It’s time for another Steelers 2022 53-man roster prediction!
As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for their final preseason game of the 2022 campaign against the Detroit Lions, a number of players will need to be released from the team shortly thereafter, in order to trim the ranks from the 80 players entering the game to the 53 required by the end of business on Tuesday, August 30th.
After observing how the team has operated throughout the offseason, as well as using some past rosters for historical perspective, here is my shot on predicting who will, and won’t, make the initial 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers roster.
Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
With the early release of Chris Oladokun, this list should come as no surprise to anyone.
All three QBs have impressed this offseason and the Steelers would be foolish to part with any of them… unless it was for the right price. (Obviously, Pickett is going nowhere!)
Running Backs (5)
Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Warren, Derek Watt
The next group instantly starts a series of tough decisions.
How many running backs do the Steelers retain? Well, there’s been a precedent set before for five, counting a fullback, in the past. That list included an h-back type, like Jaylen Samuels and David Johnson too.
But where do the Steelers place Connor Heyward in their plans? For now, I have him as a tight end, which saves either Snell or McFarland, who both play key roles on special teams.
If Warren can prove he’s a special teamer, then he could bump either – but I believe both of the vets have done enough to warrant a spot on the roster. Mike Tomlin also isn’t keen on using receivers or defensive backs as returners, so this could be why McFarland sticks also.
Warren likely makes the 53 to start, so the Steelers can play a cat-and-mouse game with other teams to protect him during the initial wave of moves.
Wide Receivers (5)
Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, Gunner Olszewski
Another loaded position battle gets weeded out due to injuries.
Headed into the preseason games, I felt the Steelers would keep a total of six receivers, with Anthony Miller as the sixth. However, Miller landed on IR, ending his season.
Steven Sims was on the practice squad last season and could return there. Tyler Vaughns is all but a certainty on the practice squad too, which leaves Miles Boykin, who was claimed off of waivers.
My struggle in keeping Boykin is that while he has size, I’m not sure his special teams play is enough to suggest keeping six receivers. My other issue is he’d likely be inactive on game days anyway, making his special teams play a moot point.
The team has too many other areas to keep additional players, so Boykin is a close cut in my opinion.
Tight Ends (4)
Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Connor Heyward
With Jace Sternberger getting no offensive snaps in the second preseason game, his future is all but determined.
I think the team likes Kevin Rader as a third tight end, but this will depend on how many linemen, receivers and running backs make the squad. They could slide Heyward in as the TE3, and try once again to play the transaction game with Rader, sending him back to the practice squad and calling him up as necessary.
For now, Rader might be the best blocking back on the roster while also providing a bump for special teams play. His versatility earns him a spot much like Warren in the running back battle does, but Boykin just misses the cut with the receivers.
Offensive Linemen (8)
James Daniels, Chukwuma Okorafor, Mason Cole, Kevin Dotson, Dan Moore Jr., Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer, Joe Haeg
This one is fairly clear cut with John Leglue and Chaz Green heading to the practice squad.
I always try to keep fewer offensive linemen in my predictions, but eight feels like the right number and nine could be possible as well. (I can’t justify it based on what’s here so far though.)
Defensive Linemen (7)
Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal, Montravius Adams
If there’s an area the Steelers can trim from, this and the linebackers is it.
However, retaining only six defensive linemen was a mess last season, and this year this the group appears to be deeper than usual – at least with unknowns/developmental players.
The top four are veterans and locks.
Loudermilk and Leal are too new to send packing, and I’d like to believe Adams was brought back because he showed them enough last season – but he was a former practice squad player with the Saints in 2021, so his spot is far from safe.
The Davis brothers are also on the outside looking in.
OLB: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka
ILB: Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Mark Robinson
Pittsburgh has kept between eight and ten linebackers on their initial 53-man rosters over the years.
This year, there’s some less than satisfactory names which are likely to net a roster spot over needs in other areas. In fact, the Steelers have kept only three outside linebackers before, but that was with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree as the headliners: they should keep four to start but I don’t see the fourth on their active roster (at this time.)
The precedent? Anthony Chickillo was the third outside linebacker in 2019, with Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper filling out the depth on the practice squad.
Inside linebacker is trickier, because these players will double on special teams (Spillane) or end up inactive (Johnson, Robinson).
The latter two are still fairly new, so I have my doubts that the organization moves on from them just yet. Veteran Marcus Allen, due to lack of playing time, becomes the odd man out in this group.
Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Arthur Maulet, Justin Layne
Justin Layne has done just enough to keep him in his final year. James Pierre, on the other hand, has not.
Maulet named the nickel cornerback solidifies his spot among the top four – the overall group isn’t deep enough to justify keeping more than five players.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew
The Steelers might eek out an extra spot on the roster if Killebrew begins the season on the PUP list. He’ll still have to take a roster spot on the initial 53, before being placed on IR, to avoid ending his season – therefore he’ll likely make the team on paper.
If there’s a transaction for Killebrew, a special teams standout and favorite of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, then that would free up space for any of the other, deeper positions I noted above.
Edmunds and Kazee are close to being pseudo starters with the Steelers DB-heavy subpackages, as Norwood continues to grow.
Not mentioned is Karl Joseph, who sustained a season-ending injury in the first preseason game. His inclusion would’ve made charting 53 players even more difficult, as he was gaining momentum much like Anthony Miller with the wide receivers.
Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Christian Kuntz
No surprises here, though Harvin was in competition early on. Since, Harvin has boomed some punts and had a solid second preseason game. His spot is safe for the start of the season.
There’s no reason to move on from Harvin or Kuntz, for that matter, in order to keep one of the league’s best kickers going strong with his holder and long snapper.
Full List (53)
Here’s the remaining names compiled from the lists above and how the full 53-man roster shakes out.
Best of the Rest
Here are some players I believe the Steelers will target for their practice squad, should they make it through waivers. (A total of 16 are permitted, however, some players will likely be signed that were in camp with another team.)
- QB Chris Oladokun
- WR Miles Boykin
- WR Steven Sims
- WR Tyler Vaughns
- TE Jace Sternberger
- OL John Leglue
- OL Chaz Green
- DL Carlos Davis
- DL Henry Mondeaux
- LB Marcus Allen
- LB Delontae Scott
- CB James Pierre
- CB Chris Steele
- S Carlins Platel