Training Camp has commenced, but with zero preseason games and only nuggets to go off of, which means predicting who will make the roster or fall off the roster is tougher than ever before this year. There may be some competition along the depth chart still, but at this point, the Steelers know who is going to make the final team. As such, here is SteelersNow’s final 53-man roster prediction before the Steelers go to face the New York Giants in two weeks.
Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges
The third quarterback spot was all the rave here, but this is a lean towards Devlin Hodges after a down camp for Paxton Lynch. Lynch, who struggled with his accuracy and consistency in camp, was ousted by Hodges who had some higher highs throughout its entirety. With Lynch seeing no reps in last Friday’s scrimmage, Hodges seems to have won the battle. Mason Rudolph is comfortably Ben Roethlisberger’s backup as both quarterbacks return from injury.
Running Backs (5): James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels, Derek Watt
Conner, Snell, and McFarland were locks, and each is looking to impress in 2020 for different reasons. Still, the newsworthy one here is Jaylen Samuels. Battling Kerrith Whyte, Trey Edmunds, and Wendell Smallwood, Samuels was the one guy that seemed to be consistent, with the others dealing with injuries or poor performance. With his receiving ability as an added bonus, Samuels seems like the natural choice to make the roster. Derek Watt will work as the team’s fullback this season.
Wide Receivers (6): JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
Ray-Ray McCloud made a very promising late push to make the final roster, but he came on a little bit too late. Ryan Switzer has entrenched himself onto the roster. He has worked with the first team and made numerous plays, not to mention the rapport and relationship he has with Roethlisberger. McCloud could have knocked Cain off, but Cain offers untapped potential as a big outside threat in case of injury. He proved to be solid last year in limited opportunities and had a few standout days in training camp. His upside and skillset make it hard to keep him off the roster.
Tight Ends (3): Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
There is nothing too unexpected here. Zach Gentry had a solid enough training camp and solidified his spot if there ever was any doubt that he would not make the squad. Eric Ebron hopes to make an impact this year as the team’s new athletic tight end.
Offensive Line (8): Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Dotson
Yet again, no surprises along the offensive line. The Steelers could keep nine guys here as JC Hassenauer and Derwin Gray are the odd men out given this ranking, but thus far there is no indication that they will sacrifice another position to add another offensive lineman. Okorafor and Banner still are in a tightly contested race for the starting right tackle spot that could not end until the week of the Giants game.
Defensive Line (6): Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Tyson Alualu, Daniel McCullers, Isaiah Buggs
As expected, the defensive line keeps these six players. There was some push from Henry Mondeaux, Cavon Walker, and Carlos Davis, but it seems unlikely that any of those players will unseat the incumbents at the defensive line. McCullers is back for his seventh season looking slimmer than ever as the backup nose tackle.
Outside Linebackers (5): T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Alex Highsmith, Ola Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper
There is a bit of contention here for Tuzar Skipper’s job. The signing of Jayrone Elliott puts him on notice, as Elliott is a veteran with experience with the Steelers roster and scheme already. Elliott and Skipper will come down special teams more than anything. It stands to be said that Skipper is by no means a lock given the lack of buzz from training camp on him this year. However, given his fantastic preseason last year and his upside, the Steelers likely do not want to risk him going through waivers. Highsmith and Adeniyi are battling it out to see who will be the primary rotational pass rusher to begin the season.
Inside Linebackers (4): Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysees Gilbert III, Robert Spillane
Once again, this was the expected group heading into training camp. Gilbert is fighting for more snaps in sub-packages as he comes off a season-ending back injury, and with some praise from coaches, it seems he could earn that this season.
Cornerbacks (5): Steven Nelson, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, Justin Layne
This is another spot that is a toss-up. It is unknown if the Steelers will keep five or six cornerbacks, but if they keep six, undrafted free agent James Pierre would likely get the nod to be the sixth guy here with a standout training camp. However, as the Steelers have shown, they are trying to utilize versatile and experienced safeties for depth and special teams help, thus maybe pointing to five safeties being kept.
Safeties (5): Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Curtis Riley, Marcus Allen, Jordan Dangerfield
This could be the shakiest and most uncertain group on the roster right now, but over the past week, the competition has seemed to coalesce around Curtis Riley and Marcus Allen. In Edmunds’s absence last week at camp, Riley took additional reps and was impressive by making plays. It seems safe to say his spot is locked now given his starting and special teams experience. Allen has worked with the inside linebackers as well as the safeties. Earning effusive praise from the coaching staff throughout camp, he is primed to take on a hybrid role this season. Dangerfield is the only question mark here, but given he is a core special teamer, it seems likely that Dangerfield would make the final roster over Antoine Brooks with all the turnover on that unit.
Specialists (3): Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Kam Canaday
This is pretty par for the course. Berry manages to hold onto his spot even with some competition from Corliss Waitman due to experience and the environment in general.
Practice Squad (16):
QB: Paxton Lynch
RB: Kerrith Whyte, Wendell Smallwood
WR: Ray-Ray McCloud, Amara Darboh
TE: Kevin Rader
OL: JC Hassenauer, Derwin Gray, Jarron Jones
DL: Henry Mondeaux, Carlos Davis
OLB: Jayrone Elliott
CB: Trajan Bandy, James Pierre
S: Antoine Brooks
P: Corliss Waitman