Just days before their first action of preseason play, the Pittsburgh Steelers have released their initial depth chart for the 2019 season, as required of all teams in the NFL. With fresh faces in a lineup that failed to secure postseason play just last season, a number of position battles have emerged as the team prepares for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this upcoming Friday.
As Bob Labriola from Steelers.com points out, Tomlin is not a fan of early depth charts. As a result, he will typically fill them with a carryover of the previous season and fill remaining spots in alignment with experience. With the aforementioned facts stated, Steelers fans will need to indulge themselves in the performance of players in the first half of the preseason to get a remote idea of the actual depth chart Tomlin and his staff are putting together. However the depth chart was released, and thus we must accept it as information, even with a grain of salt.
A look at the first depth chart released by the Steelers:
Returning Starters: Ben Roethlisberger, Roosevelt Nix, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Vance McDonald, all offensive linemen (LT Alejandro Villanueva, LG Ramon Foster, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG David DeCastro, RT Matt Feiler).
Prominent Veteran Arrivals: Donte Moncrief finds himself starting opposite of Smith-Schuster.
Rookies: Benny Snell is third on the running back depth chart behind Conner and Jaylen Samuels. Both Zach Gentry and Diontae Johnson find themselves at the fifth depth chart spot in their respective positions.
Notable Backups: Ryan Switzer sits ahead of Eli Rogers as the fourth receiver on the Steelers depth chart. Josh Dobbs currently ranks as the second string quarterback ahead of Mason Rudolph. Jerald Hawkins is the third right tackle, while Chukwuma Okorafor sits behind Villanueva at left tackle. Xavier Grimble sits behind McDonald as the second string tight end.
Position Battles to Watch: Switzer/Rogers battle for supremacy (and perhaps ultimately a roster spot) headlines the offensive position battles. Fans continue to monitor the backup quarterback situation, as Rudolph/Dobbs continue to battle it out. Feiler is believed to have wrapped up the right tackle position, yet could see competition.
Returning Starters: Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Vince Williams, Joe Haden, Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Mike Hilton.
Prominent Veteran Arrivals: Mark Barron steps in as the second starting middle linebacker opposite of Williams. Steven Nelson starts opposite of Haden at the right cornerback spot.
Rookies: Devin Bush currently sits behind Barron at the LILB spot. Justin Layne ranks as the third cornerback behind Haden and Brian Allen. Isaiah Buggs also sees himself as third at his respective position, playing behind Heyward and Lavon Hooks. Ulysees Gilbert starts as the third middle linebacker Williams/Tyler Matakevich. Sutton Smith also ranks as the third left outside linebacker behind Watt and Anthony Chickillo.
Notable Backups: Olasunkanmi Adeniyi will look to put pressure on Dupree as his back-up at the ROLB spot. Allen and Artie Burns anchor the second cornerback positions behind Haden/Nelson. Marcus Allen/Jordan Dangerfield are the second string safeties behind Davis/Edmunds. Cameron Sutton is listed as the second nickel cornerback behind Hilton. Marcus Allen will look to pressure Davis at the free safety spot.
Position Battles: As Bush is expected to start, the rotation between himself, Williams and Barron is one of the more interesting events to monitor. Majority of the defense is set, but Marcus Allen and P.J. Locke could be an interesting battle to monitor between the two physical secondary players. Burns’ play in the secondary will ultimately determine his play time, and evetually whether or not he is on the roster past 2019.
Returning Starters: Jordan Berry, Chris Boswell, Kameron Canaday, Ryan Switzer.
Prominent Arrivals: Rookie Diontae Johnson looks to provide a boost with his speed/agility in the return game.
Notable Backups: Rookie Matthew Wright is the current backup to Boswell. Ian Berryman backs up Jordan Berry. Smith-Schuster is the backup kick returner.
Position Battles: Competition is expected to heat up between Boswell/Wright, although many expect Boswell to retain his role for 2019. Johnson/Switzer may be an interesting battle to watch for return duties.