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Saunders: Steelers End-Training Camp 53-Man Roster Prediction

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The Steelers wrapped up training camp on Thursday, and though there are still two more weeks of preseason football to go, it’s a good enough time to update our pre-camp 53-man roster projection.

Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
Changes: None

Haskins has done everything he can to earn a roster spot, and looked better than Josh Dobbs in doing so. I don’t think the Steelers will entertain any kind of real competition between him and Rudolph for the backup job at this point, but he could get a good amount of playing time in the final preseason game.

Running back (3): Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage
Changes: Ballage in; Benny Snell Jr. and Jaylen Samuels out

When looking for changes of pace to Harris, the Steelers have one fast back and a few big ones. Ballage has been the best of the big ones, and McFarland has done nothing but impress in his first full training camp opportunity. Snell has been banged up, and could make a late push for a roster spot, but I anticipate Harris dominating the playing time at this spot to such a degree that keeping four backs will be unnecessary. The battle here is Snell vs. a special teamer at another position, as I don’t think he can crack the top three backs right now.

I’m not sure I can recall a player with as much experience with such little of a chance of making the team at this point as Samuels, who has gone basically unused through training camp, even with injuries to Ballage and Snell.

Wide receiver (5): JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud.
Changes: None

Cody White has made a late charge, but I’ll stick with the returning five-some.

Fullback (1): Derek Watt
Changes: None

Watt hasn’t been used a whole lot more than he was last year, but his special teams value and the fact that they already restructured his contract make him a keep.

Tight end (3): Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
Changes: Gentry in, Kevin Rader out

Gentry has been a solid surprise throughout training camp, as he’s finally been able to use his size effectively as a receiver, and has shown improvement in his blocking, as well. The battle between him and Rader is one of the tightest in camp. Rader hasn’t really done anything to lose his spot. He just isn’t 6-foot-8, and that’s why Gentry was a fifth-round pick.

Tackle (4): Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor, Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg
Changes: None

Moore has passed Haeg on the depth chart and should be the swing tackle. Haeg’s versatility and two-year contract keep him from getting passed by anyone else, even though he’s underwhelmed throughout camp.

Guard (3): Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, Rashaad Coward
Changes: None

Dotson’s early injury gave Coward plenty of playing time, and I think that did him some good, as he proved his ability as a run blocker, even if he was driven back in pass protection at times. He’ll be the top backup at guard.

Center (2): Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer
Changes: None

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Hassenauer has looked fine, but it seems clear the team is going to start Green no matter what and he’s done little to dissuade them from that course of action.

Specialists (3): Kameron Canaday, Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III
Changes: None

Jordan Berry has had the camp of his life and is seriously doing everything he can to hold off Harvin, but I still think the team is committed to moving on from the Aussie.

Defensive tackle (3): Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis
Changes: None

Davis has been working on special teams, as well, which to me, puts his spot in ink.

Defensive end (4): Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Isaiah Buggs, Isaiahh Loudermilk
Changes: Henry Mondeaux out; Isaiah Buggs, Isaiahh Loudermilk in.

The Isaiah(h)s are in! Davis working on special teams is a sign the team is looking for options other than Mondeaux there. Buggs has been impressive throughout camp and there have been nothing but glowing reviews of Loudermilk. The bet is that Mondeaux will clear waivers and be able to provide depth from the practice squad.

This is where I used the extra player from the running back spot. I just think this group is too deep to only keep six.

Outside linebacker (4): T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Cassius Marsh
Changes: Marsh in, Quincy Roche out

Cutting Rader and Snell put extra emphasis on special teams at this spot, and Roche has yet to make a real strong impression. In fact, he may have been passed up by first-year player Jamir Jones. One or both of them should make the practice squad.

Inside linebacker (5): Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Buddy Johnson
Changes: Schobert in, Ulysees Gilbert III out

The addition of Schobert meant someone has to go, and even though he’s been ahead on the depth chart, Gilbert’s play has been so far below the line that he’d be my pick. Allen is a proven special teamer and Johnson has future upside.

Cornerback (6): Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet, Antoine Brooks Jr.
Changes: None

Safety (4): Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Tre Norwood
Changes: None

Other than now classifying Brooks as a corner and Tre Norwood as a safety, I have no changes to the defensive backs. Justin Layne is the guy that’s probably the closest to losing a job, but I don’t think anyone outside these 10 has done anything to warrant keeping, either.

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