Sunday, August 22, 2010

53 Good Men/Steelers Roster Thoughts

The Steelers comfortably beat the New York Giants 24-17 Saturday night. Now, after two preseason games, we have a pretty good sense of some roster battles that are on-going. One thing the Steelers have shown in these first two games is that they don't lack depth. There are going to be some tough decisions at almost every position. Here's a quick look at how I think the final 53-man roster will break down.

QUARTERBACK: Ben Roethlisberger looked fine in his limited work. The next time he overthrows Mike Wallace will be the first. As Byron Leftwich showed on his 68 yard touchdown throw in the second quarter, he should just lay it out there for the kid. Dennis Dixon was also very effective, playing the entire second half. His running ability adds a dimension that should be worked into the offense during the first four weeks. Based on the coaches downplaying Dixon's reads and overall performance against Detroit, it is clear Leftwich will be the starting quarterback on September 12th against Atlanta.
Roster Moves: There are too many good players in training camp. Barring injury, Charlie Batch doesn't make the team. There is no point in keeping him for four weeks when there are so many young guys vying for roster spots. Sorry Charlie. Two (2) make the team, excluding Ben who gets a roster exemption for the first four weeks.
RUNNING BACKRashard Mendenhall didn't do much tonight, but he will be the workhouse for this offense. Mewelde Moore is secure as the back-up and Isaac Redman has now ensured he will make the team after another very sound performance. Jonathan Dwyer didn't dress and now looks like a practice squad candidate. Frank SummersJustin Vincent and Dwayne Wright all looked good. I'm guessing Summers ability to play both backfield positions gives him an edge.
Roster Moves: Dwyer cut and re-signed to the practice squad. Summers and Vincent make the team. Wright cut. Five (5) make the team.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The team's glaring weakness the past two years remains a question mark. Maurkice Pouncey is the team's best lineman already and will start at center. After tonight I think Flozell Adams will be the starting right tackle. Doug Legursky is going to make the team. The question marks are now what to do with Justin HartwigKraig UrbikTony Hills and Jonathan Scott. Depending on how the Steelers want to line up depth-wise and money-wise different guys will make the team.
Roster Moves: With Pouncey and Legursky on the team I think Hartwig is vulnerable. Ramon Foster's versatility makes Jonathan Scott expendable. I think he gets cut and Tony Hills makes the team. I think Urbik will be waived and re-signed to the practice squad. The last spot probably comes down to Hartwig or Scott. Nine (9) make the final roster.
RECEIVERS: This position of weakness after the injury to Limas Sweed and the trade of Santonio Holmes is quickly becoming a strength. Ward, Wallace, Randle El are on the team. Tonight I think both draft choices, third-rounder Emanuel Sanders and sixth-rounder Antonio Brown, made the squad. Brown's return capabilities spell the end of personal favorite Stefan LoganArnaz Battle is going to be in a battle with Tyler Grisham and Brandon London for the last spot.
Roster Moves: The Steelers might be able to trade Logan for a seventh-round pick. Unfortunately there is just no room at the inn for a pure return guy. Brown seems capable and is more versatile. Logan gets traded or waived. I also think Battle ends up making the team, barely, due to the Steeler's likely unwillingness to go with only two proven veterans at the position. I see both Tyler Grisham and Brandon London being waived and re-signed to the practice squad. When Ben comes back after week four I am betting Battle is the guy to lose his job. Six (6) make the squad.
TIGHT ENDSHeath Miller continues to be a favorite target of Roethlisberger and Matt Spaeth is probably secure as the #2 pass catcher. David Johnson and Sean McHugh bring versatility to the position as both can line-up in the backfield.
Roster Moves: Flip a coin between Johnson and McHugh. Johnson's youth probably means he stays and McHugh goes. Three (3) are kept.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Daniel Sepulveda did a good job kicking off. It will be interesting to see what happens next week.
Roster MovesGreg Warren is the long snapper. Nothing to do here. Three (3) roster spots taken.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The three starters, Ziggy Hood and Chris Hoke are sure to be on the team. I'm guessing Steve McLendon is waived injured or put on the IR. That leaves veteran Nick Eason, second-year man Sunny Harris and seventh round pick Doug Worthington battling for two spots.
Roster Moves: As they did last year with Sunny Harris, I bet the Steelers try to sneak Worthington through waivers and re-sign him to the practice squad. Eason and Harris make the team. Seven (7) lineman on the roster.
LINEBACKERS: The four starters, Larry Foote and all three rookie draft picks are going to make the team. Stevenson Sylvester looked particularly good on a few plays tonight and will provide some much-needed depth at inside backer. With Andre Frazier done for the year, the last spot is going to come down to Keyaron Fox or Patrick Bailey.
Roster Moves: I see Fox winning that battle with Bailey being waived. Nine (9) linebackers on the final 53-man.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: There is certainly more depth in the back line versus past years, but I'm not sure how much more quality there is. Keenan Lewis is definitely challenging to start at corner ahead of both Bryant McFadden and William Gay. Lewis got his bell rung tonight and didn't play the second half, but looked reasonably good early after a good game against Detroit last week. Joe Burnett mad a good pick (had he done it last year against Oakland on a much easier play the Steelers may have made the playoffs) and probably sticks. Fifth-round pick Crezdon Butler has been the talk of camp, getting reps at corner, nickel and safety. Sure-fire starters Taylor, Polamalu, Clark and free agent signee Will Allen are all certainly on the team.
Roster Moves: I like the youth at corner and think Lewis, Burnett and Butler will all make the team. Mundy and Allen will be the back up safties. In my book McFadden gets first crack at starting although he hasn't been that impressive. That means there is no spot for Gay or Anthony Madison. Gay hasn't looked good in pass coverage or run support. In reality Madison is probably battling Arnaz Battle for the fifty-third roster spot. Nine (9) defensive backs make the squad.
SUMMARY: The surprises on my final 53-man roster are probably highlighted by Charlie Batch, Stefan Logan and Williiam Gay being let go. I have seven of the ten Steeler draft picks making the team. Fifth-round pick Chris Scott will most likely be wiaved injured and re-signed to the practice squad if not put on the IR. Jonathan Dwyer and Doug Worthington will both be re-signed to the practice squad if they clear waivers along with Tyler Grisham, Brandon London and Keith Urbik. Justin Vincent, Arnaz Battle and Tony Hills are guys I kept over Logan, Anthony Madison and Justin Hartwig.

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