With the 2018 NFL Draft over, the Steelers' roster is refreshed with talent. While still way early in the process, I thought it would be a good exercise to try and project how the Steelers roster will look for the 2018 season.
On this roster we see plenty of returning players from 2017, draft picks, undrafted free agents, and even a returning veteran who wasn't on the roster in 2017...
Quarterback (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
I'm not sure how the Steelers will choose to address the Jones v. Dobbs situation. Landry Jones is more experienced and understands the offense, but Dobbs has more upside and also was just drafted a year ago. It'll also be interesting to see if it comes down to a competition or not. There are a lot of questions here, but if I'm guessing today, I would pick Josh Dobbs to stick around.
Running Back / Fullback(4): Le'Veon Bell, James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Roosevelt Nix
While the Steelers also have Fitzgerald Toussaint and Steven Ridley on the roster, I wouldn't count on either of them beating out rookie Jaylen Samuels for a roster spot. I do think it's possible the Steelers may keep a fourth running back, but I think that roster spot would be best used on an additional wide receiver or linebacker.
Wide Receiver (6): Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Eli Rogers, Marcus Tucker, Darrius Heyward-Bey
There are a lot of question marks with the wide receiver position. Brown, Smith-Schuster, and Washington are locks, but beyond them it's up in the air. Eli Rogers currently isn't on the roster as he recovers from a torn ACL, but the team has hinted at his return and he's been a long-time favorite of the coaching staff and Ben Roethlisberger. Marcus Tucker flashed in the preseason last year and I think this is the year he finally earns a roster spot. Darrius Heyward-Bey returns once again as a special teams ace who's also capable of contributing on offense if needed. Justin Hunter could compete for a spot and make it, but I don't anticipate it.
Tight End (3): Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
No surprises here. The Steelers didn't bring in any free agents or draft any tight ends, so I wouldn't expect any changes from last year.
Offensive Line (9): Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Jerald Hawkins, Chukwuma Okorafor, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler
While Chris Hubbard is gone, the Steelers, per usual, have strong offensive line depth. Taking Hubbard's place on the depth chart is rookie Chukwuma Okorafor. The rest of the depth remains the same and I don't anticipate anybody on this group being beaten out of their spot.
Defensive Line (6): Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, Josh Frazier
The Steelers have a great group of defensive lineman on the roster. The one eyesore last year was Dan McCullers, a mammoth of a man who was on the inactive list for the majority of the 2017 season. Taking his place is Josh Frazier, who, while his role will be limited, would be an upgrade over the mild-mannered McCullers.
Linebacker (9): T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Keion Adams, Vince Williams, Jon Bostic, Lawrence Timmons, Tyler Matakevich, Matthew Thomas
There are some serious question marks when looking at the Steelers linebackers - both positions have weak depth. If either Watt or Dupree get injured, the Steelers would be in trouble. Chickillo is a solid back-up but cannot handle a starting role. Keion Adams, who was drafted in 2017, will finally get a chance to prove himself after getting injured in the summer last year.
I'm going to make a prediction here and say the Steelers will re-sign Lawrence Timmons. Given that the Steelers were unable to land an inside linebacker in the draft, bringing back the veteran makes sense. If Williams or Bostic go down, the Steelers would be in a similar situation they were in last year when they had Sean Spence starting for them. Regarding UDFA Matthew Thomas, I think he will show enough promise to win a roster spot. Thomas wouldn't play on defense, but he could use his athleticism to be a special teams star. He would need to beat out L.J. Fort, who the Steelers don't seem to be high on considering they started Spence over him.
Cornerback (5): Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, Brian Allen
Unless you're a big fan of Coty Sensabaugh for some reason, there aren't any surprises here. It's pretty refreshing to feel confident about the Steelers' depth at cornerback.
Safety (5): Sean Davis, Morgan Burnett, Terrell Edmunds, Nat Berhe, Marcus Allen
The safety position, more than any on this roster, is the most overhauled from the previous year. The Steelers have a lot of weapons at the position now, acquiring four different hard-hitting safeties who are capable of contributing on defense. While the Steelers don't have a true free safety, Davis, Burnett, and Edmunds are all athletic and versatile enough to contribute in that role. With all the new talent, it seems that the Steelers will be using a lot of dime defense (three safeties on the field) in 2018. This will be a fun group to watch.
Special Teams (3): Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Kameron Canaday
Unlike last year, we don't have a long-snapper battle to keep us on the egde of our seats. The special teams group should carry over from 2017.