With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ undefeated preseason in the books, Alan Saunders and Nick Farabaugh took their best shot at predicting the Steelers’ 53-man roster for the 2022 season. Here is their first prediction after the first game and second prediction after the second preseason game.
Quarterback (3): Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett
Omar Khan said they’re not trading Mason Rudolph. I guess we’ll believe him. The other two aren’t going anywhere.
Running back (4): Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Warren
Jaylen Warren seems like he’s earned the backup role, Anthony McFarland Jr. is the team’s top kick returner and has a pony package built around him. Really, this came down to Benny Snell Jr. or Derek Watt as the fourth running back. Snell is cheaper, healthier and has better upside on offense, while tight end Connor Heyward can replace Watt’s fullback role.
Wide receiver (7): Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, Gunner Olszewski, Miles Boykin, Steven Sims
Calvin Austin III is still sidelined with a foot sprain, and depending on how long he’s expected to be out for, could end up on injured reserve. Gunner Olszewski is the punt returner and the top slot option behind Chase Claypool. Steven Sims and Miles Boykin are very different receivers, both had excellent training camps, both can play special teams, and ultimately, we couldn’t cut either of them.
This was probably the most competitive roster group on the team, as even Tyler Vaughns, who ends up on the outside, has been excellent. Seven wide receivers is unusual for the Steelers, but the team’s depth at other positions did not perform as well.
Tight end (3): Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward
This group has been locked down for a while.
Tackle (3): Dan Moore Jr., Chukwuma Okorafor, Joe Haeg
Guard (3): James Daniels, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green
Center (2): Mason Cole, J.C. Hassenauer
The only real question mark here is whether John Leglue gets a seat at the table as a ninth offensive lineman. We had him cut the first week, making the team the second and now back on the outside. Leglue’s best position is guard, and Kevin Dotson and James Daniels seemed to stop the bleeding there a good bit on Sunday. Tackle is the real trouble spot, but Leglue would be emergency help there only. This is obviously a place to look for an external addition.
Defensive linemen (7): Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, Montravius Adams, Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal
Montravius Adams hasn’t practiced in a while and could end up on the injured reserve list, with Henry Mondeaux the likely benefactor of an extra roster spot, but otherwise, this group seems pretty set.
Outside linebacker (5): T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Delontae Scott
All three backups had their moments on Sunday, both good and bad, and there’s not a ton separating them. The Steelers need options here and can’t let what happened in 2021 happen again, when Quincy Roche and Jamir Jones were both lost to waivers. With Highsmith questionable at best for the opener, it’s these five outside linebackers for now. It almost feels like we should expect an outside addition.
Inside linebacker (4): Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Mark Robinson
The big three guys are going to dominate the playing time and Mark Robinson is the only of the backups that have made an impact this preseason. One of Marcus Allen or Buddy Johnson will find their way to the practice squad, if not both.
Cornerback (5): Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Art Maulet, James Pierre (IR: Carlins Platel)
Justin Layne is another former draft pick that has just run out of time to make an impact. James Pierre is a better special teamer and still provides at least the hope of upside. Arthur Maulet’s injury is something to watch here, as five is about the minimum number of corners a team can get by with. Chris Steele is a likely practice squad add. Carlins Platel, who was carted off the field late on Sunday, gets stashed on the injured reserve list.
Safety (4): Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Tre Norwood, Elijah Riley (IR: Damontae Kazee)
The first three are locks. Damontae Kazee looked a lot like a man that broke his arm on Sunday, and will probably be out for a while, opening the door for Elijah Riley who hasn’t exactly impressed but seems to be the next man up. It’s unclear what’s going on with Miles Killebrew, who has been practicing since recovering from a pec injury, but didn’t play Sunday. He’s a special teamer at best, anyway, and not worth holding if he’s injured.
Specialist (3): Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Christian Kuntz