With one preseason game to go, we are getting closer to the announcement of the final 53-man roster. No starters will play in Week 4 as they shift their attention to the regular season. Week 4 is a chance for low-end roster players to make the team, practice squad players to get noticed and the rest to put out video that can impress other clubs.
Last week, we looked into options for the 53-man roster. The Steelers have plenty of depth, and only a few players on the bubble. The players who do not make the roster can join one of the ten practice squad spots that keeps them with the team.
As we identify practice squad options, keep in mind that some of these players may squeak on the roster, therefore the 11th and 12th guy are not out of a spot by any means. These are the players who are not locks for the roster.
QB DEVLIN HODGES
Hodges is a tough sell for the practice squad. Mason Rudolph will get backup snaps, but third team does not get any run in regular season practices. This means that third string quarterback Joshua Dobbs would likely common scout team work. Devlin Hodges would be carried on the practice squad to get him one more preseason in Pittsburgh, nothing else. It is tough to waste a 2019 roster spot on a 2020 competition.
RB TREY EDMUNDS
With Benny Snell missing Week 3, and Edmunds having special teams status, he could make the roster. If he does not, count him as a practice squad lock who the Steelers trust.
WR DIONTAE SPENCER, TEVIN JONES and TREY GRIFFEY
Given his NFL experience, Johnny Holton will either make the roster, or likely look for work elsewhere. This opens a spot for Spencer, Jones or Griffey. Spencer is a big-play slot option with return ability. However, Jones has the most special teams value of the bunch as a gunner. Griffey made the PS last year but has hardly played special teams and has one catch in three games.
TE CHRISTIAN SCOTLAND-WILLIAMSON
Scotland-Williamson is a former rugby player who is developing into a tight end. After a strong first year in Pittsburgh, he has been injured most of his second preseason, logging five preseason snaps. Scotland-Williamson is a great candidate for the practice squad, if the team does not elect to place him on IR. His status as an international player makes him exempt from counting toward the practice squad roster limit.
OL JERALD HAWKINS, DERWIN GRAY, FRED JOHNSON, GARRETT BRUMFIELD
At least two of these four should be in good standing for the practice squad. Johnson is a lock if he does not make the 53-man roster. Hawkins should be in good shape as he is healthy for the first time in three years. Gray was drafted as a tackle but has spent most of the preseason learning guard. He could certainly get the call to develop on the practice squad, as well. This makes it tough for the UDFA Brumfield, who has struggled with the increased speed of the NFL.
DL GREG GILMORE, HENRY MONDEAUX
Last year Gilmore made the practice squad, but this year Mondeaux has outplayed him. If the team goes defensive line on the practice squad, look for the defensive end from Oregon to get the call over Gilmore.
LB ULYSEES GILBERT III, TUZAR SKIPPER, SUTTON SMITH
Inside and outside can be looped together as they all have a chance to make the 53-man roster, but the key will be special teams. In that area, Gilbert has the biggest advantage and is a lock for the practice squad, if not for the 53-man.
Skipper has been lights out on defense but has not delivered on special teams. He is a lock for the practice squad, though. Smith is interesting because he did not play the first two weeks. However, in Week 3 he started on a couple special teams units. Is he still ahead of Skipper? Expect one of these three to make the roster, maybe two. The other one or two will make the practice squad, these three are locks to stick around.
DB: P.J. LOCKE, DRAVON ASKEW-HENRY, MARCUS ALLEN
Locke hits hard, but there is a reason he was a UDFA. Expect the UDFA from Texas who plays similarly to Jordan Dangerfield to take the Dangerfield route to the NFL by climbing up the practice squad. Askew-Henry has played mainly in the slot, although he has safety experience. Still, the preseason has been a wake up call as he is closer to a fringe practice squad player than roster lock. Allen was expected to make the roster, but the emergence of Kam Kelly has hurt his chances. Allen has played well the past two weeks which should make him a practice squad lock.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Projects Alabama C Landon Dickerson to Steelers in Latest Mock Draft
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers will select Alabama center Landon Dickerson in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in his latest mock draft.
Kiper, who released his second mock draft of the season on Thursday, has the Steelers staying with the No. 24 overall pick in the first round to take Dickerson in a mock draft that has three trades in the first round.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Alabama grad could play center or guard, but would be immediately be slotted in as a replacement for retired starter Maurkice Pouncey at center.
Dickerson spent his first three seasons at Florida State before transferring to Alabama in 2019. He started four games at right guard and nine games at center in 2019 and started at center in 2020, where he was the winner of the Rimington Trophy as the country’s best center.
Dickerson suffered an ACL injury in the SEC Championship Game in December and concerns regarding that injury have depressed Dickerson’s draft value, but he is generally considered to be the best center in the class and no worse than a second-round pick.
Poll: What Was Biggest Issue with Steelers Running Game in 2020?
The Steelers finished dead last in the NFL in rushing in 2020 and general manager Kevin Colbert has seen it as a top offseason priority to rectify that standing going into 2021.
The Steelers have already made a change in coaching, with Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm taking over as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
There will also be substantive changes to the personnel, as starting center Maurkice Pouncey has retired and starting running back James Conner, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, left guard Matt Feiler and right tackle Zach Banner are pending free agents.
“You can’t say the runners weren’t good enough or the quarterbacks weren’t good enough or the line wasn’t good enough,” Colbert said in speaking with the media last week. “To put out the kind of running game we did, no one was good enough. And again, that is a collective effort. … We need to finish (seasons). And I think having a strong running game helps teams finish in that time of year.”
With that being said, Steelers fans, which area of the running game do you think was the biggest issue in 2020?
NFL Insider John Clayton: Steelers Out of Running for J.J. Watt
One of the league’s most prominent insiders believes the Steelers are out of the running for free agent defensive end J.J. Watt.
Joining The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Wednesday, NFL insider John Clayton said Watt will not be joining his brothers T.J. and Derek in Pittsburgh.
Clayton sees the Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills as the favorites to land Watt’s services.
For a potential dark horse, Clayton says the Las Vegas Raiders as an outside-the-box candidate to sign the veteran pass rusher.
.@JohnClaytonNFL says JJ Watt won't be coming to Pittsburgh. Tennessee, Green Bay, and Buffalo are the 3 teams. Raiders as a dark horse.— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) February 24, 2021
Watt leaves Houston as one of the greatest players in franchise history. He was selected to five Pro Bowls, named First-Team All-Pro on five occasions and earned three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
A future Hall of Famer, Watt is the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks (101), tackles-for-loss (172) and forced fumbles (25).
Watt recorded 52 total tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown in 2020.