives you that tenacity of a tight end when blocking but the advantages of a wide receiver when you need to throw the football. This could create some interesting matchup issues for the Vikings. Do you keep Gedeon on the field and risk the Steelers going five-wide with the skill positions being Le’Veon Bell, Jesse James, Smith-Schuster, Brown, and Bryant or do you bring in that extra defensive back to cover Smith-Schuster and risk them running Bell. Those are the decisions the Steelers need to create on first down, force the Vikings to make the decision, and use the package they bring in to dictate how they attack.

It is important that they stay in front of the chains. I would expect the Steelers to run left when given the opportunity and allow Alejandro Villanueva to lean on Griffin in the run game as much as possible. It would help slow him down as the game wears on. Of course, Hunter is a smaller speed defensive end that may run himself out of the off tackle runs so prevalent in the old Steeler offense. The edges appear to be the area where the Steelers can make hay in the run game. The key will be to seal the interior linebackers because they run so well. If this can happen, there is a strong possibility that Bell turns in an excellent game.

When the Steelers look to pass, Brown will continue to be a target. Rhodes is an excellent corner, but if he has an area where he can be exploited it is with receivers that can beat the jam, run good routes, and explode out of their breaks to get separation. Meet Antonio Brown, the guy that carves up everyone doing those very things. I believe that Bryant, if he can return to the Bryant of old, has a solid advantage over Waynes as well. While Waynes runs well enough to stay with Bryant and has the long speed, where Waynes struggles is with recevers that can run a full route tree, handle shorter throws, and then set him up with a double move. Waynes has a bad habit of peeking into the backfield and losing his receiver. The Steelers can use this to their advantage by running some comeback and shorter routes with Bryant and then hitting Waynes over the top. It needs to be set up and executed well, but he has that tendency. Newman will be a tough guy in the slot for any of our wide receivers to consistently beat. He just plays savvy veteran football and does not appear to have lost enough steps for teams to consistently beat him. The edge wide receivers are where the Steelers should make hay and if they go with four wide receiver sets, I would look to get Eli Rogers on Alexander. Rogers interior quickness should win that matchup and his run after catch could provide some yards. The biggest issue will be staying in front of the chains with down and distance.

Special Teams

There does not appear to be a clear-cut advantage here. Both punters are performing well as are both kickers. It is pretty even. The Vikings may have an advantage with their returners unless the Steelers deploy Brown on punts, then it becomes even again. The Steelers coverage team appears to have improved dramatically though. Unless these units shoot themselves in the foot, I would call it even.

Prediction
I see the Steelers offense finding more rhythm this week and the defensive secondary performing a little better. I believe that the Steelers will make a strong effort to stop Dalvin Cook and I just do not believe that Bradford can consistently carry a team.

Steelers 31
Vikings 27

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Week 2 SN Power Rankings

SN Week 2 Power Rankings:

1. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
3. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
5. Oakland Raiders (1-0)
6. New England Patriots (0-1)
7. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
8. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
9. Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
10. Seattle Seahawks (0-1)
11. Denver Broncos (1-0)
12. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
13. Detroit Lions (1-0)
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
15. Tennessee Titans (0-1)
16. New York Giants (0-1)
17. Carolina Panthers (1-0)
18. LA Rams (1-0)
19. Miami Dolphins (0-0)
20. New Orleans Saints (0-1)
21. Chicago Bears (0-1)
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
23. Washington Redskins (0-1)
24. Arizona Cardinals (0-1)
25. LA Chargers (0-1)
26. Houston Texans (0-1)
27. Buffalo Bills (1-0)
28. Cleveland Browns (0-1)
29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
30. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
32. New York Jets (0-1)

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SN Staff 2017 Season Predictions

We thought it would be fun to get everyone’s predictions for the upcoming season and check back after the year to see how we did. You can play along in the comments section.

Tyler Candelaria

Steelers 12-4 #2 Seed

Wild Card
Ravens over Titans
Chiefs over Raiders
Cowboys over Seahawks
Giants over Bucs

Divisional Round:
Patriots over Chiefs
Steelers over Ravens
Falcons over Cowboys
Giants over Packers

Championship Round:
Steelers over Patriots
Giants over Falcons

Super Bowl:
Steelers over Giants

NFL Awards:

NFL MVP: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell
NFL DPOY: Broncos LB Von Miller
AFC OROY: Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette
NFC OFF ROY: Panthers RB Christian McCaffery
AFC DEF ROY: Steelers LB TJ Watt
NFC DEF ROY: Falcons DE Takk McKinley


G. Stryker

Steelers 14-2 #1 Seed

Wide Card
Raiders over Bills
Houston Over Chiefs
Lions over Bucs
Seahawks Over Cowboys

Divisional Round
Steelers over Raiders
Houston over Pats
Packers over Lions
Giants over Seahawks

Conference Championship
Steelers over Houston
Giants over Packers

Super Bowl
Steelers over Giants

NFL MVP: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
NFL DPOY: Texans DE JJ Watt
AFC OROY: Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette
NFC OFF ROY: Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
AFC DEF ROY: Steelers LB TJ Watt
NFC DEF ROY: Cardinals LB Haason Reddick


Mike Ashcraft

Steelers 11-5 #2 Seed

Wild Card
Titans over Raiders
Bengals over Chiefs
Giants over Cowboys
Panthers over Packers

Divisional Round
Patriots over Bengals
Steelers over Titans
Seahawks over Panthers
Bucs over Giants

Championship Round
Steelers over Patriots
Seahawks over Bucs

Super Bowl
Steelers over Seahawks

NFL MVP: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
NFL DPOY: Giants S Landon Collins
AFC OROY: Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette
NFC OFF ROY: Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
AFC DEF ROY: Steelers LB TJ Watt
NFC DEF ROY: Eagles DE Derek Barnett


Justin McGonigle

Steelers 13-3 #2 Seed

Wild Card
Raiders over Dolphins
Chiefs over Titans
Cowboys over Giants
Seattle over Redskins

Divisional Round
Chiefs over Patriots
Steelers over Raiders
Seahawks over Packers
Cowboys over Falcons

Championship Round
Steelers over Chiefs
Cowboys over Seahawks

Super Bowl
Steelers over Cowboys

NFL MVP: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
NFL DPOY: Giants S Landon Collins
AFC OROY: Bengals RB Joe Mixon
NFC OFF ROY: RB Vikings Dalvin Cook
AFC DEF ROY: Steelers LB TJ Watt
NFC DEF ROY: 49ers LB Rueban Foster


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A Look Back at the Off-season as the Steelers Reload

By Carlos Goncalves (Litos)
www.SteelerNation.com

Remember yourself a few months ago, your beloved Steelers were heading to the offseason and you felt with an emptiness that wouldn’t be filled again until September. If back then you could have decided the perfect moves by the Front Office for the following months, what would they be? I can talk only for myself but my priorities to attack were OLB, CB, ILB, S, RB, TE. Back then I was hoping to:

– Sign a free agent Cornerback that could push the incumbent Ross Cockrell
– Pick an OLB high in draft day (round 1 or 2) to help and eventually substitute Mr. James Harrison and clean up the bad taste left by Jarvis Jones
– Pray that Ladarious Green gets healthy and be able to contribute
– Re-sign Le’Veon Bell to a win/win long term contract
– Bring a WR in case Martavis Bryant didn’t put himself together

Free agency starts and expectedly Bell gets the franchise tag, which is good as it gives time to work on a long term contract which I’m hoping will be around 12M per year tops, given Bell’s injuries and suspensions; also Cockrell gets an original Restricted Free Agent tender which surprises me a bit as I thought he had a decent season as the #1 CB and he would be quickly snatched away but I’m proven wrong as no one shows interest in him, I guess the F.O. learned from previous mistakes like Cortez Allen’s long term contract. We lose former 1st round pick and tackling machine Lawrence Timmons to the Dolphins who pay a hefty amount for the declining vet, this makes me add ILB to the positions needed to look for in draft day.

Then surprisingly the Front Office moves quickly to secure a former high pick WR, Justin Hunter, with great size and good athleticism to compete for the X spot with injured Sammie Coates and suspended Bryant. Hunter is not a proven starter and that’s why he was available but the talent is there and he came from playing with QBs that aren’t known for their accuracy or long ball abilities, so a change of scenario plus a HoF QB could seriously help him improve his numbers. The other “big” move the team makes is to sign former slot prodigy Coty Sensabaugh, who comes from a couple of bad seasons after being moved to outside CB. I think well, hope they are getting him to compete inside with aging William Gay because he is not starter material anywhere else so all and all I like the vet signing but nothing to call home about.

Then surprisingly comes the splash signing that no one was expecting, the Steelers sign DE Tyson Alualu, former high pick that fits nicely in our scheme of big guys up front, hey I know it isn’t a young Dontari Poe but he immediately gives very nice depth to a line that suffered injuries through all of the last couple of seasons. The rest of the period is as common as in previous years: small signings to fill out the roster, like Knile Davis, Landry Jones, etc.

So in conclusion, we got depth at WR, CB and DE while securing most of our own players, a typical Steelers free agency. I really wanted a Free Agent top CB because it’s so hard for a rookie to help from the start in this particular position, even last season’s 1st rounder and beloved Artie Burns showed growing pains that he still is polishing like secure tackling and correct angles towards the ball carrier. But let’s see who really was available to be signed and what did they get:

AJ Bouye: 5Y, 67,5M, 26M guaranteed, 13M avg. HE is good but he isn’t great yet, that’s a desperate kind of signing that the jaguars tend to make.

Stephon Gilmore: 5Y, 65M, 40M gtd, 13M avg. I mean, 40M guaranteed? Who the hell is he? Big Ben? It is mostly heavy up front in the first couple of seasons: almost 23M total each year. We didn’t have that kind of money available.

Logan Ryan: 3Y, 30M, 16M gtd, 10M avg. Too much money for a good CB but not a proven player (look how Patriots Defensive players do after they leave, make your own conclusions on what happens there)

Malcolm Butler: 1st round tendered by the Patriots, rather keep my draft pick than give it to that franchise. He’d also probably had demanded an over 12M/Y contract

Prince Amukamara: 1Y, 7M prove it kind of deal, as has been Prince’s life in the NFL due to injuries. I wanted this guy and 7M seemed doable but heck, I’m not losing sleep on it.

The rest were aging vets and unproven players, I guess knowing that they had to re-sign Villanueva, also hopefully Tuitt and work a deal with Bell they decided to keep their cap space and trust in Cockrell’s improvement plus a high pick in Free Agency to address the CB situation. To resume, the CB market sky-rocketed like Amazon shares and we couldn’t get any of the top guys, so is life within the Steelers.

Draft day comes and we are all biting our nails to get a Top CB or OLB with the top pick (some other good options there were FS, ILB, TE or even WR if the correct talent were available) and this is how it goes:

Round 1: OLB TJ Watt, high motor, high pedigree, quick learner and very good athleticism projected as a late 1st, early 2nd. The Nation rejoices as the top CBs were gone anyway.

Round 2: surprise pick JuJu Smith-Schuster the funky named law-firm the multi-talented WR that can play inside or out and also be a terror on the red zone. I’ll be honest, I wanted my FS or CB here but I get it, got to keep Big Ben happy and Bryant’s state is a question mark due to suspensions.

Round 3: CB Cam Sutton rebounding in his senior season from a previous season-ending injury. You could see in his film he wasn’t a 100% yet he still played, that shows love for the game, if you watch tape on his first couple of seasons in college you will find a very talented play maker that would have been a 2nd rounder in a normally talented draft in the position, this was heavy with CB talent. Also good for the FO to look farther than his final season tape and recognize talent.

Round 3 (comp): RB James Conner: see Cam Sutton but magnified, this kid beat cancer and came back to punish defenders, if you see his early tape you will find a Heisman nominee. Also a hometown player and Steeler fan so he becomes an instant fan favorite

Round 4: QB Josh Dobbs, I don’t know what his ceiling is but I doubt that it is proven starting caliber, hope I’m wrong.
– Then they got some depth at CB and OLB with athletic raw guys, good. And between them a Long Snapper that as I write this is already cut, no big loss but rather lose out in a position of bigger value.

So after draft day the team covered their most glaring needs except FS, especially because Mitchell is injured during all training camp. ILB depth doesn’t worry me much as I hope to see a lot of nickel with two OLBs and one ILB on the field. Also Vince Williams is a thumper and not as slow as some people say, he can defend himself against RBs so it’s all a matter of assignments (wink-wink Todd Haley).

As the off-season continues the Front Office gives LT Al Villanueva the long term contract we the people were hoping and expecting, now Big Al is protected and Big Ben feels safer, so there was much rejoicing in SteelerNation. The other side of the coin is that Le’veon Bell demands a RB + 2nd WR contract in the 15M ball park but Colbert doesn’t play ball and offers him a 12M avg contract with not much guaranteed and he declines it, now we have a ticking bomb but the good part is that he knows he need to work his ass off to get that kind of deal next season.

Before cut day the Front Office moves as quickly as Antonio Brown after a catch and trades their 2018 fourth rounder for TE Vance McDonald, a 2nd round pick himself who is known for his stretch-the-field capability, size and not so great hands. He definitely comes to substitute Ladarious Green oft-injured place in the roster, a rabbit out of the hat as the Nation was already settled on going to the season with not a single playmaker at the position. Let’s hope as with Hunter that with a better QB his numbers improve enough.

Cuts day comes and we get a mega-splash-no-kind-of Steelers-move when they grab a just hours ago cut Mr. Joe Haden, former 2 time ProBowl CB and injury plagued during his last couple of seasons that showed decent play even through injury last season. Still only 28 if healthy he can be expected to get back to ProBowl level or at least top 10 NFL CB, for only 7 Millons guaranteed this move looks like a master coup. I mean it seems like he hadn’t being pink slipped by the Browns and he already was looking to his life as a Steeler, got to love his interest in the franchise and Colbert’s sleight of hand. This is a move that the Nation dreams every year yet never happens and in the bottom knew that it wouldn’t happen. So there was way much more rejoicing. (if you hadn’t caught it yet you won’t, that’s a Monty Python reference)

The front office closes this long and very moved off-season with a couple of trades for late round picks, dealing away former starter Cockrell who went from top man to expendable because he was burned repeatedly during preseason and once Haden was secured. Personally I think Cockrell thought he could just go through the motions in preseason having a spot secured, he also might have been pissed that he didn’t get a contract or a high tender.

Only downside I can think of? Mitchell improved when healthy last season and I was hoping for a big campaign from him but nagging injuries have me really worried as his backup, Golden has regressed the last couple of seasons making the position a glaring weakness unless:
– they think on moving Sean Davis there and slotting Jordan Dangerfield at SS. [Editors Note: Dangerfield waived/injured]
– Count on Willie Gay as the top FS backup, not a crazy thought given Gay’s play recognition and nice hands.

To wrap this writing up if, you could go back to the end of last season knowing you would get a TOP vet CB, a Top rookie OLB, a highly graded rookie WR and also a playmaking TE as insurance and weapons for your HoF-thinking of retirement-QB, a 2nd round CB at the cost of a 3rd (let’s hope injuries don’t make him Golson part deux) and a bunch of depth at important positions, including unheralded players that worked their asses off in preseason to earn a spot, I think you would be just as ecstatic as I am for this upcoming season and hoping for the 7th ring, a well-earned A grade Mr. Colbert, congratulations on your extension too.

Salute the Nation

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ESPN Picks 6 Steelers For Their Top 100 NFL Players

By Tyler Candelaria
www.SteelerNation.com

(5) Antonio Brown– ESPN rated AB the number one receiver in the NFL. Brown has been one of the most consistent players in all of football which makes this 5 slot well deserved.

(8) Le’Veon Bell– Bell was rated the number one running back by ESPN. This is a well deserved spot for Bell, as long as he stays on the field, keeps putting up monster numbers he will only continue to climb. Oh, and get paid as well.

(39) Ben Roethlisberger– ESPN listed Big Ben as the number 5 QB in the NFL. With the Steelers dominant offense this spot seems just about right for Ben.

(58) Ryan Shazier
– After not cracking the players top 100 list in the NFL, Shazier cracks ESPN’s Top 100 list. Shazier seems to be finally getting recognition he deserves as being a top linebacker in the league.

(72) Maurkice Pouncey– Pouncey has always been a leader in the Steeler locker room, and when healthy is one of the best centers in the NFL. Big Ben has always relied on a guy like Pouncey. Year in and year out he is proven that he is All-Pro caliber.

(73) David Decastro
– Another Steeler lineman makes the list as he should. Decastro is a 2 time pro bowler and was an All-Pro in 2015. Decastro is one of the many reason that the Steeler line is one of the leagues best.

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Final 53-Man Roster Predictions

Its been a whirlwind of a week for the Steelers as they went against their normal ways by making a big splash in free agency and made their second trade of the preseason.

With a roster that had been mostly sorted out last Monday it now becomes one that is highly unpredictable. Then came the injury to Cornerback Cam Sutton. Pair that with the uncertain status of Mike Mitchell and the question marks are mounting in the defensive backfield.

Now it is my understanding that if a player is put on Injured Reserve designated to return they have to enter the season on the 53 man roster. If they’re put on IR prior to the 4pm deadline on Saturday then they can’t be designated to return and therefore are out for the season. So that’s where a major issue will lie when the Steelers have to trim their roster.

I’m going to make my prediction based on how I feel they will submit the paperwork heading into 4pm tomorrow.

Offense (24)

Quarterbacks – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs

Running backs – Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Knile Davis

Fullback – Roosevelt Nix

Wide Receivers – Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey

Tight ends – Jesse James, Vance McDonald, David Johnson.

Offensive line – Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Chris Hubbard, Jerald Hawkins.

Defense (26)

Defensive line – Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, L.T. Walton, Tyson Alualu, Johnny Maxey.

Outside linebackers – T.J. Watt, James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Arthur Moats

Inside linebackers – Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, L.J. Fort, Tyler Matakevich

Safeties – Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, Sean Davis, Jordan Dangerfield (a waiver wire pick-up almost certainly will happen here if Dangerfield’s ankle injury is serious)

Cornerbacks – Joe Haden, Artie Burns, Coty Sensabaugh, Ross Cockrell, Cam Sutton, Mike Hilton, William Gay

Specialists (3)

Place kicker – Chris Boswell

Punter – Jordan Berry

Long snapper — Colin Holba