The Pittsburgh Steelers break their 2023 training camp Thursday and play their second preseason game Saturday night at home. With that being the case, it’s time for me to throw out my second 53-man roster prediction for the team.
As usual, I have included some analysis underneath each position group, and I invite you to post your own differences in the comments below along with your own 53-man roster prediction.
My next stab at the Steelers 53-man roster will likely be posted right before the team’s third preseason game. After that, my final prediction will be released right before the cutdown date.
The link to my first 53-man roster prediction is below.
Quarterbacks (3) – Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph,
Analysis: While rookie Tanner Morgan did get some burn in the preseason opener, there’s no reason to think he will overtake Rudolph as the team’s third quarterback. That means I am sticking with the obvious three of Pickett, Trubisky and Rudolph.
Running Backs (3) – Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
Analysis: Outside of suggesting the team adds a third running back from outside, I must put McFarland in this time around instead of Darius Hagans, who I had as the third running back in my initial projection. I would, however, like to see McFarland return a few kickoffs in the final two preseason games so that he would show that he does have some limited special teams value.
It’s hard to have a third running back on a 53-man roster that stands on the sideline the entire game in case an injury or two occurs. Can new running back Xazavian Valladay make any sort of push with two preseason games left? We’ll see.
Fullbacks (1) – Connor Heyward
Analysis: List Heyward however you want to. Fullback, tight end, H-back, it just doesn’t matter. He’s going to be on the 53-man roster barring injury. He’s a good special teams player to boot.
Wide Receivers (5) – Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Allen Robinson II, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
Analysis: The Steelers kept six wide receivers last year with Steven Sims opening the season as an inactive player. They might not need six this year, however, and other than keeping Gunner Olszewski, it’s hard to find another wide receiver worthy of a roster spot. Olszewski is really a returner only as far as special teams value goes. If Austin can win that returner job, there really isn’t much of a reason to keep Olszewski.
Tight Ends (3) – Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Darnell Washington
Analysis: These three are the obvious choices if choosing three, but as I posted previously, I still must question just how safe Gentry really is, especially if Washington can manage to win the No. 2 job this summer. As I have also stated before, Gentry is not much of a special teams asset to boot. If the Steelers do go with just two tight ends plus Heyward, Gentry is the easy man out.
Offensive Linemen (9) – Chukwuma Okorafor, Dan Moore Jr., James Daniels, Mason Cole, Isaac Seumalo, Broderick Jones, Nate Herbig, Kevin Dotson, Spencer Anderson
Analysis: Might nine total offensive linemen be in play again this year? I think there’s a chance of that happening and especially if Anderson continues to show his hyper position flexibility. He might even play some center Saturday night and by the end of the preseason play all five offensive line positions. That would make Le’Raven Clark expendable. The Steelers would still only likely dress eight offensive linemen for games and if not traded before the start of the regular season, Dotson might make the 53-man roster. I still think there’s a chance the Steelers add a more proven backup center by Week One. If they do, that might make Dotson expendable and possibly via a trade.
Defensive Linemen (7) – Cameron Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, Keeanu Benton, Armon Watts, Breiden Fehoko, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk
Analysis: I added Loudermilk to the my group of six from last time and I still have Montravius Adams as the odd man out. The Steelers kept seven defensive linemen in total last year with Loudermilk opening the season as an inactive player. The good thing about Leal is that he can play outside linebacker in an emergency.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, Kwon Alexander, Mark Robinson, Tanner Muse
Analysis: Hello, Mr. Alexander, who was signed since my last roster prediction. With Alexander now in the room, I am deleting Nick Kwiatkoski as Muse is likely the better special teams player of the two. Muse is also younger.
Outside Linebackers (4) – T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Markus Golden, Nick Herbig
Analysis: These are the same four from my original prediction and there’s no reason to change them or add to them. Assuming all four remain healthy, the real battle will be which outside linebacker or two make the practice squad. Herbig will also play on special teams and he should do well in that phase of the game.
Cornerbacks (6) – Patrick Peterson, Levi Wallace, Joey Porter Jr., Chandon Sullivan, James Pierre, Elijah Riley
Analysis: With rookie cornerback Cory Trice Jr. now on the Reserve/Injured list, I had a spot to fill and I did so with Riley, who has a little bit of position flexibility in addition to him being a special teams asset. The Steelers could try to go with just five cornerbacks in total and keep versatile safety Tre Norwood. You could argue hard for that to happen. If it did, one of Sullivan or Riley would be out.
Safeties (4) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Damontae Kazee, Keanu Neal, Miles Killebrew
Analysis: Four or five? I only have room for four based on my other predictions. Killebrew is a special teams ace and thus it’s hard seeing him not make the 53-man roster for that reason alone. Once again, Norwood might could be a fifth but probably at the expense of one cornerback spot. Gameday practice squad elevations might also play into this position group as well. Kenny Robinson or Norwood could be candidates for that if one or both land on the practice squad.
Kicker (1) – Chris Boswell
Analysis: Have no reason to not stick with Boswell here. As long as he remains healthy, he should once again be the Steelers’ kicker.
Punter (1) – Pressley Harvin III
Analysis: Braden Mann punted in the first preseason game and overall, I don’t see him as an upgrade over Harvin just yet. We’ll see how Harvin punts at home on Saturday night. It should be his turn.
Long Snapper (1) – Christian Kuntz
Analysis: Kuntz is the incumbent long snapper and I have seen no reason yet to think that Rex Sunahara will ultimately beat him out for his job.
Summary: After a 25/25 even split in my first prediction, I have a 24/26 split this time in favor of the defense. I also have all healthy 2023 draft picks making the 53-man roster this time around. The deletions from my last projection include Hagans, Clark, Trice, Kwiatkoski, and Ryan McCollum.
|Steelers 2023 53-Man Roster Prediction|
|26||Anthony McFarland Jr.||RB|
|11||Allen Robinson II||WR|
|19||Calvin Austin III||WR|
|65||Dan Moore Jr.||T|
|24||Joey Porter Jr.||CB|
|6||Pressley Harvin III||P|