Ryan Lippert’s Steelers 53-man roster projection
Through three weeks of preseason football, the Pittsburgh Steelers have given their fans a lot to be excited about. Multiple players at every position have been making plays to make their case to make the final roster.
However, as we all know, you can’t keep everyone on the team unfortunately. As the final week of preseason is here and the regular season opener against the Buffalo Bills right around the corner, some tough decisions remain to be made.
With that being said, here is who I see making the final 53-man roster for the 2021-22 Pittsburgh Steelers.
This decision has become very clear at this point. Obviously Ben is the starter and with Rudolph also being held out of the final preseason game, it looks as though he will be the backup.
That leaves one spot open and Haskins has showed some great things when his name has been called. He will get the third spot and could very easily push for the primary backup job at some point. I have always liked Josh Dobbs but unfortunately he will be on the practice squad if not picked up elsewhere.
Running Backs (5)
Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage, Derek Watt (FB)
The Steelers look to have finally found their franchise back in first-round pick Najee Harris. Behind him, they have some solid depth as well. I don’t buy into the thoughts of some people that Snell is a cut candidate. If something were to happen to Harris (knocks on wood), Snell would make the most sense as a primary backup.
McFarland has impressed in preseason and should see a significant role this season.
For the final running back spot, I have Jaylen Samuels as the odd man out as Ballage has looked good with his opportunities. Nothing changes at the fullback position as Watt is the guy for another season.
Wide Receivers (5)
Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray Ray McCloud
At the wide receiver position, the Steelers will likely come out with the same five guys as last year. The first four are no-brainers unless something were to happen with Washington in form of a trade.
As far as the fifth spot goes it comes down to two guys with McCloud and Matthew Sexton. Sexton is an intriguing option and I wouldn’t be surprised if he earns a spot due to his performance as a returner.
However, McCloud has seen some touches on offense and overall I think they will try to find ways to get him on the field this year.
Tight Ends (3)
Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
This could be a surprising strength of the Steelers offense as I could see them having one of the top tight end duos in the league this year. Ebron returns as the top guy as he showed some good things last year and already has developed chemistry with Roethlisberger.
However, the rookie Freiermuth looks to be the tight end of the future as he has been very impressive during preseason. Behind them, I have Gentry beating out Kevin Rader for the final spot.
Offensive Line (9)
Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Trai Turner, Zach Banner, Dan Moore Jr., B.J. Finney, J.C. Hassenauer, Joe Haeg
Although Mike Tomlin won’t say it, I believe the starting five is just about set with Okorafor, Dotson, Green, Turner, and Banner. Behind them, rookie tackle Dan Moore Jr. has shown a ton of promise and should see some form of playing time this season while he develops into a potential future starter.
Offensive guard Rashaad Coward is another name to watch as he has impressed this offseason but I give Finney and Haeg the edge over him as they can play multiple positions. Hassenauer gets the final spot here as he will be the primary backup to the rookie Green.
Defensive Line (6)
Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis
Nothing will change this season on the starting defensive front as Heyward, Tuitt, and Alualu are one of the better trios in the league. Behind them, Wormley will bring some experience at end and the rookie Loudermilk will look to develop behind them and be a possible rotational guy.
The backup nose tackle spot behind Alualu will come down to Davis and Isaiah Buggs. I like Buggs a lot but I’m giving Davis the edge here due to usage on special teams.
T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Devin Bush Jr., Joe Schobert, Melvin Ingram III, Quincy Roche, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Marcus Allen
Even with the loss of Bud Dupree, the Steelers still have a very impressive duo off the edge with Watt and the second-year Highsmith. The newly acquired Schobert will be a huge addition to an already dangerous defense as he will start alongside Bush on the inside.
Ingram gives them very impressive depth on the edge and I have the rookie Roche beating out Cassius Marsh and Jamir Jones for the final outside spot.
Although Spillane has lost his starting spot, he should still be used in the rotation at inside linebacker while Johnson is another intriguing rookie that will have time to develop this season. Allen will get the final spot as a guy that can be used in pass coverage and on special teams.
Defensive Backs (10)
Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Arthur Maulet, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, Mark Gilbert
Following the loss of Steven Nelson, Sutton will fall into the primary outside corner spot alongside Haden. Behind them, nothing changes with the All-Pro Fitzpatrick and Edmunds at the safeties.
The biggest surprise so far in roster cuts was Antoine Brooks being waived as he was thought to have the edge at the nickel spot.
With him out, that puts Maulet likely in the driver’s seat for that position. Pierre and Layne will make the team once again as primary backups on the outside and could see some serious action if Sutton is used in the nickel.
At safety, the rookie Norwood looks to find a role while Killebrew will be in a Jordan Dangerfield like role as a rotational guy who will also play special teams. Brooks being waived also opens up a roster spot which I see going to the undrafted rookie Gilbert who has impressed during preseason.
Special Teams (3)
Kicker (1): Chris Boswell | Punter (1): Pressley Harvin III | Long Snapper (1): Kameron Canaday
The kicker and long snapper positions were easy decisions here as Boswell had basically zero competition and Canaday looks to be the favorite over Christian Kuntz.
At punter, the rookie Harvin has been very impressive during preseason action. On top of that, the Steelers used a draft pick on him which signified that he had a good chance to beat out the veteran Jordan Berry to begin with.