The Steelers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-16 Saturday night at Heinz Field. It was a showcase of big plays on offense and defense and showed Steelers fan a little of what they can expect this season. It also helped to be able to solidify what the 53-man roster will look like, including the Practice Squad. Unfortunately not completely in a good way.
Byron Leftwich broke his left arm on what looked like a routine scramble in the 3rd quarter. It turned out to be anything but routine as he immediately got up in obvious pain, pulled off his helmet with his right hand and ran toward the sidelines with a look of extreme pain on his face. It looked as if his elbow had dislocated and he just held it gingerly to his side. He'll be placed on injured reserve and will thus miss the season.
Trai Essex has lost weight and gained a possible roster spot as he was signed back to the team on monday, August 22nd. The move was necessitated by two knee injuries to their left tackles, Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert who'll also play left guard.
Another change surrounds the defensive. Cortez Allen has pretty much (not) played himself onto the Practice Squad. I will state, though, that Crezdon Butler needs to prove that he actually belongs on the active roster and not the Practice Squad himself. He hasn't shown anything and, therfore, really only has one more week to prove that he does belong. If not, that would allow the Steelers to place Allen on the active roster preventing some other team from taking a fly on him. He'd have to clear waivers and the team taking him would have to put him on their active roster as well if he were placed on the PS, so he may be safe either way. So who is it that has played his way onto a possible roster spot? Donovan Warren. He has shown himself to be ready for primetime in the limited action he's seen, and all reports out of Camp and team practices say that he has real potential. Lastly on the defense was the cutting of Anthony Gray. His being cut will mean that a familiar name will find it's way back onto the PS.
I also had to adjust the wide receiver position because I'd initially had Grisham on the roster. I thought that he was no longer eligible for the PS, but Ed Bouchette has reported that he actually is. Not only that but Ken Laird of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has said that Arnaz Battle actually has played better in Camp and in practices. So that means, along with the addition of Essex, a couple of players had to be moved off. The other players affected by this were Weslye Saunders and Wes Lyons. This concerns me because of the very reason I spoke of regarding Cortez Allen earlier. But there are only 53 roster spots. That being said, let's look at the revised list complete with the PS prediction.
Ben Roethlisberger- 7 for #7; Charlie Batch- Uncle Charlie benefits from an injury to a QB seeded in front of him for the second straight year. Dennis Dixon- would seem to make the most sense for the no. 2 spot now that Leftwich is out because he's younger, faster and more athletic than Uncle Charlie, but Batch knows the system inside out and is more football wise.
Rashard Mendenhall- his 13 TDs last year led the team in scoring; Isaac Redman- ran with authority against the Redskins; Mewelde Moore- slow and steady wins the race...and the 3rd RB spot; Jonathan Dwyer- thank Baron Batch's torn ACL for this one....but he has started to show promise.
Mike Wallace- so fast that when he turns out the lights to go to sleep, he's in bed before the room gets dark; Hines Ward- the REAL Man of Steel; Emmanuel Sanders- the agony of da feet? Maybe, but the outlook is getting more and more optimistic; Antonio Brown- has been the Camp MVP and has shined brightly in all three preseason games; Jerricho Cotchery- he's a poor man's Hines Ward and half of his career NFL touchdowns have been in the red zone; Arnaz Battle- wasn't even on my first roster projection mainly because of his (lack of) performance against Washington. But he has shown himself overall worthy of a spot mainly because of his Special Teams play.
Heath Miller- incredibly underrated TE; John Gilmore- I'm somewhat leaning toward him being supplanted by Saunders considering his size and tenacity, but Gilmore is the better blocking TE at this point; David Johnson- completes the three TE set mainly because he fills the H-Back role so well.
Jonathan Scott- blindside; Chris Kemoeatu- if he keeps his head in the game...honestly, he's the best pulling guard in the league when he wants to be; Maurkice Pouncey- the anchor; Ramon Foster- solid at right guard; Willie Colon- I have a habit of calling him Willie Colon Cancer, but all I'm hearing is good things about him and he was mauling guys in both preseason games; Doug Legursky- The Big Legursky; Marcus Gilbert- coming along slowly, but wasn't unimpressive in the Washington game; Tony Hills- where was this the last two years; and the aforementioned and recently reacquired Trai Essex. Y'all remember him, right? The emergency Center in the Super Bowl if something had happened to the big Legusky. His entrance most likely means Keith Williams' exit to the PS for this year.
Aaron Smith- the unsung hero's last hurrah; Casey Hampton- looking solid as always; Brett Keisel- finally made a Pro Bowl last year; Evander Hood- Now the boys in the hood will pull ya card...and have Aaron's job by the end of the year; Cam Heyward- another lineman with a mean streak....and he's not afraid to use it; Chris Hoke- veteran player who can play multiple positions if needed.
Lamarr Woodley- expect bigger things this year from The Wood; James Farrior- blessed by Father Time; Lawrence Timmons- the mind boggles at what he could accomplish this year; James Harrison- "you got knocked the fu** out, man!; Sylvester Stevenson- not calling him a "beast" yet, but I've seen the fangs; Larry Foote- his swan song with the Steelers; Jason Worilds- better live up to my name, boy!; Chris Carter- all he does is catch touchd...oops, wrong Chris Carter...needs to gain weight, though.
Ike Taylor- Face me, Ike!; Bryant McFadden- hurt again, but has to be pushed out of the starting position; Keenan Lewis- please push BMac out of the starting position; Willian Gay- *sigh* Willie, Willie, Willie...you need to excel in the nickel because you ain't worth a dime at Corner; Crezdon Butler- could see time at safety at some point in the year if he makes the team, because his CB skills are starting to be questioned; Curtis Brown- needs to step up and be ready for special teams and nickel duties; Donovan Warren- has benefited from the rash of injuries throughout the DBs in Camp and has made the most of it; Ryan Clark- glad he didn't decide to change careers permanently and park cars for a living; Troy Polamalu- The Predator is the reigning DPOY, but he may start to decline from this point; Ryan Mundy- stepping up well, played very well on defense against Redskins and Eagles; Will Allen- still a valuable backup safety.
Shaun Suisham (K)- I really wanna see ID; Dan Sepulveda (P)- he's running out of ACLs, but, then again, maybe he really is Robo-Punter; Greg Warren (LS)- he wears no. 60 and you'd be surprised at how many downfield plays he actually makes.
LB Mortty Ivy- West Virginia university product who would make the roster of virtually any other NFL team, but these are the Pittsburgh Steelers, aka "Linebacker, Inc"
G Keith Williams- A guard who is VERY RAW and will only benefit from being placed here in order to learn from OL coach Sean Kugler.
WR Tyler Grisham- Over Lyons? Yes, because Grisham has the edge in blocking and experience with the team and playbook. Lyons will have a real chance next year too, but I doubt he makes the PS this year.
TE Weslye Saunders- I labored over this one, but here he is. He's big and nasty with a mean streak, I just hope that no one else grabs him off of here.
C/G John Malecki- Showed himself well in Camp and in the Redskins game.
G Chris Scott- He really needs another year to maturate.
DE Steve McLendon- Wasn't on my original roster projections, but he found his way back, mainly because Gray was cut. Serviceable back up who had a sack last year in limited action.
CB Cortez Allen- Last but not least. Allen was hampered by a leg, either hamstring or groin, injury and couldn't get onto the field. He is another who is VERY RAW and needs time to heal and hone his skills. Let's just hope he's safe here. But with little film being available on him considering he played at the Citadel, he probably is.
There you have it, the revised final 53-man roster prediction by If It Ain't Steel. The upcoming game against the Panthers will mainly be a catalyst in seeing which players will solidy the last one or two roster spots that still may be available. It can also help to prove me a prognosticator worthy of writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or for condemning me to barista coffee detail and not being allowed to even look at a newspaper. (Help me out, guys!)