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Steelers Release Initial Depth Chart

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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:

 

Offense

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.

Defense

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.

Special Teams

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.

Steelers

Art Rooney: Meeting with Ben Roethlisberger ‘Productive,’ Work to Be Done on Contract

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Steelers president Art Rooney II acknowledged his meeting with team quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Tuesday, but said no agreement has been made with regards to his contract situation for the 2021 season.

Rooney said that the team desires to have Roethlisberger return for an 18th season in 2021, and Roethlisberger re-affirmed his desire to return to the team.

“Ben Roethlisberger and I met (Tuesday) morning and we had a productive meeting,” Rooney said in a statement. “We were able to discuss a lot of things that relate to where we are and where we want to go. Ben assured me that he is committed to coming back to help us win, and I told Ben that we would like to have him back to help us win a championship.

“We both understand that the next step is to work out Ben’s contract situation.”

Roethlisberger had already publicly stated that he wanted to return to the team. Rooney and Steelers general manger Kevin Colbert have been more guarded about Roethlisberger’s future in the past.

It seems clear now that both sides are committed to Roethlisberger returning, but the contract details could still represent a significant hurdle. Roethlisberger is currently set to cost more than $41 million toward the team’s salary cap in 2021. Of that, almost $19 million is able to be modified through either a salary reduction or an extension to move some of that money to 2022 or beyond.

The Steelers are approximately $12.4 million above a projected $180.5 million salary cap, according to a Steelers Now estimate. The official salary cap for the 2021 has not yet been released, but is expected to be between $180 and $185 million, according to Steelers Now sources. NBC Sports reported on Tuesday that it could come it at $182-183 million.

The Steelers will need to be under the maximum salary by March 17. Reducing Roethlisberger’s cap hit is just one of several ways the Steelers can get under the cap figure. They can also restructure more contracts, as they did with defensive tackle Cam Heyward on Monday, but restructuring alone will not solve the cap issue.

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Steelers

Report: Ben Roethlisberger’s Agent Says He Will Return in 2021

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s agent Ryan Tollner reportedly says he will return as the team’s quarterback in 2021, according to NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.

Kinkhabwala tweeted Tuesday she had spoken with Tollner, who confirmed the Steelers want Roethlisberger back in the fall, and will soon reach out to his agent to rectify his massive cap hit.

“As we’ve shared since the season ended, we are happy to creatively adjust his contract to help them build the best team possible,” Tollner told Kinkhabwala. “A year ago, Ben wasn’t sure if he could throw again, but he battled back to get 12 wins and the 8th division title of his career. They lost steam down the stretch and that doesn’t sit well for him, so the fire burns strong and there is plenty of gas in the tank.”

The news confirms the Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac’s earlier report that Roethlisberger and the organization met Tuesday, adding it “went well.”

Roethlisberger’s $41 million cap hit is the largest in the league entering the 2021 season, which poses a significant obstacle for the Steelers. He could forgo up to nearly $18 million of his salary for this upcoming season to provide the team some much-needed breathing room.

Roethlisberger finished with a successful season statistically in 2020, but was plagued by inconsistency, as the Steelers dropped five of six following an 11-0 start.

The two-time Super Bowl champion passed for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play drop over the latter half of the year.

Roethlisberger is set to turn 39 years old on March 2.

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Steelers

Report: Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger Met to Discuss Future

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The Pittsburgh Steelers met with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to begin discussions on his contract situation for the 2021 season, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.

Roethlisberger met with team president Art Rooney II and the meeting “went well,” according to Dulac.

The two sides had not come together to discuss Roethlisberger’s future since just after the end of the 2020 season in January.

Rooney and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert have said that Roethlisberger and the team will need to come to an agreement on contract modifications that will reduce his salary cap hit for the 2021 season.

Roethlisberger is currently set to cost more than $41 million toward the team’s salary cap in 2021. Of that, almost $19 million is able to be modified through either a salary reduction or an extension to move some of that money to 2022 or beyond.

The Steelers are approximately $12.4 million above a projected $180.5 million salary cap, according to a Steelers Now estimate. The official salary cap for the 2021 has not yet been released, but is expected to be between $180 and $185 million, according to Steelers Now sources. NBC Sports reported on Tuesday that it could come it at $182-183 million.

The Steelers will need to be under the maximum salary by March 17. Reducing Roethlisberger’s cap hit is just one of several ways the Steelers can get under the cap figure.

They can also restructure more contracts, as they did with defensive tackle Cam Heyward on Monday, but restructuring alone will not solve the cap issue.

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