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Steelers Post Draft Roster Projection

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Written By: Roy Countryman @PreacherBoyRoy

Wow, the offseason is flying by, and here we are in the midst of rookie minicamps with training camp soon upon the horizon. I have already given my thoughts on this year’s draft and undrafted free agent class, and now it’s time to turn our attention to a 53-man roster projection and even take a stab at the practice squad as well….And as we like to say in Pittsburgh: “Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!!!”

QB (3)

Ben Roethlisberger

Joshua Dobbs

Mason Rudolph

Overview: No surprises here. You have Big Ben as the franchise QB, who is in the twilight of his career. Ben is coming off a season where he led the league in passing yards, was rewarded with a new extension, and now has the fire to prove doubters wrong about how the loss of AB will have on this offense. I am supremely confident in Ben this year, and it would not surprise me if he is in the MVP discussion at the end of the year, and I also see a serious reduction in his INT’s since he will not be force feeding AB. Josh Dobbs is the modern-day version of Charlie Batch with his intelligence and confident playing demeanor, and then you have the high upside lottery ticket in Mason Rudolph that will battle it out for backup duties.

RB/ FB (5)

James Conner

Jaylen Samuels

Benny Snell

Trey Edmunds

Roosevelt Nix (FB)

Overview: Conner is coming off a Pro Bowl season, even though the end of his season was tainted with some nagging injuries. That said, as a whole, this group has a lot of upside. Samuels is very intriguing due to him being able to focus solely on one position rather than a variety of them, and they are anticipating him coming into camp lighter, which should give him more quickness. With the hard-nosed running style and pass catching prowess of Samuels, the Steelers have a nice combo 1-2 punch. However, adding the demonstrative Snell, who runs angry and with a purpose, makes this three-headed running attack something to see. Throw in the uber-athletic Edmunds and an underappreciated Rosie Nix at FB who will both be game wreckers on special teams, and this group is arguably the most physical group.

WR (6)

JuJu Smith-Schuster (1500)

Donte Moncrief (700)

James Washington(600)

Diontae Johnson (550)

Eli Rogers (450)

Ryan Switzer (400)

Overview: League-wide, the view is this group will be missing the presence of AB, but I don’t think it will be as critiqued as sharply. JuJu is a star in this league, and I believe he will continue to make history with his pace of catches, yards, and production in year 3. Outside of him being the solidified #1 target, the other 5 WRs will be deployed in multiple varieties and roles that will allow Big Ben the freedom to exploit defenses in a number of different ways. Moncrief brings a big body with great deep speed, Washington is a physical WR who can win routes vertically, Johnson is a terrific route runner and will endear himself with being able to uncover quickly, and the combination of Rogers and Switzer rounds out the group with dangerous slot, RAC-type WRs who have excellent short area quickness but slight builds.

TE (3)

Vance McDonald (650)

Xavier Grimble (150)

Zach Gentry

Overview: This group of TEs with the loss of Jesse James could be one where the team still looks for a veteran addition to push the talent already on the roster. Vance McDonald is an animal of a TE who is dangerous after the catch and has the speed to threaten vertically, but he seems to always get a bit somewhat by the injury bug. Grimble has developed from a bottom of the roster/ practice squad player into an athletic pass catcher who is the best blocker on the team. Gentry is an early entrant draftee who has pass-catching prowess but needs a good bit of refinement in the blocking department. If no other additions are made, don’t be surprised to see some of the recent trends where they deploy a third OT as the second TE on plays to help in the run department.

OT (4)

Alejandro Villanueva (LT)

Matt Feiler (RT)

Chukwuma Okorafor (RT)

Zach Banner (RT)

OG (3)

Ramon Foster (LG)

David DeCastro (RG)

Derwin Gray (T/G)

C (2)

Maurkice Pouncey

B.J. Finney (C/G)

OL Overview: The Steelers have invested a ton of resources along the OL, and with just cause, because this unit is one of the best in all of football and one of the main reasons they have been able to keep Big Ben healthy as of late. You have your 4 stalwarts in Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey, and DeCastro that are the entrenched starters. There is currently an opening at RT, which will be an open competition between Matt Feiler, Chuks Okoroafor, and Jerald Hawkins. It is really only down to Feiler and Okorafor due to Hawkins losing so much time with injuries. Feiler stepped in seamlessly for the injured and recently departed Marcus Gilbert, and Okorafor impressed with his athleticism in his few starts he had last season. Either way, the RT position will be in good hands. As for depth, the loser of the RT competition will be the #3 OT, and then you have B.J. Finney as the next man up along the IOL with his ability to play C or G at a high level. At the tail end of the roster, seventh-rounder Gray will get a chance to stick due to his blocking ability and position versatility. Banner has seemed to endear himself to the coaching staff since coming over as a late add in the preseason, but will need to beat out a healthy Jerald Hawkins for the final roster spot.

DL (6)

Cameron Heyward (DT)

Stephon Tuitt (DE)

Javon Hargrave (NT)

Tyson Alualu (DE)

Isaiah Buggs (DE)

Daniel McCullers (NT)

Overview: A well rounded DL group who has the ability to play in either 3-4 or 4-3 fronts, which is what this defense wants to be in 2019. Heyward is the star of this group and is a leader of the locker room. Tuit, however, has the same type of talent; he just needs to stay healthy to bookend him. Hargrave had a breakout season last year as an NT with pass rushing ability and will get even more chances to wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield this season. Alualu is a former 1st-round pick who has a solid skill set and is a key rotational DL, while recent draftee Buggs will get an opportunity to make his former college DL coach, Karl Dunbar, look good with his pass rushing chops and versatility. Big Dan McCullers surprisingly resigned on a two-year pact, and he really seemed to take to the new DL coach, flashing more last season than in any year prior, so I am intrigued if ole’ Big Dan can take it to the next level, because there just are not that many people on earth that big and that strong!

EDGE (5)

T.J. Watt (OLB)

Bud Dupree (OLB)

Ola Adeniyi (OLB)

Anthony Chickillo (OLB)

Sutton Smith (OLB)

Overview: This group got an injection of new blood this draft season, as well as a key member being resigned in Chikillo. The cream of the crop is Watt, who is just now coming into his own and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come in the AFC North. Dupree will be playing on his fifth-year option for a tidy sum, but I am of the opinion the coaching staff needs to be more creative with his skill set. He is a terrific athlete with good strength and quickness; he just lacks bend. So why not utilize him as a standup OLB on obvious rushing downs then slide him down inside so that he can utilize his advantages of speed and quickness on G’s and C’s, similar to what the Texans do with Jadeveon Clowney? Adeniyi is a powerfully built OLB who won a spot on the initial 53-man roster, but was bit by the injury bug until he got a late-season cameo where he flashed. Chickillo is a quality 3rd or 4th OLB who can get to the passer when given an opportunity, but where he really is valued is special teams. I am very intrigued to see how the coaching staff will utilize Sutton Smith. He was a pass-rushing fiend in the MAC, and even though he is undersized, I never count out heart. He will bide his time as a pass rusher due to his special teams ability.

ILB (3)

Vince Williams

Devin Bush

Ulysees Gilbert III

Overview: Wow, what a needed facelift this unit has seen. The grizzled vet in Williams is back with his hard-hitting and thumping ways. Bush, the team’s first-round pick, is a star in the making and will be a playmaker from day one. This defense always plays better with an elite talent in the LB corps. Gilbert is an extremely athletic LB who has sideline-to-sideline ability who will need to beat out Matakevich and his witty playing style to a LB spot and key special teams role.

Dimebacker (2)

Mark Barron (LB)

Marcus Allen (S)

Overview: Another key free agent acquisition, Barron will be a key ingredient in this defense as a base LB and then as a chess-piece dimebacker who can play the intermediate area of the field and use his tackling ability and ball skills to impact on third downs. Allen is a 2018 draftee who will play a SS role that walks down closer to the line as a dimebacker in sub packages that has strong tackling skills and a physical playing demeanor.

CB (5)

Joe Haden

Steven Nelson

Mike Hilton (Nickel)

Justin Layne

Cameron Sutton (CB/S)

Overview: Haden has been an steadying veteran presence since he came over from Cleveland, and don’t be surprised to see him sign an extension before the coming season. Nelson is a valuable addition to the CB unit and was very impressive last season with the Chiefs as an outside CB. He was confident and showed playmaking ability that this secondary has lacked. Hilton comes back as the nickelback this season with a prowess for blitzing off the edge and being a strong tackler but will need to stave off the taller CB in Sutton, who has good instincts and short area quickness. Layne is this year’s 3rd-round pick who will have to work his way up the food chain and refine his craft while being a key contributor on special teams where he flourished as a gunner at Michigan State.

Safety (3)

Sean Davis (FS)

Terrell Edmunds (SS)

P.J. Locke

Overview: Davis will take to year two of his transition to FS and hope to build on a quality effort last year where he was solid as a last line of defense. However, he needs to add more playmaking ability to his repertoire while getting more comfortable in his position. Edmunds was thrown into the fire last season as a rookie due to injuries to Morgan Burnett, but he had a solid showing and should get a chance to flash why the Steelers’ brass made him a first round pick with his familiarity and knowledge of the defense. Locke was a priority UDFA add who has position versatility and is a hard hitter, can make some timely plays in pass defense, and should immediately be in the equation as a 3rd S and special teams asset.

K (1)

Chris Boswell

P (1)

Ian Berryman

LS (1)

Kameron Canaday

Special Teams Overview: Boswell comes off a rocky season where his confidence was shot and then was placed on IR. He will need to show renewed confidence this preseason or risk being cut in favor of rookie UDFA Matthew Wright. I think Berryman beats out the inconsistent Jordan Berry for punting duties, and LS duties go to Canaday, who needs to show he can be more consistent with his snapping times.

Notable Players Being Cut

Artie Burns (CB)

Tyler Matakevich (LB/ST)

Brian Allen (CB/ST)

Jordan Berry (P)

Practice Squad

1. Casey Sayles (DE)

2. J.T Jones (OLB)

3. Kameron Kelly (CB)

4. Garrett Brumfield (OG)

5. Patrick Morris (C)

6. Travon McMillan (RB)

7. Dravon Askew-Henry (S)

8. Trey Griffey (WR)

9. Fred Johnson (OL)

10. Greg Gilmore (DT)

11. Christian Scotland-Williamson (TE) (International Pathway Program)

Those are my early season projections, and I will revisit this projection throughout the preseason as the picture of which players will be on the team becomes clear, but just to wrap up this exercise I want to take a stab at these categories for the 2019 season…

Breakout guy: Terrell Edmunds (SS)

Comeback kid: Xavier Grimble (TE)

Rising star: Javon Hargrave (NT)

Don’t forget about: Ola Adeniyi (OLB)

Needs to rebound: Chris Boswell (K)

Dark horse MVP: Devin Bush (LB)

Under the radar: Jaylen Samuels (RB)



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